Contrary to what you’ve heard, the Carolina Hurricanes have not been here before.
Sure, they’ve clawed back from 1-0 deficits in each of their two previous series this spring, but on both occasions it was against opposition inferior to the Pittsburgh Penguins. If that wasn’t the case, New Jersey or Boston – not Carolina – would be playing in the Eastern Conference final.
Pittsburgh has developed into one fine playoff team the past two seasons and, as such, expect the Pens to recognize the chance to take a firm grip on this series in Game 2 and act accordingly.
Sure, Carolina has won its past five Game 2s after falling behind 1-0, but Pittsburgh has also won its past five Game 2s after taking a 1-0 series lead over the past two years. That goes back to the whole becoming a truly great playoff team thing.
For the Canes to get back on even footing in this duel, Cam Ward will have to revert back to the rock-solid form we’ve seen from him through the first two rounds. Marc-Andre Fleury bested his crease counterpart in the first game and there’s no way Carolina has a chance to win this series if that trend continues.
Since they win every time he scores, a goal from Eric Staal would probably be a good thing for Carolina, too. In fact, the Canes have won just once this spring – Game 7 against Boston – when Staal didn’t hit the mark.
Injuries to Tuomo Ruutu and Erik Cole further undermine Carolina’s lack of secondary scoring, so a big game from the likes of Matt Cullen, Ray Whitney or the plucky Chad LaRose would go a long way toward making the East final look more interesting.
As for Pittsburgh, things couldn’t be much rosier at the moment. Fleury, aside from a few ill-advised wanderings from the crease, is playing great. Evgeni Malkin has points in four straight games and, after being the subject of a few pot shots early on, is now tied with Alex Ovechkin for second in playoff scoring with 21 points, just one less than the 22 posted by leader Sidney Crosby.
Pens coach Dan Bylsma has found success mixing and matching his lines, while going with just 11 forwards instead of the traditional 12. No doubt he’s planning to once again stick Jordan Staal on brother Eric in hopes of neutralizing Carolina’s most potent producer.
Bylsma has also likely preached the need to match the Canes’ desperation level in this game, but if the recent past is any indication, he probably could have saved his breath.
Host Edward Fraser sits down with senior writers Ken Campbell and Adam Proteau to discuss what impact the coaching changes had in Pittsburgh and Carolina and if we’re likely to see more firing next season.
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Ryan Dixon 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 Wednesdays and his column, Top Shelf, appears Fridays.
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