Some extra thoughts as the Bruins look to complete sweep
RALEIGH, N.C. — A few extra scribblings from the notebook before the Bruins look for the sweep in Game 4:
■ The bottom line on Carolina, through three games: An energetic team without high-level finishers. Sebastian Aho, Teuvo Teravainen, and Andrei Svechnikov have immense upside, but at present their youth and playoff inexperience are showing.
That said . . . if the latter two bury their empty-net chances in Game 3, this could be a 2-1 series.
Carolina’s other shred of hope may be a belief that Calvin de Haan’s second-period goal, powered under Tuukka Rask’s flattened pads, portends future leaks. That’s doubtful, and Rask simply doesn’t get rattled. The Hurricanes, speaking after the game, sounded like a team that saw the writing on the wall.
■ The Bruins can become the second team in NHL history to sweep their third-round series after falling behind, 2-1, in each of their first two. Bruins fans with sharp memories may recall the other: The 1991-92 Penguins, who overcame the Capitals and Rangers in the first two rounds before sweeping the Bruins in the Eastern Conference finals.
Those Mario Lemieux-Jaromir Jagr Penguins became the only team to win the Stanley Cup after going down, 2-1, in each of the first two rounds of a four-stage playoffs (the 1963-64 Maple Leafs won the Cup in the two-round, Original Six days). The Bruins could become the second.
■ Still seven months shy of 22, Charlie McAvoy is as close to a complete product as a young defenseman can be. He excels in all three zones. Both his offense and defense come from his spectacular skating. Watch his feet the next time you’re at a game; he constantly keeps them pointed up ice, toward the opposing net, ready to attack. Boston’s postseason ice time leader (24:28), a restricted free agent, is looking every bit a rock-solid building block. He will get paid like one.
■ Going back to his Game 6 shutout in Columbus, Rask has stopped 124 of 129 shots (.961 save percentage).
Going back to the Game 7 win over Toronto: 318 of 335 shots (.949).
Rask, who has not lost since Game 3 against Columbus (since: 6-0, 1.50 GAA), has boosted his playoff save percentage this season to .939. That is a few ice shavings shy of the franchise record he and Tim Thomas share (.940) for one postseason.
“They are two different goalies,” Zdeno Chara said, asked to compare this Rask run to Thomas’s in the Cup year of 2011. “For sure, you can probably see some similarities of both of them playing their best at the right time of the season. Tuukka has really elevated his game. He’s obviously our best player.”
■ The same cannot be said in Carolina, where Petr Mrazek lost his starting spot after posting a sub-.900 save percentage in 11 games. It also cannot be said in San Jose, where briefly-a-Bruins Martin Jones entered Wednesday night with the worst mark (.905) of any starter still going. St. Louis’s Jordan Binnington, whose second half put him in Calder Trophy contention, wasn’t much better (.909) entering Wednesday. Boston, should it finish Carolina, would have a massive advantage in goal in the Cup Final.
■ The Bruins don’t want the efforts of backup Jaroslav Halak to be forgotten. Halak started 37 regular-season games to Rask’s 45, and bested him in save percentage (.922 to .912) and goals-against average (2.34 to 2.48).
“He hasn’t had a chance to get in there [in the postseason], and that’s probably a good thing,” coach Bruce Cassidy said. “But he’s a big reason why we’re here. Big reason. He played excellent for us. Picked us up a number of times this year.”
■ It was curious to see Carolina captain Justin Williams take three minor penalties in Game 3 and lose his composure for the second game in a row. Williams, 37, said after his Game 2 flare-up with Brad Marchand that he has to “know better.” It should concern his team that the group’s most veteran player, and tone-setter, appeared to lose himself again in Game 3.
Torey Krug said the Game 3 back-and-forth between he and Williams sprang from nothing more than competitive playoff hockey. “He’s a hard-working guy, and I’d like to think I’m the same,” Krug said, unbothered. “I’d probably do the same if I was on the other team. You just have to put your head down and grind through it.”
■ What do players in the heat of the playoffs do outside of games, practices, and preparation? Not much.
“There is a lot of downtime,” Krug said. “You’re focusing your energy on the games and practices, so when you get away from the rink, you’re trying not to do too much. Maybe some guys are a little bit busier than others, whether you have a family or not.
“You just try to enjoy every moment. A lot of guys have families in town that are coming to watch the games. There’s always hockey on TV. If you want to enjoy that, that’s your choice. You just try to reset mentally, more than anything. Physically, you don’t have much time to muster up the energy.”
Krug’s non-hockey focus is singular: He and his wife, Melanie, are expecting their first child, a girl, to arrive shortly after the Stanley Cup Final (last possible date for Game 7: June 12, if you’re planning).