The Carolina Hurricanes took game two of this Stanley Cup Qualifier series by a score of 4-1. Led by Andrei Svechnikov’s hat-trick, which was the first post season hat-trick in franchise history. They don’t have much time to regroup, as game three is just a day away.
Another Strong Start
The Canes had another strong start. Both teams have been looking to make a quick start as starting goaltenders Petr Mrazek and Henrik Lundqvist thrive on seeing shots. The earlier you can score the better.
While the Canes scored in the first shift of game one, it took them almost four minutes to break the deadlock in game two. Both early goals against Lundqvist came on the short side. This time it was Svechnikov and not Jaccob Slavin who kicked things off.
Andrei Svechnikov opens the scoring in game two. He rips a shot under the arm of Henrik Lundqvist and the Hurricanes have a 1-0 lead over the Rangers in game two. pic.twitter.com/cbtDYulKL1— Brett Finger (@brett_finger) August 3, 2020
The Hurricanes continued their sloppy play in the first which led to an eventual five-on-three for the New York Islanders. Artemi Panarin was able to convert on a short-side goal to even up the game. The Hurricanes played a solid penalty kill down two, but its always concerning letting a struggling player convert on the power play, you never know if this will continue at even strength. Luckily for the Canes it wouldn’t.
The Rangers would continue with the momentum in the first period. Their backcheck looked very strong. They filled lanes correctly and didn’t fall into the trap of game one, over committing to make physical contact but giving up important areas of the ice. The Rangers controlled the end of the period and it looked like the Canes were in for a long afternoon.
The tide of the game turned just a minute into the second period when Svechnikov would go on to score his second of the game. He wouldn’t stop there; he would go on to score again in the third to complete the first post-season hat trick in Carolina Hurricanes history.
Andrei Svechnikov becomes the first player in franchise history to record a playoff hat trick. Sebastian Aho stole the puck at the Carolina blue line and set up Svech for his 3rd goal of the game. The Hurricanes are up 4-1 late against the Rangers. pic.twitter.com/sl9DjQccTQ— Brett Finger (@brett_finger) August 3, 2020
Watching him on the ice is great he works so well in space and he pairs so well with Sebasian Aho’s ability. Two of his goals came on the rush and you can see the defense cheat to Aho. Once that happens, he dishes to Svechnikov who has no problem burying the shot. The second goal came on the power play where he played on the point and blasted a shot off a faceoff. Anytime he has a chance to settle the puck and think, it’s a high danger chance.
Andrei Svechnikov winds it up and fires it over the shoulder of Henrik Lundqvist. His second goal of the game gives the Hurricanes a 2-1 lead over the Rangers in game two. Sami Vatanen and Sebastian Aho with the assists. pic.twitter.com/K3CI3EDFnK— Brett Finger (@brett_finger) August 3, 2020
Putting together the three best players is really paying off for the Hurricanes. With more top six depth they can play Aho, Svechnikov, and Teuvo Teravainen together without worrying about scoring dept. This is exacerbated against a shallow New York Rangers team.
Bottom Six is Key
Without Jesper Fast the Rangers were forced to add Steven Fogarty to the lineup. This stretched an extremely thin Rangers team even more thin. In the regular season a team might get away with playing two to three lines but in the playoffs its crucial to be able to roll all four lines.
No Carolina Hurricane forward played less than Morgan Geekie who had 11:46 of ice time. the Rangers had three forwards under that time: Julien Gauthier, Gregg McKegg, Fogarty, and Phil Di Giuseppe all logged under 11 minutes of ice time.
Jordan Martinook gives the Hurricanes a 3-1 lead over the Rangers. Brady Skjei broke up a clearing attempt, and it ultimately leads to Morgan Geekie centering the puck to Martinook for the goal. Geekie's first NHL playoff point. Canes score 2 times in the first 2:22 of period 2. pic.twitter.com/UwC7mHJ5qI— Brett Finger (@brett_finger) August 3, 2020
Not only did the Canes roll their lines more, the fourth line would also go on to score a goal in the second. Jordan Martinook buried a Morgan Geekie feed in front of the net for his first career playoff goal and made the game 3-1 at the time.
The all-important score to make the lead 2-0 was from a unit that will be very important in closing out the series. The Ranges bottom six is bad, there’s no way around it. We know that their top six includes Hart candidate Panarin and Mike Zibanejad, but the Canes have the ability to control the game with their bottom six. If they want to close out the series these guys are key.
Coming Together in the Bubble
Around the trade deadline the Canes were tough to watch. They didn’t have their top two goalies and injuries saw new players forced into the lineup without practice time. You could see that the new players and their unsure play led to less than ideal results.
Now five months later you can see the cohesion in the Canes from top to bottom. Brady Skjei has been good in the first two games and in this game his partner Joel Edmundson looked much better. Sami Vatanen has filled in with Jaccob Slavin well.
In games before the deadline, the Canes’ defense was out of sorts; now with Vatanen and Skjei they didn’t let up a single even strength goal. The only goal came on a two-man advantage for the Rangers. With that in mind you can also look at the power play that has scored a goal in each of the first two games of the series.
For a team that struggled for years to convert chances with a man advantage, Vatanen has stepped up to quarterback a power play that looks as dangerous as it did before the key injuries.
Looking forward, it actually raises some concerns when Dougie Hamilton comes back. Rod Brind’Amour will have to split up effective defensive pairings on the fly to bring back his top pairing.
The most likely case is that Jaccob Slavin and Dougie Hamilton will be reunited as one of the best pairings in the NHL. The second pairing of Joel Edmundson and Skjei could also stay the same if Edmundson keeps up his game two play. This means the third pairing could be Vatanen and either Jake Gardiner or Haydn Fleury, both of which have looked good in the playoffs.
This buying into the system after the break has been key in this unit coming together and playing like they have known each other since September.
Looking Towards Game Three
Only one team has lost a best-of-five series after winning the first two games, the New York Islanders. However, no team or fan base needs knows more that percentages don’t matter. The Cardiac Canes have thrived in coming back when teams count them out, and the Canes cannot let the foot off the gas if they want to close the series out.
The Canes will likely face Igor Shesterkin in game three which will be a new challenge in itself. They need to keep the pressure from all four lines, and everyone can start to scoreboard watch.
However, this Rangers team needs a spark and a win could provide exactly that to a team that is very top heavy and relies on just a few star players to get it done.