When must a Hurricane be aware of a natural disaster? When he’s wearing black and gold and stands nearly 7-feet tall on his skates
Defenseman Zdeno Chara had a Game 2 to forget in Boston’s loss to Carolina and with the action shifting to Raleigh, the strategy war between coaches Claude Julien and Paul Maurice will only intensify.
The battle is a simple one; Maurice wants to keep Canes star Eric Staal away from Chara and Julien wants the opposite. But with Maurice getting final line change in his home arena, it will be interesting to see how he manipulates his team’s shifts to get Staal maximum non-Chara time.
This becomes especially prudent since Chara is coming off an uncharacteristic minus-3 performance in which he was directly responsible for a Carolina goal in Game 2. Not only does ‘Big Z’ have beastly proportions, but he’s also a fierce competitor. There is no doubt Chara will be back on his game Wednesday and the Canes should consider that fair warning.
The antidote will be for Carolina to get production throughout the lineup, which means getting captain Rod Brind’Amour on track. The venerable veteran still has yet to collect a point this post-season and faceoff acumen and leadership can only go so far. Boston attacks with balance; Carolina must counter-attack in kind.
A little jog north and hockey fans will find another treat tonight; the third game of the much-hyped and totally satisfying Pittsburgh-Washington series. Other than the Pens and Caps fan bases, every non-partisan hockey fan is praying this donnybrook goes seven games (Gary Bettman may even take up Santeria).
Although Washington is up 2-0 so far, Game 3 is the first in Pittsburgh, where the fans don’t cheer for Alex Ovechkin when he touches the puck. The Caps proved they can win in a tough road environment when first they took Manhattan, but a determined Penguins squad is a much more difficult foe.
This has been a close, competitive series to date and the margin of error for the Penguins has been slight. Basically, they can chalk it up to the play of rookie Capitals goaltender Simeon Varlamov and their own inability to convert on the power play.
How does a PP unit featuring Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Sergei Gonchar misfire so consistently? That’s what coach Dan Bylsma would like to know. But in reality, the Pens just need to hunker down and keep playing their game. Crosby was deadly in close against Varlamov in Game 2 and if the Caps can’t find a way to move The Kid out of his new office, this series will be tied up by the time it gets back to Washington.
Look for Crosby to once again be the leading scoring threat for Pittsburgh while Malkin gets his groove back. A home crowd, the stinging sensation in the back of Sid’s neck, knowing that rogue Ovechkin is threatening to take away his ticket back to the Cup final; this will not stand in Sid’s mind.
And nor should it. Crosby may have lost some spotlight to Ovie this year, but he will not be out-competed by his archrival. Especially on home ice.
Host Edward Fraser sits down with editor in chief Jason Kay and senior writer Adam Proteau to discuss how Carolina’s home ice advantage will affect the series and what the Pens need to do to get back on track.
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PRODUCER: Ted Cooper
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Ryan Kennedy is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey’s Young Guns and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Mondays and Wednesdays, his column – The Straight Edge – every Friday, and his features, The Hot List and Prep Watch appears Tuesdays and Thursdays.
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