Down 2-0 in the Eastern Conference Final to the heavyweight Boston Bruins, the Carolina Hurricanes are searching for answers as the series shifts back to Raleigh for game three tonight.
In order to get back in this series, the Hurricanes have to return to their game and put the structure back in place that got them to this point. That includes getting rid of the mental lapses and errors that plagued them en route to falling behind two games to none in this series.
Here are some keys for a happy return home for the Hurricanes tonight.
Last Line of Defense...
Petr Mrazek’s third round has been... rough.
Now, the fact of the matter is that so much goes into a goal, and it’s absolutely not all Mrazek’s fault that the Bruins have scored 10 goals on 52 shots (minus the ENG), but at some point an .808 save percentage can’t be ignored.
The Hurricanes need a much better performance from their goalie tonight if they want to have a chance of getting back into this series. especially with how well Tuukka Rask has been playing for the Bruins. The starting goalie for game three has yet to be confirmed by head coach Rod Brind’Amour, and we likely won’t know who will be in Carolina’s crease until warmups, but I think you have to give Curtis McElhinney a chance.
After sitting out for three weeks, he came in and totally shut down the New York Islanders in round two before being replaced by a healthy Mrazek. He has proven throughout the year that the Canes can rely on him when they need him, and I think they need him now.
Even outside of the performances to this point, McElhinney also makes sense given the matchup and what we know through two games. The Canes desperately need to calm things down and not let Boston start running away with the momentum. What’s where McElhinney’s calmness and poise in the crease could make a big difference. He know when to stop play, he knows when he needs to swallow a rebound, and he has a short memory that allows him to hit the reset button after a bad goal or sequence.
Carolina got to this point on the back of two goalies. It would be fitting to see them utilize that strength in game three tonight.
Score. The. First. Goal.
The Boston Bruins are better than the Washington Capitals. They just are. For Carolina, this means that you can’t keep surrendering the first goal and hoping that you can battle back. The Bruins are too good, and Rask is too sturdy.
Perhaps the biggest key for the Canes is to get off to a strong start and get the crowd engaged early at PNC Arena. They have to dominate the first few shifts and try their best to push the Bruins back on their heels. If Carolina can wear on them early and get the first goal, they’ll be set up to keep grinding them down throughout the game and have a chance to put them away late. They managed to do that in game one, to an extent, but they couldn’t close it out. They have to make good on it tonight.
At 5-on-5 in games one and two, the Hurricanes were decimated in the high-danger scoring chances category. Boston has racked up 25 high-danger shot attempts to Carolina’s 12. That has to change in game three.
This absolutely applies to their penalty kill, as well. The Bruins have scored four goals on seven power play opportunities through two games in this series, and it’s felt like, every time Carolina start to get their game going, they take a penalty and the Bruins steal any momentum that was going the Canes’ way.
Strong defensive structure and a reliable penalty kill were two massive factors in the Hurricanes getting to this point. They’ll need those two things to come back in games three and four in order to force the series back to Boston.