Not Dead Yet

Pushed to the brink of elimination, the Hurricanes have clawed their way back
Carolina Hurricanes v New York Rangers - Game Five
Carolina Hurricanes v New York Rangers - Game Five / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages

The Hurricanes got off to a rough start in the Eastern Conference semi-final matchup against the New York Rangers. On the heels of 3 heartbreaking one-goal losses, the ‘Canes have been pushed to the brink of elimination.  Since their overtime loss in game three, the Hurricanes came back strong, taking game 4 at home, and a huge win in game 5 at Madison Square Garden.  The ‘Canes have all the momentum going back home for another do-or-die Game 6.  On the edge of the cliff, the Hurricanes are not dead yet. 

This is a frustrating series against a tough and stingy Rangers team.   They have one of the best goalies in the world in Igor Sherterkin and through the first 3 games, the Hurricanes were seemingly unable to truly get their offense going.  The most difficult thing the Hurricanes encountered throughout this series is the major failures in special teams.  The Rangers and Hurricanes both finished the regular season near the top of the league in both power-play and penalty-kill percentage, but the Rangers are the only team that is taking advantage of special teams.  The ‘Canes' penalty kill looked horrific early in the series and the power-play for the Hurricanes was a complete non-factor.  

Since the early struggles, the penalty rounded into form, however, the power-play is still struggling mightily; with Brady Skjei’s big goal in game 4 being the only hit thus far in the series.  If the Hurricanes are to overcome these insurmountable odds and come back, the power-play must start clicking.  A key change the Hurricanes need to make moving forward in the series is to remove Brent Burns from their top power-play unit.  I appreciate Burns as a veteran player who has craved a hall of fame worthy career, but at this point, he has been the worst ‘Canes defender in the series.  Even though he has been a complete non-factor on the power-play, Burns is still getting top power-play minutes and led the d-core in ice time in game 5.   Burns is starting to show his age, looking slow getting to loose pucks and allowing the speedy Rangers’ forwards clean entries and space to maneuver coming into their zone.  I prefer to give the much-maligned Tony DeAngelo a chance to run the power-play unit moving forward.  For all his defensive zone shortcomings, DeAngelo is still a high-octane offensive player and can make a difference on the struggling power-play unit. 

Overall, the Hurricanes have been the better team in 5v5 play throughout the series.  The Hurricanes have outplayed the Rangers in all aspects of even-strength play, save for goaltending.  The play of Freddie Andersen has been a bit shaky throughout the series, but he was able to provide a strong effort in the game five win on the road.  The Hurricanes need Andersen to step up and have another strong outing in game six if they wish to extend the series and return to New York for the deciding game 7.

If the Hurricanes' special team units produced any resemblance to their regular season success, this series would already be over, and the ‘Canes would be moving on to the Eastern Conference Finals.   They have a great chance to do the improbable and push the Rangers to a winner-take-all all-game 7. The ‘Canes have the opportunity to build on a dominating 3rd period in game five in which they controlled the play in all three zones and seemed to finally solve the riddle that is Igor Shesterkin and his all-world ability.  While the ‘Canes are on the ropes, they are still in this fight.  The Hurricanes are Not Dead Yet.