Special teams told the tale of game one between the Carolina Hurricanes and the Washington Capitals on Thursday, but the Canes hope that the way they closed out game one is a positive sign of things to come.
A game two win for the Hurricanes would be a massive turn of events in this series. The possibility of returning home to PNC Arena with a tied series would certainly add a lot of drama to this opening round. For that to happen, though, they’ll have to play their game and follow these game keys.
Stay. Out. Of. The. Box.
This was one of my keys for game one, but clearly they didn’t read that.
The Canes went to the box four times and got burned twice, both in the first period. It wasn’t just Alex Ovechkin doing damage, though. The Russian goal-scoring king did capitalize late in the opening frame, but his partner in crime Nicklas Backstrom scored Washington’s first power play goal and was often left wide open along the goal line. He scored once on the man advantage and once on a low-danger shot at even-strength just over half way through the first period.
A lot of this also hinges on the zebras. I’d describe game one as a... questionably officiated game in terms of consistency. The Capitals got away with a lot throughout the course of the game, likely because of their status as the defending champions, which is to be expected, but the Hurricanes certainly didn’t get much benefit of the doubt.
Carolina really needs to play smart and not take any dangerous chances with their sticks on the back check.
No soft goals
The tone of game one was really set when Washington’s first shot, a long-distance pea-shooter found its way by Petr Mrazek. It killed Carolina’s hot start in an instant and had the road team playing from behind from the jump.
Mrazek had an excellent final two periods, though, making some crucial stops as Carolina started to press offensively. If he can bring that into game two, the Canes should have a chance to steal the game.
Down the stretch in game one, the Hurricanes opted to not use hot hands Andrei Svechnikov and Dougie Hamilton as much as they likely should have, at least not until the final two minutes.
Obviously, experience plays a role in who gets more ice time, but if there are certain players who are feeling it, they have to use them.
Even beyond the hot hands, I think there’s a case to be made that Sebastian Aho shouldn’t be seeing north of 26 minutes of ice time. I think that has to be reigned in a good bit. He is the team’s best player, but he’s been worn down with fatigued and injuries throughout the year and there is enough depth on this team to justify his ice time coming closer to 20 or 21 minutes.
Lucas Wallmark, for instance, played a strong game one and could handle some extra looks, as would Jordan Staal.
Rod Brind’Amour went full-on blender mode in the third period in game one, and it brought some very good results. The Canes will go back to their original lines for game two, though, at least to start.
That means the top line will be reunited.
Look for RB’A to tinker with things again if the Canes get off to a slow start. Seeing his willingness to mix things up was very encouraging. The rookie coach needs to make those bold decisions when the time is right.
Jaccob Slavin didn’t practice yesterday, but Brind’Amour said it was just a maintenance day. Calvin de Haan skated, but he won’t be in the lineup for game two. He’ll be a big addition if/when he does return.
Brind’Amour teased that one player is a “game-time decision”. He didn’t specify who that could be, but reading between the lines, it could mean that someone is coming out of the lineup for Saku Maenalanen. We’ll see what happens.
Nino Niederreiter - Sebastian Aho - Justin Williams
Micheal Ferland - Jordan Staal - Teuvo Teravainen
Andrei Svechnikov - Jordan Martinook - Brock McGinn
Warren Foegele - Lucas Wallmark - Greg McKegg
Jaccob Slavin - Dougie Hamilton
Brett Pesce - Justin Faulk
Haydn Fleury - Trevor van Riemsdyk
Injuries and scratches: Calvin de Haan (upper-body), Saku Maenalanen (healthy), Jake Bean (healthy)
Despite Washington’s near-collapse down in the third period of game one, expect them to go back to the group that got them their 3-0 lead.
Alex Ovechkin - Nicklas Backstrom - Tom Wilson
Carl Hagelin - Evgeny Kuznetsov - T.J. Oshie
Jakub Vrana - Lars Eller - Brett Connolly
Andre Burakovsky - Nic Dowd - Chandler Stephenson
John Carlson - Nick Jensen
Dmitry Orlov - Matt Niskanen
Brooks Orpik - Christian Djoos