RALEIGH — Missed opportunities was the story of the series for the Hurricanes, and Game 4 was no different. Make no mistake, the Canes were outplayed in this series. But it wasn’t as bad as it looks. They were competitive at 5 on 5 for a lot of the series, but you can’t win a playoff series — much less the Eastern Conference Final — with incompetence on special teams.
The Hurricanes came out of the gates characteristically hot, generating a couple good chances early. The PNC Arena energy in first periods has been invaluable for this club throughout the playoffs, but tonight it was Curtis McElhinney who was the catalyst early on.
The journeyman backup made a a few huge stops early on to keep the Bruins off of the board, none better than this one:
A few minutes later he came up huge once again on the Penalty Kill in a sequence that Patrice Bergeron probably wants another whack at.
The Hurricanes continued to make offensive noise throughout the period but remained snakebitten. Without a few big saves from Mac, the game would have felt a lot different at the first break. Thanks to his effort, the teams went into the locker rooms tied 0-0.
The Canes came out of the gates peppering Tuukka Rask again at the start of the second frame — with similar results. Their best opportunity came when Justin Williams found himself with the puck in the high slot with a golden opportunity to put the Canes on the board first, but he fired it directly into a standing Rask’s glove.
Shortly thereafter the Canes took a dumb bench minor on a bad line change and sent the NHL’s best Power Play onto the ice. The Bruins made quick work and extended the Canes’ power play goal against streak to seven straight games on a pretty play from Brad Marchand to David Pastrnak . 1-0 Bruins.
As the period dragged on, the amount of high danger chances that the Canes sent sailing just north or wide of the goal frame continued to pile up.
With two minutes left in the second frame, Greg McKegg took a puck hard to the front of the net on a power move and made contact with Tuukka Rask in the crease, earning a goaltender interference penalty. The Bruins took advantage of the extra man once again and the Bruins carried a commanding 2-0 lead into the final intermission of the Hurricanes’ season.
The Canes looked expectedly sluggish as the third period started. Just past the halfway mark in the third period, the Bruins erased any remaining ounce of hope left in the building. Pastrnak to Bergeron for his second tally of the game eighth of the playoffs. 3-0 Bruins.
Rod Brind’Amour pulled McElhinney with five minutes left in the third in an attempt to spark something, but it was fruitless as the Bruins made it 4-0 with just under two minutes to play. The Canes fell 4-0 as the Bruins completed the sweep.
They Said It
You’ve got to give them tons of credit. That’s really where it starts. A great team, we knew that. I actually thought we were going pretty good at the start. Then, we get a power play that sucks the life out of us. And then an unfortunate play to give them a power play. Everything’s going OK, then we get into that specialty area, that’s obviously a huge advantage for them, and they made us pay. You’ve got to give them credit. There’s no weaknesses, no matter who they’re throwing out there. Was it a matter of them shutting us down? Part of it. I think part of it was that we didn’t break through. We didn’t get that one early to get some momentum going, it never happened in this series for us. It’s tough.
I hope they learned a lot. That’s what we talked about briefly in there. Coming into this, I thought it would have been tough. The first round is where I would have thought they would look like this, so it kind of surprised me to get it now. But I know how fatigued we are mentally, and I think that’s where the young guys don’t quite understand how hard it is to win. You say that, they’re like “it’s not that hard, we won a round.” But watch. You’ve got to do that again, and again, and again. That’s where guys that have been there before get it. We had a couple guys who had been there, but we had a lot of guys who were not even close. You hope that you can get back to this again, that there won’t be a learning curve for a lot of our guys. The young guys played OK, but certainly not to the level we’re going to need to if we’re going to win.
It was the difference. Tonight, it’s weird; here’s what happens. Teams like this that are so talented, when you make a little error, it goes in your net. So we make a little bad read on the first one, we’re with the guy but we’re not with the guy. Then it’s on the tape, and I’d say 90% of the league doesn’t make those passes. That’s the thing, and all of a sudden it’s in your net. The next one’s kind of an unfortunate bounce. But when you make that unfortunate bounce, (snaps fingers) great teams go “thank you” and it’s in the back of your net. That’s what happened, I felt like, over and over. I don’t know what to say about them. And yeah, that was a big part of the series, we knew that coming in, and unfortunately it bit us.
It stings right now. It’s going to sting for a while, but you do need to, at some point, reflect on what happened this year. I’m super proud of this group, super proud of this organization. We overachieved. There’s no [other] way you can look at it. You can look at these last four games and say “well, that wasn’t very pretty,” but you take the whole picture of what went on here — pretty impressive, in my opinion. I think we had four or five rookies up front most nights. No one really talked about that too much. We were just figuring it out as we went. I’m really proud of this group — right now I’m not as proud of them (laughs) — but I am when I look back on it, because it was a fun group to be around.
What I learned throughout the year - I knew coming in that I had great people around me, and I knew I needed to have that. I knew also that, throughout the league, I had a lot of good people to lean on. I really needed that. Also, I think I learned that I can handle it. I think as a new guy coming in, you’re never quite sure if the way you’re going to do it is going to be OK. You really have nothing to look back on to see if it will work. But I think I can handle it. I think we’ll be alright.
[On Williams:] When you’ve been through the wars that he has, he knows — I don’t know what his plans are, but he also knows that the likelihood of getting back even this far is rare, it’s tough. I think it’s almost more disappointing for older guys than younger guys, because the younger guys don’t know. You tell them, “you may never get back here” and they’re like yeah right, whatever. But when they’re 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 years down from here, they’ll realize “yeah, he was right.” I think Willy’s at that point where he needs to reflect a little. Listen, you want to see a guy give everything he had this year, take a look. I was shocked that he had the year he had. Pretty amazing, for me.
I want to thank the people of this community for supporting us. I _hate_ that we went out like that in that game. That was a dud game for them to come watch. I apologize for that. Tremendous support for our team. It means a lot to me, but it means a lot to our players and this organization to see people - not just coming back, but the way they do it and the way they get behind our group, it’s a real community feel. There’s something special and, again, it’s just great.
I think coming into this year with the young guys, and into the playoffs, it was all talk. You’d tell them, this is how it’s going to go, you’ve got to be ready, you’ve got to enjoy every minute because you never know - all that stuff. That’s why experience matters. Now that they’ve had a taste of it, I don’t have to say it again. That’s why I was surprised we got this far, I’ll be dead honest. Not having been there, they didn’t know how hard it is. It just takes that little extra. We found out how hard it is. We played a team that knows it, and they just said “thank you very much, you’re not getting it done.” We need to be that much better. Seabass, I’m looking at him right now thinking he needed to be a little better. He’s going to know that. I believe it can happen, the next time it comes around, you’re a little hungrier. You don’t want to go out now. That’s what has to happen. That’s what they did, and that’s why they’re still playing.
I’ve always told you, reflection is for the end of the year, and I guess it’s the end of the year. I’m proud of obviously what we’ve done. I’m proud that we’ve gotten ourselves relevant again. I’m proud that we raised the bar in this organization. I’m proud of every one of my teammates. It’s tough to reflect right now, things are so sudden. I didn’t think it would be done quite like this, but you tip your cap sometimes. Boston played great.
It’s tough when you lose the special teams battle every single night against these guys. I’m going to go to the side of Boston played great, they didn’t give us much, they played great and they’re going to be tough to beat in the Cup finals.
The tank’s been low for a long time. We’ve been running on adrenaline and sheer will. It’s always tough to swallow when a season ends abruptly like that. It’s just like you’re cut real quick, and you’ve got to go home. I was just telling my kids I was planning to go to Boston tomorrow, but I’ll be home after school. Life goes on.
I’m not going to watch the video of it. Their power play was better, their penalty kill was better, and we couldn’t get any past Rask - we scored one goal in two games here at home. That’s not going to get it done. But I’m not going to look for excuses, I always say they’re for losers. So you just tip their cap and job well done by Boston.
I feel like this is a little bit more of a family atmosphere than a hockey team and its fans. We’ve all been encapsulated in what we’ve done this year, and we’ve all done it together. To see this crowd and the area the way we want it to be and the way I remember it is awesome to see. There’s a genuine great relationship between us.
We said at the start of the year, and throughout the year, that we need to challenge ourselves to be better, because we’re professionals. We want to be challenged. We don’t settle for mediocrity. We want to compete, and we want to compete against the best, and we want to challenge each other. That’s the only way to get better. We did that a lot this year, and I’m extremely proud of what we’ve done.
I don’t expect it to end ever. The thing that drives me is obviously winning, winning is big, but another thing is knowing that somebody got the better of you. Boston got the better of us, and that hurts. That’s going to hurt for a while. That’s a really frustrating part, but that’s why we compete. That’s sports. That’s winners and losers and all that.
I was a new captain, Roddy was a new coach. We’re obviously great friends. We rode this thing the way we thought it needed to go. Obviously I have a special bond with Roddy, and I know I could have been a lot better in this series, but in the grand scheme of things I’m proud of what he did also.
You just slowly pick parts of yourself that you have in you. You never know what you’re capable of. Did I think we’d be here? Maybe not, but we were going to see if we were good enough to get here. We were good enough to be in the final four. That means we’re good enough to do it again next year, and get better and learn from this. It’s all the cycle of it. Right now it hurts, and it will for a little while.
“They’re a special team, really good for sure. But at the same time I don’t think we executed at the level we wanted to.”
“It’s great to see this building rocking. This team has been awesome, as well as all of the fans.”
“Both of our goalies have been great for us. They always gave us a chance to win.”
On the message from Rod Brind’Amour after the game:
“We have to learn from this. I’m sure we are. It stings at the moment and it’s a tough way to end the season but we’re going to look at the big picture and remember this feeling and hope that it helps us in the future.”
“I think that there’s a bitter taste in the mouth but probably over the next couple days we’ll realize what we did accomplish and use that as motivation to make it farther next year.”
On the opposing power play:
“They’ve got five really skilled players on that power play and they’re able to make plays. I don’t think our PK forecheck and their zone entries are a little too easy. I think that them getting in the zone easy led to a couple of their goals and we need to be better”
“I think we had some good looks at 5 on 5, but obviously when you run into a hot goalie like that he plays well. I think that 5 on 5 forechecking is our bread and butter and so we didn’t get to that in all the games. I think that in Game 3 and tonight we did a little bit but just didn’t pump enough pucks on net tonight.
On what he learned in the playoffs:
“It’s a grind. But every game matters whether it’s a Game 1 or a Game 7. I think when we let the lead slip away there in Game 1, that was a big mistake on our part and we have to learn from that obviously and take that into next year.”
On the crowd:
“Caniacs definitely supported us throughout the whole year so for them to still be there and cheering us on, they obviously know what we accomplished this year and I think they have the taste in their mouth that they want more next year too.”
On Special Teams:
“Before this series they said that special teams was going to win it, and obviously we lost that battle. We have to make sure we’re working on that next year.”