Alex Kovalev believes that winning the first game in a best of seven playoff series is fine and dandy but it is that second game that will test a team’s character. Tonight’s game in sunny North Carolina will be even more difficult for the Canadiens as the Hurricanes are without a doubt enraged after Saturday’s outcome.
The Carolina Hurricanes were the NHL’s best home team in the regular season only losing eight games in regulation at the Royal Bank Center.
After a 6-1 shellacking on Saturday night the Hurricanes will get a two fresh legs back into the line-up with the return of the crafty Ray Whitney. Whitney recorded 17 goals and 38 assists in just 63 games this season. He will also look to add some spunk to the Hurricanes power play as 12 of his 17 goals came via the power play.
Martin Gerber will be given a chance to redeem himself for his less than stellar effort on Saturday night. Gerber had only played 20 minutes of NHL playoff hockey prior to Saturday’s contest. Cristobal Huet will start consecutive games for the first time since April the 4th as David Aebischer received a plethora of nods from the Canadiens coaching staff during the Canadiens final quest for a playoff berth. Cristobal Huet appeared to be shaky in the opening minute when Matt Cullen jammed in his own rebound to open the scoring fifty seconds into the game. However from that point on Huet was perfect making 41 more saves, shutting the Hurricanes out for 59 minutes and 10 seconds.
Despite playing in only 9 of the Canadiens final 32 games Niklas Sundstrom came up with arguable his best game of the year on Saturday night. His play on the penalty kill was nothing short of spectacular, he recorded two assists as well as a +2 rating regardless of the fact that he was only on the ice for 9 minutes and 13 seconds of even strength hockey.
On the injury front the Hurricanes remain doubtful on a first round return for Erik Cole who remains sidelined with a series neck injury. The injury was sustained on March 4th against the Penguins when Brooks Orpik viciously checked Cole from behind into the boards. Orpik was handed a 5 game suspension from the NHL. Steve Begin remains the only injured Canadiens player regimented to the press box due to a knee injury he suffered on April 8th against the New Jersey Devils.
1. The Hurricanes only lost back-to-back home games once this season in late November when the dropped games to the Panthers and Senators.
2. The Canadiens scored 6 goals in a single playoff game for the first time since game 6 of the first round of the playoffs against the Quebec Nordiques in 1993. It was a span of 65 games!
3. Despite playing a great game Richard Zednik was the only Canadiens player in the minus after Saturday’s game. Zednik was –1.
4. Francis Bouillon, Sheldon Souray and Chris Higgins all lit the lamp for their first NHL playoff goals on Saturday night.