RALEIGH –Here are some quick-hit questions, and answers, related to Game 3 of the Boston Bruins’ Eastern Conference semifinal series with Carolina, which continues tomorrow night at RBC Center in Raleigh. The series is tied 1-1 after the Hurricanes won Game 2, 3-0, Sunday.
1. Is the vacation over?
The way the Bruins came out for Game 2, and played until the third period, they might as well have been wearing grass skirts and Hawaiian shirts. In the midst of the playoffs, the club’s focus went on spring break. There’s nothing wrong with that once, as every team is entitled to an off night. But if the mini-trip becomes something requiring one of those extended-stay hotels, then there’ll be a problem — and not much more to this playoff season for Boston. Patience will be virtue No. 1 for Boston in Raleigh, just like it was in Montreal. The Hurricanes are going to throw the kitchen sink at the Bruins, and it will be up to the Black and Gold to trust the system on breakouts and defense. On the attack, they’ve got to get back to winning battles. That might require another minor juggle of the lines like the one that worked in Game 1.
2. Can the Bruins’ power play get back to taking care of business?
The same lack of determination and grit that hurt the Bruins 5-on-5 spoiled their power-play opportunities, but there was more to it. For the first two periods of Game 2, the Bruins’ man-advantage performers acted as though they had cement in their skates. The Bruins’ power-play units have to do a better job of getting the Carolina penalty killers on the move. They’re dangerous enough down a man without making life easy on them.
3. Can the Bruins continue to win without a goal from some of their top players who’ve failed to find the back of the net yet?
No, it’s going to take more than Michael Ryder and David Krejci to carry this offense. Milan Lucic, Patrice Bergeron, Dennis Wideman and Mark Recchi are still all looking for their first postseason goal. In the case of three of those guys, getting the power play in gear should help their cause. As for Lucic, he really has to be more of a difference-maker and make sure he doesn’t get carried away with his first-line status. During the regular season when he skated with Marc Savard and Phil Kessel, Lucic kept it simple. But in Game 2 he was way too cute with the puck. It might be the second round, but it’s still the same game. Lucic needs to bang people around, go to the net and also get the puck on net.
4. How much will the second line change help Carolina?
Both coaches claim this won’t be that big of a factor. Yeah, right. If it wasn’t a big deal, the sides would just change at the same time. The rules are created to weigh in the home team’s favor, and the Hurricanes will benefit, especially in faceoff situations. The onus will be on Wideman and Andrew Ference to make sure that when they can’t let Zdeno Chara and Aaron Ward get on against the Eric Staal line, they never lose sight of Staal. The Hurricanes will also be able to flow better offensively because they won’t have to juggle Staal throughout the lineup the way they did in Game 2. So yes, it will help but it doesn’t have to be a determining factor.
5. Will Ric Flair and the “Cane-iacs” intimidate the Bruins?
The Bruins were 24-13-4 on the road in the regular season and won both playoff games played up in Montreal, so it’s going to take more than a washed-up, bleach-blonde wrestler and a packed building to take them off track. The hostile environment might even make it easier for the Bruins to focus. Of course, the hot weather is sure to take its toll on a Bruins team that’s still waiting for spring to arrive in New England like the rest of us. But that might be more of a factor come Game 4 when the team’s been in the heat for a while rather than Game 3. All seriousness aside, I’m sure the Bruins won’t be psyched out by the road building unless they roll our Lex Luger in Flair’s place.