Posted April 14, 2009
Here we go, the day before the start of what could be an unforgettable two months. We've been there before. You know what to expect in terms of how special this time of the year can be for a hockey fan. You know how captivating playoff hockey can be. How emotional it becomes and how fully entrenched one can be in the run for hockey's silver chalice.
But get ready to enter hockey's "Jungleland", always lots of Springsteen references here. For the Hurricanes it starts appropriately in New Jersey. For some unknown alignment of stars it wouldn't be the playoffs without a trip to the "swamps". Unlike previous encounters the Hurricanes will have to conquer the "Rock" not capture a piece of the "turf" at the Meadowlands.
This should be long one. I would expect a six or seven game joust. The teams have so many similarities. The match ups can be broken done so many ways. At the end of it all you say, it's close.
The teams have each had times during their regular seasons when they looked like they were ready to dominate the league. The goaltenders bring special pedigrees in their own right which should make this one have the most intriguing allure at the most important position. The power play success the Canes have had in the season series might be enough to keep the Devils preoccupied. There are eleven rings in the Devil room and ten on the Hurricane side. The coaches are very well prepared. Each team has been very, very good at home. Okay you get it, real close isn't it?
If you look at the season series Carolina won three of the four. On Saturday they were one turnover away from being in a position to get squeeze more points out of the Devs. But for me there is a area of the ice the I call the "Danger Zone" and it's a spot that within the Canes good fortune they have been weak and it needs to be better to prevail in this quarterfinal duel.
It's the area in their own zone from the tops of the circles on down. With and without the puck the Hurricanes have to be better. It showed up Saturday and in the previous game a couple weeks back. In the 2-1 win it was Cam Ward who stole the show and camouflaged their issues. The Devils don't sit back and wait like they used too. As a matter of fact they get typecast incorrectly that way. It was an identity they cultivated and have lived off for years. Under Brent Sutter they attack harder in the other team's end. They come in waves and the Canes have to be sharp.
It's really a two fold issue. With the puck the Canes have to manage it better than they did on Saturday. They were forced to turn it over and were guilty of not moving their feet. If the first pass out is not sound against this group you're in trouble. Secondly, without the puck. The Devils were able to hit seams and get to sound scoring areas. In both games the goaltenders were the best they could be and bailed out the trouble.
This is not to say that the Devils completely dominate the Canes by any stretch. The Hurricanes conversely do some things that give New Jersey fits. But it is to say in a series this close, it's the small things that matter. New Jersey has confidence that they can continue to force the Canes into mistakes. It's the Canes mission to survive this concern especially in the first game.
When you start on the road you walk into the "Jungle". The beauty is you have two games to get maybe one win. Teams will look for the edge. The early edge may be how the Hurricanes play in that proverbial "Danger Zone". If they stay out of trouble and stay efficient, the first trip to "Jungleland" may prove to be "Magic".
Talk to you Thursday!!!