The Carolina Hurricanes certainly didn’t play a terrible hockey game Sunday afternoon in Madison Square Garden, as the Canes heavily outshot, out-chanced and out-possessed the New York Rangers in a pivotal game three.
But the result — which is, of course, all that matters — tells a different story, as the Rangers won 3-1 to climb right back into a series where Carolina was desperately looking to slam the door shut with its first road win of this postseason.
Rod Brind’Amour, who talked extensively about the process over the course of the year, summed it up really nicely in his postgame when asked about the process vs. the result in game three.
“In the playoffs, you don’t talk about process,” Brind’Amour said. “That’s what the regular season’s for.”
So, about last night:
Different day, same story
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: The Carolina Hurricanes played an overall fine game Sunday afternoon, but it was the power play that cost the Canes a chance to win on the road.
The 5-on-5 game was actually really good for the Hurricanes Sunday, though the 1-1 score line during even strength doesn’t fully support that. The Canes won the Corsi battle with a 58.88 CF% at even strength, outshot the Rangers 37-28 at 5-on-5 and out-chanced the Rangers 37-17. The Canes had a 17-8 edge in 5-on-5 high-danger chances and led the xG battle 3.39-2.04.
All of that is to say that the Hurricanes’ game overall wasn’t that bad, in fact pretty decent on the road in this postseason for the very first time.
But, of course, literally none of that matters. The Canes could not find a way to capitalize on all of those chances, as only a very weak effort from Nino Niederreiter found its way past a very good Igor Shesterkin.
And where the Canes lost the game, once again, was when it wasn’t 5-on-5. For starters, the Hurricanes gave up one PPG to the Rangers on just two chances. Mika Zibanejad snuck a power-play wrister past Antti Raanta on New York’s first man advantage of the night, giving the Rangers a 1-0 lead in the game.
The Hurricanes had the best penalty kill in the league, and one of the best all time, during the regular season, but it hasn’t been as shutdown during the postseason so far, especially on the road.
Boston went 6 for 29 on the power play during the first round, a 79% kill rate for a Carolina team that posted an 88% kill rate during the season. In three games in TD Garden, the Bruins went 5 for 17 as the Canes had a 71% kill rate in Boston.
Now in round two, the Rangers are 1 for 2 on the power play at home after going 0 for 5 in games one and two in Raleigh. The penalty kill hasn’t been the issue for the Hurricanes, though it also hasn’t been as overwhelming of a strength as it was all season, particularly on the road.
And now, the power play.
If things don’t get fixed even a little bit, the Carolina Hurricanes’ power play very well might end up costing the Canes a chance to win the Stanley Cup.
After an 0 for 3 performance Sunday afternoon, which featured just seven shots and three high-danger chances over six minutes of action, the Canes are now 0 for 7 with the man advantage in this series.
In the first round, the Canes went 5 for 36 (14%) on the power play and went 1 for 16 in Boston. Dating back to the regular season, the Hurricanes are 9 for their last 87 on the power play dating back to March 28. That is 10%.
The power play has been abysmal. The penalty kill, while not awful, hasn’t been as good. These are the things that could cost the Canes.
Something’s got to give
While technically possible, the Carolina Hurricanes are not going to win the Stanley Cup if they can not find a way to win a game on the road.
The Canes have been lights out at PNC Arena over their first six home games of the postseason, but they’ve been just as bad on the road.
At some point the Hurricanes are either going to falter or at home or find a way to win on the road. It is that simple. No team is going to win the Stanley Cup by going 4-0 at home and 0-3 on the road for four straight series, even if they have the home-ice advantage to do so.
Something’s got to give, and the Carolina Hurricanes need it to be their woes on the road.
Still in control, though
Sunday afternoon’s game was a disappointing one for the Hurricanes, who couldn’t wash away the road woes from round one in their first try in Madison Square Garden.
That being said, the Canes are still fully in control of this series. Find a way to win a road game Tuesday night, and the Hurricanes return home to Raleigh Thursday with a chance to put the series to bed at home.
Something has to change for the Canes on the road, but there still should be full faith and belief in this incredibly talented team for that to happen. Sunday’s loss wasn’t the end of the world. It was far from it. The Canes are still in control. That much is true.