Luke DeCock

A familiar position for the Hurricanes, albeit with unfamiliar stakes

Carolina Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour recaps the loss to Boston and looks ahead to Game 2

Rod Brind'Amour addresses penalties, team chemistry and effort during a talk with the media
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Rod Brind'Amour addresses penalties, team chemistry and effort during a talk with the media

Here they are again: frustrated, aggrieved and discounted. While losing for the first time in six playoff games may have been a shock to the Carolina Hurricanes’ system, the position they find themselves in now is not. If anything, it’s all too familiar.

The aftermath of Thursday’s Game 1 loss to the Boston Bruins has a lot in common with the aftermath of last month’s Game 1 loss to the Washington Capitals, with the exception of an extra day off, which gave Rod Brind’Amour something else to grump about.

In both games, the Hurricanes felt they were the better team five-on-five, only to be undone by the opposition’s power play. In both games, they felt like they got the short end of the officiating against a more respected opponent in a hostile environment. In both games, they thought they let a chance to steal a win on the road slip through their fingers.

Start breaking down the details, and the comparison starts to break down, not unexpectedly. From 10,000 feet, it looks pretty much the same.

“We’ve been in this situation before,” said Sebastian Aho, who extended his goal-scoring streak to three games with an early power-play goal. “It’s good we have that experience.”

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Maybe it is. Maybe the Hurricanes have no margin for error in this series, just like the Washington series, which despite their victory still came down to double overtime in Game 7 and could easily have gone either way. People forget that now, because of everything that’s happened since. It wasn’t exactly the invasion of Grenada.

So this game may very well come back to haunt the Hurricanes, just as their overtime loss in Game 2 in Washington could have, their best chance to flip home-ice advantage in that series. Holding a lead, however tenuous, over the Bruins through two periods on the road is an opportunity carelessly squandered – and whatever complaints the Hurricanes still harbor over the officiating, they needlessly put themselves in a position for a few of those calls to be made.

Despite the late flurry of Boston goals that turned a one-goal game into a 5-2 win, the Bruins knew how close that was, how narrowly they escaped thanks to a potent power play that capitalized on the plethora of opportunities it was gifted. Take special teams out of the equation – a familiar refrain from the first round – and there wasn’t much wiggle room for either side.

“They are who we thought they were, as far as their compete level,” Bruins forward Chris Wagner said Friday.

The general theme for the Hurricanes on Friday was putting all of that behind them, easier said then done with two days off and nowhere to go. They’ll practice at the arena on Saturday, but needed the rest Friday, sticking to their established playoff routine at the risk of going stir crazy.

“The schedule is not good for me,” Hurricanes coach Brind’Amour said. “I don’t like sitting around hotels for two days. But again, that’s stuff you can’t control. We’ve got to control what we can control. We can’t control calls or non-calls, we can’t control the schedule. We’ll control what we can control. The bounces, we’ve got to create our own. We’ve got to make our own noise.”

The Hurricanes did that against the Capitals, fruitlessly forcing overtime in Game 2, turning their fans’ noise at home into an insurmountable advantage, suffering through a Game 5 debacle on the road before Brock McGinn sent them into the second round.

Greg McKegg addresses the media following the Hurricanes' 5-2 loss to the Boston Bruins in game 1 of their Stanley Cup playoffs series Thursday night, May 9, 2019.

They have been here before, even if not with these stakes, if not with an opponent as battle-tested as they are, if not in May. That’s all new. They have work ahead. That part is not.

Hurricanes at Bruins

Game 2, Eastern Conference finals

When: 3 p.m., Sunday

Where: TD Garden, Boston

TV: NBC

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Sports columnist Luke DeCock has covered the Summer Olympics, the Final Four, the Super Bowl and the Carolina Hurricanes’ Stanley Cup. He joined The News & Observer in 2000 to cover the Hurricanes and the NHL before becoming a columnist in 2008. A native of Evanston, Ill., he graduated from the University of Pennsylvania and has won multiple national and state awards for his columns and feature writing while twice being named North Carolina Sportswriter of the Year.
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