Playoffs Dayoffs: Preview and discussion thread, 5/14

The cardiac ‘Canes have their backs against the wall. Again.

The San Jose Sharks have lost three consecutive Games 2 after winning three consecutive Games 1, and won two of those series in Game 7. For the second game in this round, San Jose’s depth did not seem to make the impact we’d hoped: Logan Couture, Timo Meier, and Kevin Labanc combined for 11 shots on goal while the rest of the Sharks’ roster combined for four. Frankly, aside from Couture’s two goals just 1:59 apart in the second period, the Sharks didn’t have much going, at one point cruising through 16:34 between the second to third periods without so much as a shot on goal.

In a familiar refrain this postseason, the Sharks followed up a dominant Game 1 win with a lackluster performance in Game 2 at home, appearing as if they expected the Blues to repeat all of their Game 1 mistakes. St. Louis, to their credit, learned from their harsh loss on Saturday, drawing penalties instead of taking them. For Game 3, it’s the Sharks who will have to learn to stay out of the box, after killing ten minutes of Blues power plays last night (and maybe just don’t exhale within six feet of Oskar Sundqvist).

While the referees have been a key story line for every team this postseason, maybe nowhere louder than for San Jose, inconsistent officiating is a near constant in the NHL, and the Sharks were on the right side of a few borderline calls during Game 1 and the wrong side in Game 2. In most games, bizarre calls are fun and wacky, but in Sharks games, they can be infuriating. Luckily, “most games” is exactly what’s scheduled today!

What’s on tap

Boston Bruins at Carolina Hurricanes Game 3 (BOS leads 2-0)
5 p.m. PT/8 p.m. ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS
It’s truly bizarre how the mainstream hockey media at large reacts to Brad Marchand. Many headlines about his antics during Game 2 were some form of “oh, that zany Braddo is at it again, drawing penalties,” and precious few were some form of “Marchand hooks stick around Justin Williams’ neck like a Vaudeville stage exit with no call.” Par for the course with Marchand, though, who is often penalized and suspended, but not often enough.

Still, Carolina is going to have to do better, after allowing ten straight Bruins goals from the end of Game 1 through Game 2. The Hurricanes have been here before, though, losing both games in Washington against the Capitals before rallying and winning the first round series in seven. There’s a similar story to the Sharks’ series at play here, as the ‘Canes had a player in the sin bin for eight full minutes compared to the Bruins’ 1:55. As we’ve stated in this space before, the key to Carolina’s game has to be staying out of the box. Indeed, the Hurricanes held their own at 5-on-5, managing 49.21 percent of shot attempts. Whether that number was artificially inflated by score effects, considering the road team trailed for most of the contest, remains to be seen, but tonight has to be treated as a must-win for the upstart young squad.

Who’s hot?

Matt Grzelcyk: In addition to his excellent name (please don’t ask me to say it out loud), Grzelcyk is the latest producer from Boston’s prolific back end, scoring two goals in their Game 2 rout. The Bruins have recorded four goals from their defensemen in this series so far, matching the black and gold blue line’s cumulative output from the first two rounds.

Sebastian Aho: Carolina should look to their stars in back-to-the-wall situations such as this, and Aho led the team in both goals and points during the regular season. His 3.01 points per 60 minutes in 82 games has diminished to 2.41 in 13 playoff games, though, so he’ll have to find a way to get some more production going if the Hurricanes are going to survive the next few days.

We’re watching

Carolina head coach Rod Brind’amour has been cagey (ha!) about his goaltending today, telling reporters that he knows who he’s starting, but he’ll be damned if anyone else does. Whether Petr Mrazek returns to the crease or Curtis McElhinney makes his season debut is anyone’s guess, but our money’s on the latter. If so, look for the Bruins to take faster shots from farther out, taking advantage of McElhinney’s comparatively conservative style to convert on lower percentage shots. The offensive zone chess match will be a key to Boston’s putting a stranglehold on this series, and will depend in large part on who’s in Carolina’s net.