A 20-minute game
Posted April 16, 2009
Greetings from New Jersey. We are hunkered down in Short Hills, which by the way is quite beautiful as the Canes look to repair what went way wrong in Game One of this series with the Devils. To throw just a few more Springsteen references your way, and during this round you will get more, the Canes' "Land of Hope and Dreams" turned into the "Darkness on the Edge of Town." It was a curiously played game by the boys from Raleigh that needs to be altered and soon or this said to be long series could be a quickie.
The Hurricanes have opportunity early in Friday's game to reverse the fortune. That's why I truly believe the first period could be the whole series. It's hard to toss out a generality like this but quite possibly this is what it could boil down to. New Jersey leveled the Canes with their team game in the opening encounter. They dictated the pace, outworked the Hurricanes in little intangibles and displayed team confidence of a club that could go very deep into the spring. But given the nature of this game and the make up of the team's it could all change with one solid twenty minute effort.
On Monday we discussed the "Danger Zone" on the ice, an area of the rink where the Hurricanes could be exploited if not careful. Unfortunately it came to fruition. The Hurricanes stumbled in their own zone and the Devs jumped on it. The trick now for the Hurricanes is to recapture their own team confidence. How can they do this? Well here we go.
The emergence of Eric Staal. It is very hard to pin everything on one player but how Number 12 goes about Game Two could play a key role in what happens Friday and beyond. Staal was outplayed by Zach Parise in the opening tilt. Aside from the goal and the assist it was the ''compete level" of JP's little boy that was so amazing. Staal has to get there emotionally. Now there is no question that if his line-mates, Erik Cole and Tuomo Ruutu bring the 'thump" it will make it easier for him but it should never get there. Staal needs to wear his heart on his sleeve Friday and play with that reckless passion. If he does it will be a major step in the right direction.
Build a hatred. In any playoff series dislike needs to turn to out and out disdain. The Hurricanes need to stay disciplined but somehow get into the Devils' 'kitchen". Force the Devils to come off their discipline. Yes, it's nice to push and shove after the play but the Hurricanes can do a far better job of winning battles which lead to scoring chances and possibly a New Jersey penalty or two.
Force the Devil defense to play the game with their backs turned. Carolina did not get pucks deep on the attack. They need to force the opponents to go back and get it and when they do make contact. New Jersey's defense will not handle pressure well at times and one area that Canes can improve on is using their speed to force the Devil corps to take penalties. Something they did not do in game one.
Tweak the lineup? Yes, this will probably happen. New Jersey is in a strong four line rotation right now and they need to be countered. Even though a player like Tim Conboy can be effective in his role there a strong chance that the coach will have to insert someone like Ryan Bayda to round a line that can be more effective in five on five situations. In addition, to become better at getting the puck out of trouble and avoiding an effective New Jersey forecheck, you could see Frank Kaberle back in. One or both of these moves are likely to occur.
The game undoubtedly will not end after twenty minutes but the series could begin. It's up to the Hurricanes to dictate the game back at the Devils. They are playing a very confident and good team. The Devils can also be broken down.
If the Canes can win the first period it could by the beginning of their "Rising." A solid period where they prove to themselves they are better and make the other side doubt what they do. This could just possibly lead them to their "Beautiful Reward".
The sun is actually out in New Jersey. Think I'll step outside and soak it in.
Talk on Saturday!