by Kate Shefte
Has everyone recovered from Tuesday? Good. Let’s roll. Sorry the series recap never happened, but let’s look ahead instead. Before the ‘Canes had time to unwind after a spectacularly memorable Game 7, they were back on a plane, preparing to face a team that beat them like a red-headed stepchild in the regular season. The Boston Bruins, the surprise No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, are up next.
In a lengthy interview the day after the ‘Canes returned home from New Jersey, Mo claimed that the only differences between New Jersey and Boston were the absence of a set checking line and a “little bit of size and speed.” He brought up the point that Claude Julien used to coach New Jersey, and that’s a good point. However, he seems to be forgetting those measly extra 30 goals in the regular season. Oh yeah, and the scoring from all sides. That young wunderkind and age-defying veteran pairing of Kessel and Savard? Might as well throw their names in there. That Michael Ryder guy, he’s been hot in the playoffs so far. And hockey’s Yao Ming, Boston’s 6’9 gut-checking Jolly Yellow Giant, Zdeno Chara…definitely worth a mention.
If you haven’t been able to keep up with the silly imagery thus far, what I’m trying to say is that it’s going to take a lot more to get past the Bruins. However, we’ve already seen a No. 1 seed – San Jose, a favorite to win the cup – go down like a redwood without so much as a “look out below!”
Bruins goaltender and Vezina nominee Tim Thomas, who has had some colorful commentary on the ‘Canes’ playing techniques before, will assuredly be in net. While he doesn’t have the prestige of Brodeur, he certainly has the numbers. He’s a feisty one as well, so we’ll keep the fisticuffs watch on high alert. Should he falter, the Bruins have a very worthy backup in Manny Fernandez.
Tim Thomas made it out of the first round with a 1.50 goals-against and a .946 save percentage. To borrow a phrase from generations past, “Jiminy Christmas!”
(Completely off topic for just a second, NHL.com just posted an interview where New Jersey head coach Brent “Papa” Sutter was quoted as saying that Game 7 was “the most devastating [he's] experienced as a player or coach.” Papa Sutter played for 17 years and has coached nine. Does anyone feel at least a teensie bit bad?)
At the opening face-off, the ‘Canes will see two very familiar faces behind the bench. However, Aaron Ward and Mark Recchi will be doing everything within their power to halt the ‘Canes’ run for the cup this time around. The two long-time veterans hoisted the cup for Carolina in 2006, but loyalties have changed. Ward came to the Bruins via a trade from the Rangers in 2007 and Recchi happily fled to the Bruins rather than go down with a sinking Tampa Bay ship at the deadline. Should the Bruins advance, this would be Recchi’s third cup and Ward’s fourth. Recchi is pushing it at 41 years of age, but I have a feeling Ward won’t stop until he has a Stanley Cup ring for every finger. And possibly toes too, we’ll see.
The Bruins have a very impressive rookie in Blake Wheeler who put up decent numbers in the regular season, and a player who’s not afraid to get down and dirty (he incurred a suspension in the first round) in fan favorite Milan Lucic. He hit a guy through the glass, once. No joke.
Carolina goes from facing a team it can’t seem to avoid in the Devils to a team it has faced only once, a decade ago. The ‘Canes lost to the Bruins in the opening round with a series record of 4-2 in their second year in Carolina, 1999.
Boston squashed a hapless Montreal team in the first round, 4-0, and have been sitting around waiting for the ‘Canes to get it over with already. The Hurricanes, as we all know, have been playing up until Tuesday. Boston may be sluggish and the ‘Canes may be tired, but that is not the main plot line for this series. It also won’t matter how hot the ‘Canes are or how strong Ward is in net behind them. It will be whether the Bruins are as good as they have been all season, because if they are, the ‘Canes are going to have difficulties. This isn’t the same Hurricanes team as the one that lost – badly – to Boston four times this season. However, I fear that “old habits die hard” may be the moral of this story.
I think the ‘Canes will put up a good fight. I even think they could win. The ‘Canes have all the momentum they can muster and, as we’ve seen so many times already, that scrappy, Goonies-never-say-die! attitude. But they’re going to need some lucky bounces and some serious downgrades in play from the Bruins in order to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals (which could potentially be made up of all Southeast Division teams…wow.) If they could somehow manage a split in Boston, that would help a great deal. But it will be hard, no question. The Bruins lost a total of 6 games at home in regulation this season, and only 12 overall.
The good news is, at least we won’t have to see any more of that dreadfully boring trap defense. Oh, and on a more personal note…I don’t think I’ll be looking at any empty seats in the RBC Center in Game 3. Just a guesstimate.
So the series begins on Friday at 7:30 at the T.D. Banknorth Garden in Bah-ston, Mass. At the very least, fans get a little more hockey out of it. At the most, the team shuts down the top team in the Eastern Conference and earns a berth in the ECF’s.
The ‘Canes know that it’s go hard, or go golfing. Stay tuned.