The Carolina Hurricanes are heading again to Raleigh with a much bigger drawback than their persistent lack of ability to win a playoff sport on the highway, one which for the second time has pushed them to the Game 7 brink.
For the primary time within the playoffs, they’re dealing with a real disaster of confidence of their goaltending, and Frederik Andersen isn’t coming by way of that door to save lots of them.
There’s each motive to count on Antti Raanta to bounce again from this Game 6 catastrophe, given how in any other case excellent he has been throughout these playoffs, nevertheless it’s inconceivable to play as poorly as he did in Saturday’s 5-2 loss and never plant at the least just a few seeds of doubt that weren’t there earlier than.
And with Igor Shesterkin at his greatest in his greatest sport of the sequence — he shut down Sebastian Aho on a breakaway instantly earlier than Raanta gave up the primary of three delicate targets and picked up a pair of assists and a penalty, a Tom Barrasso hat trick– there’s completely no margin for error. The Hurricanes don’t essentially must win the goaltending battle to win this sequence, however they at the least must be enjoying the identical sport.
That could be one factor if the Hurricanes have been headed again to Raleigh tied 2-2 once more, however they’re out of second possibilities now. They’ve put themselves ready the place Shesterkin solely has to steal one sport to finish their season. And nearly as good as they’ve been at residence, they’re actually pushing their luck making an attempt to win eight straight.
That could also be a fair harder ask than it was within the first spherical, solely two weeks in the past even when it appears like months, in opposition to a workforce with higher goaltending than the Boston Bruins and, within the so-far-so-quiet Artemi Panarin, a ticking time bomb able to unleashing a multi-point sport at any time. He could have woke up Saturday with a five-on-three objective within the third interval.
The Hurricanes at the moment are risking their season on this very unusual procession of home-team victories, already unprecedented in NHL historical past. No workforce has ever received a number of best-of-seven sequence in the identical postseason with out successful a highway sport.
Suddenly, that’s the least of the Hurricanes’ issues.
The targets Raanta gave up Saturday would have been unacceptable in any circumstances, crippling in any playoff sport, however have been catastrophic given the first-period efficiency of the man within the different internet. Tyler Motte’s opener went beneath Raanta’s left elbow, Mika Zibanejad whipped one previous him from the left wing on an influence play — after darting between Fast and Sebastian Aho on the blue line — and Filip Chytil ended Raanta’s night time nearly two intervals early with a short-sider from the precise wing.
Raanta has 45 hours to regain his composure and rediscover his sport, as a result of it’s not just like the Hurricanes have another selection.
Andersen stays out indefinitely, not but match to backup, not even the emergency third goalie, who stays Jack LaFontaine, Brind’Amour mentioned Saturday morning. For the second time in these playoffs, the Hurricanes really feel Andersen’s absence acutely. Pyotr Kotchetkov needed to begin Game 3 in Boston after Raanta was injured in Game 2, a sport when the Hurricanes would have loved their goalie stealing a win for them.
Under regular circumstances, the Hurricanes would and will transfer seamlessly between Andersen and Raanta with out blinking, as they did all through the common season. It’s not fairly the identical with Kotchetkov, who made his second look in aid of Raanta, by selection this time — though after the Rangers’ third objective, Brind’Amour actually had no selection.
And whereas Kotchetkov gave up one objective shortly after coming in, Chytil’s second of the sport, he did sufficient on a first-do-no-harm foundation to provide the Hurricanes an opportunity to get again into the sport earlier than Panarin’s objective on the two-man benefit.
(And by protecting issues shut sufficient to keep away from any mayhem, Kotchetkov lessened the possibilities he would go 190 toes to problem Shesterkin vratar-on-vratar if issues actually kicked off.)
And the Hurricanes had possibilities: two energy performs after Vincent Trocheck scored to make it 4-2, however they made nothing of them. Raanta may solely look on glumly from the bench, chin buried in his pads.
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