Eric Staal and Sergei Samsonov of the Carolina Hurricanes celebrate Staal's third period goal against the Boston Bruins during Game 4. (Photo by Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images)
Are these Carolina Hurricanes a team of destiny?
After an up, down and all around 4-1 Game 4 win against the Bruins, you have to ask yourself if it is meant to be.
Boston started the game exactly how they had to: jump on the ice attacking everything and everyone in sight. The plan started brilliantly, but what the Bruins didn’t account for was the Hurricanes fighting back, something Boston hasn’t faced so far.
The Black and Gold pinged two posts in the opening frame, the kind of agonizingly close chances that can wear on a team and direct the wind to their opponents’ sails.
But the way Carolina answered Boston’s early onslaught showed something that should be obvious to us all by now: The last thing this Hurricane needs is more wind.
Despite looking like they might be walked over early, a Cam Ward breakaway save turned the tide of the opening frame in favor of Carolina. Instead of freezing it for a faceoff to his left, Ward, on his stomach, kept the play alive and the Canes took the puck deep into Boston’s end and scored the 1-0 goal by, who else, Eric Staal.
Staal put his name in the hat for the Conn Smythe Trophy with his inspiring performance. Not only did he score the opener, but he tallied a third period goal that put the game away. Ward has been Carolina’s story so far, but Staal was the headliner Friday.
Boston scored the only goal in Period 2 and controlled the play for the entire frame. Carolina looked as though they had awoken a beast, but the way they blew past the Bruins in the final stanza exposed Boston’s shortcoming.
With the veteran presence they have it’s easy to forget the Bruins are still young; playoff young, that is. Mauling their way to the top of the Eastern Conference, Boston was easily the best team on their side of the bracket all season long and had the cushion to show for it. But if they are lacking one condiment in an otherwise perfect pic-i-nic basket – it’s the often-overlooked spice of experience; something the recent Cup-champion Canes have in lunch pails.
Some of the key role players on the Bruins are young in age and simply haven’t been around long enough to have had a shot in the playoffs. David Krejci, 22, just broke out this season; Phil Kessel, 21, got a taste last year, but was also a healthy scratch; 21-goal man Blake Wheeler, 22, is still a fresh-faced rookie; and it’s hard to believe Patrice Bergeron is still just 23 with only one prior NHL playoff experience under his belt back in 2004. So far, all of these guys have produced little or nothing in this showdown.
Even some of the older guys – Marc Savard, Michael Ryder, Shane Hnidy and Tim Thomas for example – haven’t seen past the second round in their careers.
The guy who is supposed to lead this powerful club was taken advantage of in Game 4. Staal continued to find ways to beat the reach, strength and positioning of Zdeno Chara and drew the early third period penalty the Canes took their final lead on. After such a strong showing in the second period, the Bruins just couldn’t seem to find themselves after that go-ahead goal by Carolina, while the Canes kept driving harder.
It’s also worth mentioning many of these inexperienced Bruins don’t yet know what playoff hockey is like outside of the intense and heavily focused-on Bruins-Habs rivalry where it’s impossible to hit a lull; this deep south cooking is the first taste they are getting of a real playoff drive. Despite supposedly being more intimidating, the Big, Bad Bruins seemed to be beaten by the resilient, pesky Canes along the boards an awful lot.
Can the Bruins win three in a row? Anything is possible, but right now they look like a Cub in headlights.
Show off your hockey knowledge by entering The Hockey News’ FREE Playoff Challenge!
THN.com's Playoff Blogs, featuring analysis and opinion on the action from the night before and the games ahead, with insight on what happened and what it all means going forward, will appear daily throughout the NHL playoffs. Read more entries HERE.
For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.