By: Allan Erickson
Game 1 Recap- Rangers’ potent power play is no match for Carolina’s penalty kill
The Carolina Hurricanes looked sluggish in their “tune-up” game versus the Washington Capitals. However, they’ve opened up a 2-0 series lead against the New York Rangers in the Stanley Cup Qualifiers. Here’s a recap of games 1 and two, the key for the Hurricanes to finish this series, and the keys for them to make a run all the way to a Stanley Cup Championship.
Game 1 was the most gripping hockey we’ve seen in quite some time. Less than a minute into the game, trade-deadline acquisition Brady Skjei laid a heavy hit on Jesper Fast, though it was a brilliant hit and 100% clean, it forced Fast to an early game exit due to an injury. A little under 30 seconds later, Tuevo Teräväinen laid a beautiful saucer pass right on to the stick of defenseman Jaccob Slavin, who joined the rush beautifully and went bar down on Henrik Lundqvist to open the scoring and give the Canes a 1-0 lead. Not long after that, 38-year old Justin Williams of the Hurricanes dropped the gloves with Rangers’ Ryan Strome in what was a great fight. Each player landed some punches, Williams went to the ice first, but not without bloodying Strome’s nose-first. After that, the first period was riddled with both teams taking unnecessary penalties which resulted in a good volume of rubber towards the net but provided no further scoring.
Early in the second period the Canes took the fresh sheet of ice with a power play and capitalized as Sebastian Aho fired home a wrister from the slot and the Hurricanes took a 2-1 lead. With 5:34 left in the second period, Mika Zibanejad cut the Hurricanes lead in half beating Petr Mrazek on the high blocker side. That concluded the scoring in the second and the Hurricanes took the lead into the intermission. It’s important to note that Carolina is 26-1 this season when leading after 2 periods.
Fresh off the power play over 10 minutes into the third period, the Hurricanes received a fortuitous bounce. Marty Necas fired a puck toward the net and it bounced off the skate of Rangers defenseman Marc Staal giving the Hurricanes a 3-1 lead. Late in the third period the Rangers Marc Staal snuck a slap-shot passed Mrazek while shorthanded and cut the lead to 1 yet again. But unfortunately for the Rangers, the clock ran out and the Hurricanes took game 1 of the series. The biggest takeaway from game 1 was Carolina’s sterling penalty kill, the Rangers were an abysmal 0/7 on the power play only generating 4 shots on goal during that 14 minutes of game time where they had a 5-on-4 advantage.
Game Two Recap- Can’t Stop Svechnikov
Game two saw Carolina get off to another quick start, scoring 4:36 seconds into the first period. Aho made another dazzling pass to Andrei Svechnikov and the 20-year-old Russian winger caught Lundqvist leaning toward the glove, surprised him with a rising wrist shot up over the blocker putting the Canes up 1-0. Another important goal for Carolina, as on the season the Hurricanes are 26-3-2 when scoring first. 12:05 into the first period Artemi Panarin scored a goal on the power play and evened things up for the Rangers- their first power-play goal of the series. Late in the first Mrazek made a dazzling save when Mika Zibanejad got clear of the Canes defense and went in on the breakaway. Mrazek matched the speed of Zibanejad beautifully and robbed him of a goal keeping the game tied as they went to intermission.
The second period belonged to the Carolina Hurricanes. Just 1:11 into the second, Andrei Svechnikov scored his second goal of the game on the power play and the Canes took a 2-1 lead. Just 71 seconds later, the Canes got a huge goal from their 4th line consisting of Jordan Martinook, Morgan Geekie, and Brock McGinn. A sterling forechecking shift from the trio resulted in McGinn finding Geekie behind the net. Geekie then drove to the front of the net and laid a beautiful pass across the crease to Jordan Martinook who slammed it past a sprawling Lundqvist extending the Canes lead to 2. Nothing else doing for either team in the second period and the Canes took a 3-1 lead into the third.
The third period was played much more cleanly on both sides, each team only had one opportunity on the power play. The Canes completely dominated the Rangers in the 5-on-5 battle of the last twenty minutes. Aho leads a 2-on-1 with And fed a backhanded saucer pass to Andrei Svechnikov who buried it past Lunqvist and accomplished the first-ever hat trick for the Carolina Hurricanes in a playoff game. Things got chippy late when Tony Deangelo (perhaps the biggest sleezebag in all of Hockey) dropped the gloves with Jordan Martinook. After Martinook hit the ice and linesman jumped between the two signaling the fight to be over. Deangelo continued throwing punches at Martinook and received a game misconduct, and may even be getting a phone call from the NHL office this evening. Svechnikov and Aho were magical in this one and the Canes took a strong grip of the series, now leading 2-0.
Keys to finishing the Rangers
The Carolina Hurricanes are one game away from finishing off the Rangers and advancing to the next round. There are 3 keys for the Canes to finish off the blue shirts in the next couple of days.
1- Stay out of the penalty box. The Hurricanes are absolutely dominating the Rangers in terms of 5-on-5 play this series. The Rangers power play is one of the best in the league, and though they haven’t been very effective with it thus far, it only takes a successful or good looking power play to put them back into that elite group of man-advantages in the NHL.
2- Contributions from everyone. The Carolina Hurricanes have arguably the best top line in hockey with young Super starts Sebastian Aho and Andrei Svechnikov paired with Tuevo Taräväinen- perhaps the best passer in all of hockey. But Jordan Staal, Justin Williams, the aforementioned McGinn, Geekie, Martinook trio, as well as steady play from all of their defensemen have gotten the Canes this series lead. Joel Edmundson has been rock solid, newcomers Sami Vatanen and Brady Skjei have joined a crowded blue line but have played admirably fitting right in with the Hurricanes style of play. The Aho, Svechnikov, Taräväinen line is the superstar group, but the rest of the Hurricanes are getting to their game, and you need 18 skaters to win the Stanley Cup.
3- Stay composed. This may sound basic but in the NHL postseason, it’s easy for adrenaline to kick in. I look for the Rangers to come out head-hunting and trying to ruffle some feathers of the Hurricanes players. It’s important for the Canes to know when to drop the gloves, and when to walk away from the fight. The Hurricanes can’t afford any more injuries, already down 2 all-pro caliber defensemen in Brett Pesce and Dougie Hamilton. They need to keep a cool head, stay composed, try to finish this series next game, and get out of it unscathed and with a few days of rest upcoming.
The key to winning the Stanley Cup for the Hurricanes is to keep everyone bought in. Their system is designed for their players to thrive and when the Canes are playing their best, their goalies don’t see a lot of rubber because of the relentlessness of the Hurricanes forecheck. The keys for the Canes to winning the cup are to follow the game plan, lean on teams, and tire them out. Another important key for the Hurricanes, if they wish to lift the cup, is continued balance. Jordan Staal, the Hurricanes captain, doesn’t provide a lot of offense. However, his importance on the ice cannot be questioned. He takes the most crucial face-offs in every game, he’s one of the best defensive centermen in the NHL, and he’s a stellar penalty killer. The other three line combinations are much more skilled, and if the Canes get scoring from their 2nd and 4th lines, as they have in each game against the Rangers so far, then Carolina could be poised to win their second Stanley Cup in franchise history.
Game 3- tomorrow night, let’s see if the Canes can finish the Rangers off and continue their march towards a Stanley Cup. Until then, y’all take care and remember, it’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice. Allan Erickson signing off with a LET’S GO CANES!