Friday, May 01, 2009

Your Peerless Prognostos for Round Two -- Boston (1) vs. Carolina (4)

Time to look at the third pairing in round two – Boston and Carolina…

Why Boston can’t lose…

Statistically, the Bruins hold an overwhelming edge over Carolina. In fact, statistically the Bruins are the most dominating team in the league… second in total standings points, second in scoring, first in defense, first in five-on-five play, fourth on the power play, seventh in winning percentage when scoring first, first in winning percentage when trailing first. They swallowed the Montreal Canadiens whole in the first round, not so much as playing a single one-goal game in their four game sweep. They can beat you with incredible offensive balance (10 players with at least ten goals, 21 players with at least ten points in the regular seasons) or with stifling defense (Norris Trophy finalist Zdeno Chara and his underrated sidekick Dennis Wideman on the blue line, Tim Thomas and his 2.10 GAA and .933 save percentage – both league bests – in goal).

Why Boston can’t win…

Because they didn’t, at least not with the regularity down the stretch that they displayed early in the year. Their record, by month, was as follows: 5-3-3, 11-1-1, 12-1-0, 8-3-2, 6-4-3, 7-5-1, 4-2-0. Part of that might have been a bit of coasting – they finished 23 points ahead of Montreal in the Northeast Division – but that still isn’t a happy trend.

The Peerless’ Player to Ponder

Zdeno Chara

Of all the teams remaining in this tournament, Carolina might have the most team speed, top to bottom. It is going to test the defensive skills of the Bruins, none more so than the big guy on the blue line. He acquitted himself quite well in the regular season against the Hurricanes. His plus-7 against Carolina was his best such mark against any team in the league he faced this season.

Why Carolina can’t lose…

On February 17th, the Hurricanes lost a 5-1 decision to Boston in an especially ugly fashion. Playing at home, they scored first, then watched as the Bruins stormed back for five unanswered goals, three of them in the third period, all of them in the last four minutes of play. Since then, the Hurricanes went 17-5-2 to close the regular season, then they vanquished the New Jersey Devils in the opening round with a pair of lightning bolts in the last 90 seconds of Game 7 against Martin Brodeur in Newark. They have played like and have had the look of a team of destiny the last two months.

Why Carolina can’t win…

Few teams will match Boston’s work ethic, and the Bruins will not give up on plays, even as the Hurricanes are trying to use their speed advantage over Boston. If that scenario plays out, Boston wins just about every match-up, by position, in this series.

The Peerless’ Player to Ponder

Cam Ward

After backup goaltender Michael Leighton lost a 6-5 shootout against Philadelphia on December 11th, in Carolina’s 29th game of the year, Ward was the goalie of record in 50 of the Hurricanes’ last 53 games. That’s a lot of work. After a grueling seven-game series against the Devils, one might reasonably wonder how much gas is left in Ward’s tank, especially against a team as deep, balanced, and talented as Boston.

In the end…

Since that February 17th lost to Boston, the Hurricanes have won 21 games. And they haven’t just been beating opponents, they have been running wild over them. Ten times, they won games by at least three goals. On seven occasions, they scored at least five goals, and twice they scored nine. In winning three of the last four games in the first round series over New Jersey, they scored four goals in each game against a hall of fame goaltender in waiting. Boston has the numbers, Carolina has the momentum. We like Big Mo’.

Carolina in 6

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