The Hurricanes and Rangers will play Game 2 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series on Friday at 8 p.m. at PNC Arena. Here are some notes heading into the game.
1. Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour is tired of hearing about his team’s performance in the first two periods of Game 1.
“You’re making a deal about the fact everybody’s talking about it,” Brind’Amour said when asked about the first 40 minutes of the series-opening game.
Brind’Amour called the game “even,” and when you factor in Carolina’s dominant third period and overtime, he’s not wrong.
“We want to be better,” Brind’Amour continued, “but that’s a good team you’re playing over there. You’re not going to dominate every period. So weather the storm, weather their good periods and then get to your game. That’s how you win.”
According to NaturalStatTrick.com, the Rangers had a slim edge in scoring chances (19-16) and a bigger one in high-danger chances (9-5) through two periods, but the Hurricanes made that up in the final 23:12.
Scoring chances favored Carolina 13-6 in the third period and 4-0 in overtime, plus the Hurricanes had 6-3 and 3-0 advantages in overtime.
While Brind’Amour has heard enough about his team’s first 40 minutes, the Hurricanes know they need to be better.
“Rants kept us in that game,” Hurricanes center Vincent Trocheck said Thursday of goalie Antti Raanta. “If it wasn’t for him, it could have been 4-0 after two.”
2. Wednesday’s Game 1 was played almost exclusively at even strength. Each team had 27 seconds of power time after the game’s only two penalties — a high-sticking call to Carolina’s Nino Niederreiter just 86 seconds into the game, followed by New York’s Ryan Strome taking a tripping penalty on the ensuing power play at 1:53 — were called early.
The Hurricanes certainly welcome power plays and know their penalty kill — the NHL’s best in the regular season — can bail them out, but 5-on-5 play suits them just fine.
“I thought it was a clean game,” Hurricanes defenseman Brett Pesce said Friday. “I thought everyone checked well. It was physical, obviously, but it was clean. I didn’t see too many missed calls. I’d personally rather have it like that. I like our chances on the 5-on-5 game, so hopefully we can continue to stay out of the box.”
Carolina has done a great job of doing that following its nine-infraction meltdown in Game 4 at Boston in the first round.
Since then, the Hurricanes have taken a total of eight penalties in the past four games — three against Boston in both Games 5 and 6, and one apiece in Game 7 vs. the Bruins and Game 1 with the Rangers.
3. The more 5-on-5 time the team has should allow it to use its high-pressure game to wear down the Rangers. That certainly didn’t happen in Game 1 against the Rangers.
“We didn’t wear them down after two, that’s for sure,” Brind’Amour said Thursday. “I think it’s a good point. I think normally that’s how it goes in a lot of games. But definitely we didn’t do enough to wear them down.”
Carolina is hoping for a better start Friday.
“We need to be able to find a way to come out and play like we did in the third period as soon as the first whistle goes,” forward Steven Lorentz said Thursday. “On a positive note, we didn’t play our best and we still came out with a win.
“I think good teams find a way to win like we did.”
4. Brind’Amour will stick with the lines he created in the third period of Game 1. That includes Vincent Trocheck centering Andrei Svechnikov and Martin Necas.
Necas’ struggles this season are well documented. He had per-game career lows in goals, assists and points this regular season, and he has just three assists through eight postseason games with only 11 shots on goal.
Svechnikov has also been inconsistent in the playoffs, registering three goals — an empty-netter and two in a Game 6 loss in Boston — and one assist so far.
He’s still finding ways to make an impact, particularly with his physicality on the forecheck, but Brind’Amour said Thursday that the 22-year-old was trying to “do too much” instead of playing a simple game with the puck on his stick.
That was particularly evident with just over six minutes left in the second period when Svechnikov failed to get the puck deep into the zone at the Rangers’ blue line. Pesce labored back to defend at the end of what became a 104-second shift, and after Raanta froze the puck for a whistle, it appeared Pesce had a few choice words for Svechnikov.
The Hurricanes of course want more point production from Svechnikov, but it’s the little plays like this — one of four giveaways by Svechnikov in the game — that are usually more important to coaches.
“Especially in the neutral zone,” Svechnikov said after Friday’s morning skate. “I tried to make a play there where I should have maybe chipped it in or make it a little bit simpler play. I’m gonna work on it tonight and we’ll see what happens.”
5. Brind’Amour always talks about how one mental mistake or one moment of lapsed effort can easily lead to a puck ending up in your net.
That was on full display in Thursday’s Tampa Bay-Florida game when, in a 1-1 game in the waning seconds of regulation, both Florida defenders chased Nikita Kucherov behind the Panthers’ net.
Ross Colton moved into the open space in front and finished a pass from Kucherov with under four seconds left to give the Lightning the win and a 2-0 series lead with both teams headed to Tampa for Games 3 and 4.
Brind’Amour offered some perspective of what that’s like as a coach.
“Someone messed up,” Brind’Amour said. “You see that from the bench, and you know where your guys are supposed to be. And when you see it, you go, ‘Uh oh.’ You see it before everyone else. It’s not a good feeling.”
I asked Brind’Amour if that’s the dreaded “take a breath” moment he often talks about.
“Someone took a breath, for sure,” he said. “You’ve got to play your whole shift.”