There wasn’t an awful lot to like from Game 1 of the 2009 playoffs.
Although the Hurricanes’ intensity was OK at the start, as the game progressed it more closely resembled the level displayed in last few games of the regular season, rather than the previous nine-game winning streak.
The team was moving its feet at times, but in more of a predictable bull-rush into the offensive zone kind of way that played into the Devils’ hands, causing quick turnovers – something that plagued the team now and then earlier in the season. In terms of getting sustained pressure and being able to cycle the puck down low, there were only a small handful of shifts where that occurred, which resulted in the team’s lowest shot total (19) of the entire season.
While there are tactical adjustments to be made in that area, the Hurricanes really just need to start winning battles in all areas of the ice. Whether it was keeping control of the puck in the offensive zone or trying to gain control on the defensive end, most of those attempts came up short.
“We just weren’t good enough tonight, and there’s no other way to put it,” said Ray Whitney. “They were better than us in all areas. We’re not hanging the whole series on this one game, but we certainly know we have to do better on Friday.”
The good news is that the intensity problem should be easily fixable, especially in playoff hockey. If Game 1 nerves were the issue, Game 1 is over. There’s really no place to go but up in that department, so a better game should absolutely be expected tomorrow. The Canes are still in good position to get a split on the road, which any team will take in any series.
Also, credit must be given to the Devils, who played an outstanding game. There’s really no place to go but down from that performance. They were led by their top guns in Zach Parise, Patrik Elias and Jamie Langenbrunner, but to give you an idea of how complete of a performance they put in, only one player wearing red (defenseman Colin White) failed to register at least one shot on goal, which is pretty remarkable.
You might not know it from the result, but Cam Ward was his usual self – he just didn’t get much help. Matt Cullen put in a better-than-expected performance in his first game back from injury, earning an assist and getting time on his old line with Ray Whitney and Chad LaRose before the game was over. He also logged minutes both on the power play and penalty kill.
Practice is at noon today – we’ll hopefully have updates on Cullen’s situation and whether or not he’ll start on that second unit for tomorrow’s game. That’s an intriguing storyline for me, because Jussi Jokinen doesn’t deserve a demotion, but at the same time it makes no sense to have Cullen on the fourth line. That’s the beauty of Jokinen though - he can play anywhere and contribute. Don’t underestimate the value of that.
Speaking of “The Juice,” as some have taken to calling him, I’ve gotten a chance to enjoy the wonder that is the Finnish language in the locker room since the Canes added three native speakers in the last year or so. About halfway through Tim Gleason’s postgame audio from last night, you can hear Jokinen in the background, presumably translating Gleason’s quotes for the folks back in Kalajoki.