By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
If you were expecting the Bruins to pull off a repeat of last year’s four-game sweep over the Hurricanes, let Dougie Hamilton’s bomb of a shot that just whizzed by your head serve as a reminder that, no, this is indeed a series this time around.
And if the first two games have told us anything, it may be decided by a power-on-power showdown.
One night after The Bergeron Line came through with the first and final goals of a 4-3 double-overtime victory, Thursday’s Game 2 came with the Hurricanes’ best returning the favor with some bodyblows of their own.
Teuvo Teravainen gets ’em on the board, Andrei Svechnikov puts ’em ahead, and Hamilton scores the game-winning dagger. Meanwhile, Sebastian Aho, Carolina’s top forward, finished the night with an assist and a team-leading (!) four hits. Aho looked particularly ready for his second showing against Patrice Bergeron, too.
But the biggest difference in this game came with the Hurricanes pouncing on the Bruins when they smelled blood in the water.
From the second period on, the Hurricanes repeatedly pinned the Bruins into their own zone. They forced an older Boston team into extended d-zone shifts, forced them into bad (and in some cases uncharacteristically bad) decisions with the puck, and exhausted them to the point where high-danger walkways were wide open for a high-end chance on goal.
It was at times surgical, and left the Bruins without an answer.
“Most teams that don’t feel they gave their best in a game in the playoffs usually bounce back the next night, that’s why they’re good teams, that’s why they’re in the playoffs, so we certainly expected a heavier forecheck, we got it, we handled it well at times, other times we didn’t,” said B’s head coach Bruce Cassidy. “We defended pretty well, fixed some of our power play problems but unfortunately, like I said, the 5-on-5 sorting out and second-chance, return to your spots, be hard on your puck to get a clear and like I said you know get the next group over there and sort of reclaim the momentum. We weren’t as good as we were opening night, give them credit, and then obviously you know some things we need to do better as well.”
It was still just a one-goal loss for the Bruins, however, and the Black and Gold had numerous chances to get back on the board. (The Canes seemed almost desperate to give this game away with horrific icings sent the other way with 42 and 12 seconds left in the third period of a one-goal game and with James Reimer in net.)
And it’s given Cassidy a simple formula to right the ship come Saturday’s Game 3.
“We feel that we’re a good team at correcting things that as we go along that we feel that hurt us the game before so obviously we’ll look at why we give up some goals from the interior, better puck support on breakouts, how do we limit them getting through the neutral zone to get on the forecheck so it usually starts at one end leads down to the other,” said Cassidy. “They happen to bury one, we had some looks, we didn’t, so we’ll look at the rest of the game and how we can correct being a little bit better from the middle of the ice out in terms of scoring chances we give up from there.
“It’s our turn to push back.”
Here are some leftover thoughts and notes from a series-tying loss to the Canes…
Anders Bjork gets the first-line promotion with David Pastrnak ruled out
With David Pastrnak officially deemed unfit to participate about half an hour before the start of Game 2, B’s winger Anders Bjork was the guy summoned to move up to the right side of Boston’s first line.
And though the usage wasn’t nearly the same as Pastrnak’s, Cassidy didn’t hate what he saw from Bjork.
“It started well for Anders,” Cassidy said of Bjork’s fill-in work with Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron. “I mean he found himself all alone in the slot like the other night, those are two Grade-A chances back-to-back nights. When you’re talking about a first line player, typically you are going to force the goalie to make a real good save. So that’s where we want Anders to grow in those opportunities. He’s been working hard on his shot and I’m sure he’d like to have it back.
“Having said that he hit the net, Reimer made a good save, forced a nice turnover to put Krech in all alone in the second period. If Krech scores on that one, who knows right, it’s two-nothing game you don’t know how it’s going to go over there.”
With Bjork moved up to the first line, Karson Kuhlman jumped into action as the right winger on the Charlie Coyle line opposite Nick Ritchie, and finished with three hits and a blocked shot in 9:42 of action.
Carolina’s switch to James Reimer works in Game 2, but is it sustainable?
Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour’s call to James Reimer went about as well as he could have hoped, with Reimer stopping 33-of-35 for the dub. But I’m curious if this is going to be a sustainable option for Carolina. While Reimer did enough to finish the job, he also surrendered some gigantic rebounds and appeared to have some issues tracking the puck. With a bit more finish around the net, this could have been a much different outing for Reimer. I think volume is the name of the game with this guy.
That’s enough of Nick Ritchie for now
Another shot-less night for B’s forward Nick Ritchie, who was benched for the majority of the third period, and another night where you watched him and just… well… didn’t really notice him. I’m gonna stick with what I said after Game 1: This is not a series that will highlight Ritchie’s best attributes. It’s just a bad matchup for him. If David Pastrnak is back, or even if he’s not, the Bruins should consider making a switch to juice up Charlie Coyle’s options on line three.
Ty Anderson is a writer and columnist for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Yell at him on Twitter: @_TyAnderson.