The Carolina Hurricanes came out swinging Thursday night, and the Boston Bruins laid back on the ropes until, at the very end, it was time to pounce. Ok, so this wasn’t Carolina deftly employing the rope-a-dope, as that strategy needs some planning, some forethought, some … ok so my analogy is crumbling in my hands. But I couldn’t help but think of George Foreman clobbering Mohammed Ali round after round until (where I have heard this before?) it was time for Ali to pounce.
Thursday’s Eastern Conference Final Game 1 loss for the Hurricanes was an absolute psychological killer. Take this into account from a Carolina perspective: no Charlie McAvoy, an early-on banged up Zdeno Chara, were the superior team in the second period and Boston still won by three goals while Tuukka Rask lowered his playoff-leading goals-against average to 2.02. Ouch.
Going into Game 2, I can’t help but think of Rod Brind’Amour’s internal monologue as Adrian and Rocky as the Hurricanes. You can’t win.
Furthering this psychological nightmare for the Hurricanes is the play of Dougie Hamilton. In just over 19 minutes of ice time, Hamilton racked up four important penalty minutes that helped pave the way to Boston’s game one victory. Watching game one, I was right on board with fellow Boston Hockey Now writer Jimmy Murphy in the thought that maybe, just maybe, Hamilton could be “a passive agitator … for the good of the team.”
I’ve quickly concluded that Hamilton may be passive, but he will not be an effective agitator this series. It seems to be the other way around. Boston just went through a tough series against Columbus, dealt with Nazem Kadri and the Maple Leafs, and have the psychological trump card of the hottest goalie in hockey.
Brad Marchand’s decision to hold Connor Clifton back from taking a retaliation penalty to give the Bruins an early power play is a cherry on top of this psychological annihilation. After the game Bruce Cassidy said on Marchand:
“He’s turning over a new leaf, eh? Marchy. Listen, he’s been in these big games. He’s a Stanley Cup Champion, so he understands maybe a little more than meets the eye sometimes. There’s a time and a place where you really have to be disciplined. I mean, you have to be disciplined at all times, but there’s certainly other times where you really have to put yourself in check, so it was great for him to do that.”
The Bruins have psychologically annihilated the Hurricanes. I predicted before the series the Bruins would in five games. Let’s just call it a sweep at this point.