RALEIGH, NC – Once again the Boston Bruins proved without a shadow of a doubt that they cannot solve the Carolina Hurricanes mystique at their home rink, PNC Arena.
The Bruins were never really in Tuesday night’s Game 5 loss where Carolina clearly brought their “A” game and the B’s once again had zero answers for the raucous Raleigh home barn of the Hurricanes. Certainly, plenty is made of the frenzied, loud, tailgating crowd in Carolina that’s been able to get on top of the Black and Gold as the Hurricanes have scored first in each and every game during the playoff series.
“It’s a tough building to play in,” admitted Boston Bruins winger Brad Marchand. “They feed a lot on the emotion that they get from the crowd. They enjoy playing here, you can see it the way they are with the fans and everything. You can see that they enjoy playing in this building, they feed off of that energy and they have pretty good matchups at home. That all plays a part.
“They’re a good team. You can’t discredit them. They play extremely hard, they play fast. We knew it was gonna be a tough series. They’re a great team. They’re competing hard out there, got to give them some credit.”
Bruce Cassidy even called it a “homer” playoff series because there’s been such a wide disparity with the way the two hockey clubs have played on their home ice. It had some even getting 2011 Stanley Cup Final vibes, though this humble hockey writer isn’t sure he’s ready to quite go there yet.
“So far it’s been a homer series, so we’d like to continue that for now,” said Boston Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy. “The Garden has been good to us in this series, so I think our guys will be obviously motivated. They need to be motivated to play because if we don’t play well, it’s over. So, there’s that, first of all. Second of all, like I said, we played very well there in Games 3 and 4, so that’ll be good for us, just like it was good to them.”
But it’s obviously much more to it than that when it comes to the X’s and O’s.
The Perfection Line reformed at the end of Game 2, and then went off offensively in the two home games at TD Garden when they were able to get away from the Jordan Staal line. But the Staal line was once again locked up with Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak in Game 5 and Staal, Jesper Fast and Nino Niederreiter kept them off the score sheet despite some excellent Grade-A chances in an opening period where Boston once again did everything except light the lamp.
“Well, we’re facing elimination,” said Boston Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy. “That’s what makes me the most concerned. [Patrice] Bergeron’s line had a number of good chances [early on]. Again, three times in this building and we were the better team over the first six, seven, whatever it was minutes and then they had one chance and it found its way in and that sort of gives them a lot of juice. So that part was good, but not enough.
“I don’t know if up and down the lineup…we’re going to need a little bit more, whether it’s working hard to keep the puck out of the net, which we did up in Boston, a lot better blocking shots, finishing checks so guys can’t join the rush, sorting out coverages quick. The first goal shouldn’t happen if we’re on our toes defensively too. So that concerns me. We need to get some guys going…but it’s also the time of the year where they [have to have] that inner drive come through and that’s what we’re looking at.”
Then there’s the penalty calls.
The Hurricanes had nine power plays in their Game 2 win and went 2-for-5 on the power play in the 5-1 win over the Black and Gold on Tuesday night. The Bruins, on the other hand, had nine power plays in Game 4 and powered up for a pair of power play goals in the sloppiest game that Carolina has played during the entire playoff series.
The one real interesting development within those calls, however, has been a pattern where the Boston Bruins are getting punched and manhandled in scrums before somehow being the only team escorted to the penalty box. It happened again on Tuesday night when Max Domi threw several gloved punches at Derek Forbort during a scrum that ended with Forbort going to the penalty box for a roughing call midway through the first period.
Derek Forbort and Max Domi get into a scrum. Only Forbort whistled on the play. pic.twitter.com/s48SmRWrbA
— Conor Ryan (@ConorRyan_93) May 10, 2022
Predictably, the Forbort penalty led to a Tony DeAngelo power play goal that put Carolina up 2-0 and sank the Bruins early in a game where they showed zero ability to muster offense, never mind a comeback. Afterward, Boston Bruns head coach Bruce Cassidy “he wasn’t surprised at all” at the call and then later hinted that the penalty calls have become part of the home ice advantage they’re expecting when they arrive in North Carolina.
“We knew what we were facing coming in here after the last time, and we just need to do a better job on the penalty kill if our number is called,” said Cassidy. “We’ve had to kill some penalties here, so we’ve got to get it done. It’s that simple, for whatever reason.
“I don’t want to get into details. It is what it is and we’ve been on the short end of it here. So, we need to make sure our penalty kill is air-tight getting our clears and blocking our shots, good sticks. Obviously discipline always comes into play with that and we weren’t able to do that [in Game 5].”
It sure sounds like Cassidy is going out of his way not to criticize the officiating there in hopes that the “homer” series will continue on Thursday night when the Bruins fight for their playoff lives in Game 6 at TD Garden.
Then they’ll take their chances that the “homer” trend doesn’t carry over to a winner-take-all Game 7 in the Carolina madhouse.