For Canes fans, games one and two of the Eastern Conference Finals were very forgettable. Especially the second one.
In Game 1, the Boston Bruins struck first on a goal from defenseman Steven Kampfer, who was called on to play in Charlie McAvoy’s spot. McAvoy got suspended for Game 1 due to an illegal hit to the head on Columbus Blue Jackets winger Josh Anderson during Game 6 of their Eastern Conference Semifinals matchup.
Shortly after Kampfer’s goal, the Canes went on the power play. At the 16:18 mark of the first period, only three seconds into their power play, Sebastian Aho redirected a shot from rookie winger Andrei Svechnikov past Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask to tie the game up at 1. The rest of the period was scoreless, and the Canes went into the first intermission tied at 1.
In the second period, after a majority of the first 10 minutes were scoreless, the Canes struck again. On a rush into the Bruins’ zone at the 10:42 mark, Greg McKegg snuck a puck past Rask for a 2-1 lead, just seconds before the net became dislodged. After a review, it was confirmed the Canes scored. There would be no more scoring, as the Canes went into the final period up 2-1, only twenty minutes away from stealing a win on the road.
In the third period, the wheels fell apart. Bruins winger Marcus Johansson scored on a power play for the Bruins only 2:26 into the final period. 2-2. Bruins center Patrice Bergeron scored on another power play 28 seconds later. 3-2 Bruins. Bruins center Charlie Coyle scored an empty-net goal with 2:13 remaining in the game to extend the Bruins’ lead to 4-2. On a breakaway, Bruins winger Chris Wagner scored to cap the scoring at 5-2.
Game 1 was a game the Canes could have easily won, but penalties and lack of offensive execution in the final period ultimately got to us.
Game 2 was arguably our worst game of the playoffs. We lost 6-2, and were down 6-0 for a majority of the game, before captain Justin Williams and Teuvo “Turbo” Teravainen found the back of the net a little over six minutes apart from each other. In this game alone, Mrazek stopped only 22 of the 28 shots he faced, and the Bruins carried a balanced scoring attack, recording two goals in the first, second, and third periods apiece.
During the third period of this game, and to today, many Canes fans (including myself) took to Twitter regarding our goaltending situation. On my Twitter (@AidanJensen2019), I said “Curtis. McElhinney. That is all you need to know. #TakeWarning.” Many fans agreed with myself, and noted that given McElhinney’s strong performance in our Eastern Conference Semifinals matchup with the New York Islanders, he should start Game 3.
Look at the playoff stat comparison between Curtis McElhinney, the 36-year-old journeyman, and Petr Mrazek, the 27-year-old starting goalie (@ThePointHockey on Twitter). In the playoffs, here are Mrazek’s stats: .907 SV%, .806 Slot Save Percentage, .737 Inner Slot Save Percentage, and an 0.02 Actual To Expected GA. Look at McElhinney’s stats: .947 SV%, .927 Slot Save Percentage, .938 Inner Slot Save Percentage, and a -.128 Actual to Expected GA.
Rod Brind’Amour, however, is making us Canes fans wait for who the starting goalie will be: he said that he will not announce until game time. If I were coach, I would start McElhinney due to Mrazek’s poor performance in the first two games of the series.
Mrazek’s struggles are definitely not why we have lost the first two games of the series in blowout fashion. We have lost games one and two due to lack of execution on the power play, allowing Bruins skaters to have free pick of where to skate on the ice, and inconsistent offense.
Returning home tonight, however, provides the Canes with a great chance to get their playoff run back on track. Remember, the Canes were down 0-2 in their first round series against the defending Stanley Cup Champion Washington Capitals. They came back and won that series in seven games.
I expect the Canes to play their best game of the season tonight, and I expect them to win. 8:00 P.M. NBCSN.
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