Eliminating the Carolina Hurricanes from the Stanley Cup Playoffs will be much harder for the Boston Bruins in 2020 than it was last season.
Boston swept Carolina with relative ease in the 2019 Eastern Conference Final and didn't trail for a single second over the final three games. There won't be a sweep this year after the Hurricanes snapped their five-game playoff losing streak to the Bruins with a 3-2 win in Thursday night's Game 2. Dougie Hamilton's third-period goal was the difference for the Hurricanes at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto.
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“We weren’t expecting to walk through this series,” Bruins forward Brad Marchand told reporters after the game. “It’s gonna be a hard-fought series all the way to the end.”
It's certainly shaping up that way after the first two matchups were both decided by one goal.
Here are three takeaways from Game 2.
1. Power play finally responds
Let's start with a positive.
The Bruins power play failed to score on all 13 of its opportunities from the round robin and Game 1 against the Hurricanes, but the unit finally woke up Thursday night despite leading goal scorer David Pastrnak being out of the lineup.
The B's opened the scoring in the first period when David Krejci tallied his second goal of the series. Boston had good traffic in front of the net with two players screening Hurricanes goalie James Reimer.
The Bruins scored again on the man advantage at the end of the second period when Brad Marchand capitalized on a loose puck around the front of the net. Marchand's tally tied the score 2-2 after the Hurricanes had scored twice in the previous five minutes.
The Bruins generated 11 shot attempts, five shots on goal and three scoring chances (including two high-danger chances) in 4:52 of power play time. They also had far better zone entries with the man advantage compared to the series opener.
Overall, the Bruins power play delivered a much-improved performance, and without it, the score would've been uglier for Boston because Carolina was the better 5-on-5 team in Game 2.
2. Nick Ritchie should be benched for Game 3
Props to our Bruins insider Joe Haggerty for being all over this after Game 1. Haggs laid out why the Bruins should have benched Ritchie going into Game 2, and the power forward's performance Thursday night did nothing to suggest he deserves another shot Saturday afternoon in Game 3.
Ritchie played a team-low 9:24 of even-strength ice time in Game 2, and he received very few shifts in the third period. He also was held without a point, he didn't tally a single shot on goal and he was credited with only two hits. The Bruins were out-shot and had a minus-2 scoring chance differential when Ritchie was on the ice during 5-on-5 play, per Natural Stat Trick.
The Bruins should bench Ritchie and put top prospect Jack Studnicka into the lineup for Game 3. Studnicka's speed and offensive skill are more valuable than the physicality Ritchie brings to the ice, especially if Pastrnak misses any more time in this series.
3. Andrei Svechnikov is a star
The Hurricanes absolutely made the right choice with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2018 NHL Draft.
Svechnikov is quickly on his way to becoming an elite player and showed tremendous offensive skill throughout Game 2. He picked up the primary assist on Teuvo Teravainen's power-play goal in the second period, which tied the score 1-1.
The Russian forward scored a goal of his own 88 seconds later to give Carolina its first lead. Svechnikov fired a rocket past Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask from the slot for his fourth goal of the playoffs. Carolina had a 10-3 shots on goal advantage when Svechnikov was on the ice during 5-on-5 action.
The 20-year-old right winger tallied five points (three goals, two assists) in the Hurricanes' three-game sweep of the New York Rangers in the qualifying round, and now he has two points in two games versus the Bruins. Svechnikov also set career highs with 24 goals, 37 assists and 61 points in 68 games during the regular season.
After making an impressive Stanley Cup Playoff debut in 2019, Svechnikov has taken his game to a higher level this season, and the Hurricanes will need even more from him if they're going to upset the Bruins in Round 1. So far, Svechnikov looks like he's up for the challenge.