Wednesday, May 06, 2009

It's The Playoffs, Stupid: Airport Landing Party 2009, Chapter 4


You didn't really think I'd forget to put up the latest Caniac Landing Party photos did you? Actually I meant to shoot video instead this time, but ...heh... forgot to charge the camcorder battery. Maybe after Game 5, eh?

So what can I tell you that you don't already know? After a puzzling implosion in Game 1 that had the Hurricanes looking like the team with nine days of rust buildup, the good guys rebounded with a solid-if-not-always-pretty performance in front of a sensational 36-save outing by The Caminator. As a group, the Canes still have another level (or two) they can reach -- which is bad news for Bruins fans, but encouraging for those on the side of the angels. There were still some pretty iffy decisions with the puck in the defensive zone and far too many clearing attempts that misfired and could have been disastrous. They weren't disastrous simply because Cam Ward was completely unconscious, snuffing out anything bearing a passing resemblance to a shot on goal. The team as a whole may not have played a perfect game, but The Caminator was as perfect as a goalie can get: a playoff shutout. His fourth in his young career and second in these playoffs.

But don't get the idea that Boston will roll over and die now that they've lost for the first time in the postseason. You have to win four games to advance and the Bruins didn't get to be the top seeded team in the East 'cause they're pretty (they're not). And every hockey mind in the business is calling for a long six- or even seven-game series. Of course, many of those same great minds stuck a fork in Carolina after Game 1. So consider the sources...

Game 3 tonight at 7:30 on our ice. Forget the stats about the team winning Game 3 of a series tied 1-1 winning the series. In fact, you can take all those averages and heave them cheerfully over the side, because Carolina beat those odds in every odd-numbered game in the first round. The team winning the go-ahead game in a tied series -- whether that be a 1-1 tie or a 2-2 tie -- wins the lions share of best of sevens. Carolina lost both of those games against New Jersey, but won the one that counted when the series was tied 3-3. How huge would a win tonight be for the Canes? Consider this: Carolina has not had a series lead in the post season other than after the final game of the first round -- to win the round. So the difference between 2-1 and 1-2 would be monumental in scope. The converse of that statement, however, doesn't hold. Being down in a series is just another day at the office for these guys and I don't think a Game 3 loss will have nearly the impact on the locker room as a Game 3 win would.

The keys will be to take better care of the puck in the defensive zone, to traverse the neutral zone as quickly as possible and to get Tim Thomas moving his feet. Thomas isn't a practitioner of sound positional goaltending, he's strictly a reflexive style player. Which is much, much harder to be proficient at Dominic Hasek notwithstanding. Bad angle shots with a couple of low forwards there to cash in on the rebounds should get him moving which will expose some holes that can be exploited by snipers like Eric Staal and Ray Whitney. And considering the disappearing act of the Canes power play, they would be better served to play this game at even strength. so far their penalty kill had shut down Boston's very impressive power play unit, but that isn't a well you need to go to this often. In the two game sso far, Carolina has yielded 7 PP chances while getting only 2. And strangely enough the Canes have scored more often on the Bruins' power play than the Bruins have so far. that is not a trend that will continue if Boston continues to get the preponderance of PP chances.

But this is why they play the games. If the Stanley Cuop were won by bloggers, it wouldn't be the Stanley Cup. So look at some pitchers and keep yer fingers crossed.

Full sized version available here!


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