The Carolina Hurricanes have been this year’s version of Cinderella in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but the clock is about to strike midnight on them if they don’t change certain aspects of their game in a hurry.
The Hurricanes find themselves down 2-0 in their best-of-seven series against the Boston Bruins heading into Game 3 on home ice. For them to get back into this series, they have to find a way to get their special teams play on track. Coming into the Eastern Conference Final, the Hurricanes had the worst power play of the four teams remaining (they were at right around 10 percent).
After two games against Boston, the Hurricanes’ power play has gone 1-for-7 (1-for-3 in Game 1, 0-for-4 in Game 2). When teams don’t score one the man-advantage, often times they’ll at least generate some positive momentum from those moments. For Carolina, the power play seemed to zap any and all momentum in Game 2.
On the flip side, the Bruins have used their power-play opportunities to their advantage. Yes, there’s been some controversy regarding how they got on the man-advantage in this series, but they’ve made their power plays count. So far in this series, Boston has gone 4-for-7 on the power play. How can the Hurricanes expect to win given those numbers?
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You may not agree with the penalties the officials are handing out, but they have to find a way to kill some of them. The Hurricanes’ penalty kill can’t be under 50 percent through two games. That’s not a recipe for success.
The Hurricanes got the first power play of Game 2 when Zdeno Chara tripped Andrei Svechnikov in the first period. Carolina didn’t generate very much and the Bruins managed to open the scoring less than two minutes later. The Bruins then made it 2-0 late in the frame when they got a power-play goal from Jake DeBrusk.
“Yeah, we got a little frustrated after the second one went in,” Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour said, per NHL.com. “But again, we weren’t very good after the first period or the last five minutes of the first and throughout the rest of the game. We got off our game, and give them credit, there’s a reason we got off our game. They’re playing their game, and we haven’t gotten to ours.”
Special teams isn’t the only reason the ‘Canes are down 2-0 in this best-of-seven series. Falling behind 1-0 on a goal that goalie Petr Mrazek absolutely needs to save was less than ideal. But falling apart after the Bruins opened the scoring can’t be your only option.
The one thing they have going for them is that they’re now going to play Games 3 and 4 on home ice. The issue is that they have absolutely no margin for error in any of these games. They have to find a way to go back to Boston with the series tied or they’ll be in deep trouble.
“I think just all in all we’ve got to rediscover who we are,” captain Justin Williams said after Game 2. “You spend all this time off leading up [to the series] and everyone writing articles about how great we are, and then you come out and sometimes you’ve got to eat a poop sandwich. It doesn’t taste good, and you have to chew on it for a little bit, and we’ll have to do it for a couple days and get the taste out of our mouths next game.”
(Williams doesn’t make poop sandwiches sound very appetizing).
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Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.