Bruins Get Another Painful Reminder Of Hurricanes’ Biggest Strength In Game 1

The Canes are now 35-1-3 when leading after two

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Chasing hockey might as well be losing hockey, especially against the Carolina Hurricanes, and no one should know that better than the Bruins.

Boston’s struggles with the Hurricanes continued Monday night in Game 1 of their first-round Stanley Cup playoffs series. Carolina withstood an early push from the Bruins and used a pair of late second-period goals to spark a 5-1 win. The Canes have now won all four meetings between the two teams this season by a combined score of 21-2.

It truly wasn’t as bad as the score might have indicated Monday night. Boston had ample opportunities early in the game but just couldn’t cash in. That proved fatal, for one game at least, as the Hurricanes eventually took full advantage of their own chances and then opened the floodgates in the third period.

Not it’s really needed at this point, but it was a reminder for the Bruins that they can’t win this series by playing from behind. That might seem obvious, but the Hurricanes are a team built to sit on leads. When they score first, they have a 40-4-6 record. They’re now 35-1-3 this season when leading after two periods, and when they’re able to build a two-goal lead in a game, they’re now 43-1-0.

When they lead, they typically win, which means the Bruins can’t go storm chasing and live to tell about it versus Carolina.

“It is a team that if you have the lead on, it’s easier for us,” Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said in his postgame press conference. “They get the lead, they play better when they have it. They’re made for that. They check well. It opens them up a little bit if they’re behind. It could have been an impact in the game, for sure, if we finished. We didn’t, but it wasn’t for lack of an effort. We were ready to play, we just couldn’t put anything in the net early on.”

The Bruins, according to Natural Stat Trick, held a slight edge in scoring chances for the game, and their expected-goal numbers, especially in the first period, point to the ice being tilted in their favor. Carolina goalie Antti Raanta was up to the challenge, though, stopping 35 of the 36 shots he faced, including all 14 in the first period to deny Boston any early momentum.

“I don’t know you if you can say (we) ‘let them off the hook’ — the goalie made some saves and there some pucks around the net we just couldn’t locate or take the right path to — but they were there,” Cassidy said. “(Raanta is) paid to play, too, and he did a good job. He held them in the game early on.”

The Bruins aren’t entirely dissimilar, either. They went 37-10-2 when scoring first and were 33-1-3 when leading after two. These are evenly matched, similarly minded teams whose paths to success run fairly parallel to each other.

Again, it’s not something Boston learned Monday night. Carolina outscored Boston 10-0 five-on-five in the regular season, despite owning more scoring chances and holding a slight edge in expected goals in those three games. It must be a wildly frustrating riddle to solve, but if the Bruins can’t find an answer, there’s no reason to expect anything to change anytime soon. And if that’s the case, the Bruins’ season will end far sooner than they hope.

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