Posted April 19, 2009
Teams that take a 2-0 lead in best of seven series in this sport win that series 87 percent of the time. Now I'm not one for too many stat crutches but I will say that is quite a trend.
With that thought in mind - or maybe it was just the embarrassment of Game One - the Carolina Hurricanes played a much more intense style in route to a thrilling 2-1 OT win at the Rock on Friday. Now in the elation of it all, it appears that the Hurricanes will capture much of that momentum that playoffs are about and parlay it into a Game Three win. Well, it might not be that easy.
If you watch closely, the Devils have been the better team so far. What I mean is they have controlled large pockets of time in both games. The first game is a landslide, the second one, far closer but still if style points are given out in my opinion it's a Jersey verdict.
The playoffs are about proving to one side that you are better and tonight will be the opportunity for both sides.
For the Canes it's a chance to build on all that was good in Game Two. Emotionally they answered the test. Their commitment was incredible, their battle level was where it needed to be. But don't forget it had to be. If not , the opportunity to do more "Swamp Seeing" in New Jersey might not happen.
So now they can build on it. The crowd will be over the top tonight - there is no question about it. The Hurricanes will have to stay within the framework of their discipline. That's a real trick for a team returning home after an emotional road win. New Jersey was 1-6 on the power play and that is not a place the Canes want to go tonight.
Don't forget there were two open net situations (Travis Zajac and Patrick Elias) not were not cashed in. Otherwise who knows.
The Canes need to continue to use their speed. The Devils will be forced to play tonight's and Tuesday's game without their captain. Jaime Langenbrunner's injury will alter their top line. If Bobby Holik plays (and not in the top six) they will add a very experienced, gritty player but one who might have a tough time with the speed of the series. In addition the top line changes and if Elias joins Zajac and Parise, their top six will be revamped. In terms of speed the Hurricanes could have an edge.
In Game Two they were very aggressive with it. On the attack in the Devils zone and in transition it all appeared better.
The Hurricanes' best player, their goaltender, was very special in the second game. In two games Cam Ward has been brilliant. There are those who say he might want a couple back in the first game, That's debatable.
Certainly his compete level was evident in the early stages of Game One, which led to huge saves. In Game Two he was said by some to be "solid". If that's solid, then his solid is another goaltender's exceptional. Ward has his chance tonight to firmly entrench in the Devils mindset that they are up against a brick wall.
For the Devils, they hit the first adverse condition aspect of this series. That's OK for them. They believe they have the depth to get it done. They have been able to possess the puck a lot in this series and I'm sure their confidence is not shaken. They will be ready to ride out the storm early and see where it takes them. In goal, Brodeur was very good in Game Two. Carolina had some great chances and they were foiled. Both goals were not his fault. He hasn't broken down and you can't say the Canes are not in his head yet.
But tonight is the most important game. Both teams have plenty of "Reasons to Believe" they are the ones. It's Game Three where it emerges. It's tonight when the better team might just take over the series. I don't think we need any stats for this one. The winner of game three might just reach the 'Promised Land."