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Coaches Room

Hurricanes need cleaner defensive-zone exits against Bruins in Game 3

Nachbaur says Carolina can follow Boston's example in Eastern Final

by Don Nachbaur / Special to NHL.com

The Coaches Room is a regular feature throughout the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs by one of four former NHL coaches and assistants who will turn their critical gaze to the game and explain it through the lens of a teacher. David Marcoux, Paul MacLean, Don Nachbaur and Gord Murphy will take turns providing insight.

In this edition, Nachbaur, a former assistant with the Los Angeles Kings, looks at adjustments the Carolina Hurricanes might make in the Eastern Conference Final against the Boston Bruins.

After losing the first two games of the Eastern Conference Final to the Boston Bruins, the Carolina Hurricanes need to make some adjustments to get back into the best-of-7 series, beginning in Game 3 at PNC Arena on Tuesday (8 p.m. NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS).

Boston's simple game plan of quick puck movement, clean defensive-zone exits and disciplined play has led to swarming pressure on both sides of the puck. Carolina needs to do more of that.

 

[RELATED: Complete Bruins vs. Hurricanes series coverage]

 

The Hurricanes need cleaner defensive-zone exits, which require quicker puck retrieval by the defensemen followed by quicker forward support. This process begins through the neutral zone where forward tracking pressure forces the attacking forward to turn over or dump the puck in prematurely. 

This gives the defensemen more time to retrieve the puck and brings the third forward back into support areas, giving the defensemen options for handoffs to the middle, moving the puck to the other defenseman, reverses or plays up the walls.  

Video: They guys break down the Eastern Conference Final

The key for the Hurricanes is having everyone work back to support the puck and quicker puck movement.

The first two games of this series have been very fast paced with an abundance of heavy contact, so all decisions with the puck must be made quickly.

The Hurricanes must match the Bruins defensemen, who have simplified their game by moving the puck forward or sideways on the original touch and not overhandling it.
The Hurricanes were outstanding throughout the first two rounds of the Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Washington Capitals and the New York Islanders with the concept on advancing zones rapidly. Clean breakouts and quick transition were staples of their game, which led to creating rush chances and establishing their forecheck. 

It also helped create the hounding style that forced the Capitals and Islanders into turnovers and errors.

Carolina's ability to create a forecheck or rush will hinge on its game plan and ability to make good decisions under pressure. Boston has denied many offensive-zone entries based on Carolina's lack of execution and forced plays.  

Establishing a good forecheck is derived from reading the gap between the defensemen and forwards, back pressure on the puck carrier and strategic placement of the puck. Give the Bruins credit. Their tracking pressure is outstanding. 

The Hurricanes must keep Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask out of the equation. He has been active in helping the Bruins breakout with his willingness to play pucks. 

Placing the puck behind the Bruins defensemen in areas that are difficult to handle it cleanly and away from Rask will allow Carolina to create more offensive pressure. Smarter decisions at the blue lines and strategic placement of pucks will cause the Bruins to spend more time defending.  

To take advantage of their enthusiastic home crowd, the Hurricanes must take advantage of areas such as the power play, penalty kill and forecheck while improving on their team discipline. Boston dominated on special teams in the first two games, going 4-for-7 on the power play and 6-for-7 on the penalty kill.

If Carolina is successful in improving in these areas, the momentum could swing in their favor and they can feed off the adrenaline of their crowd.

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