Rod Brind’Amour doesn’t mince words. The Carolina Hurricanes’ bench boss certainly didn’t hold back following their 4-3 overtime loss to the Boston Bruins Wednesday.
After a frustrating afternoon that featured several instances of Hurricanes players jawing with the referees – most notably regarding a controversial second-period goal by the Bruins’ Charlie Coyle – Brind’Amour sounded off on the officiating in a post-game press conference.
“This is why the league’s a joke, in my opinion, on these things,” said Brind’Amour. “That one is a crime scene.” (from “‘Joke’ and ‘a crime scene’: Hurricanes coach Brind’Amour furious about NHL goal review”, The News & Observer – 8/12/20)
During the play in question, the puck was gloved down in front of the Carolina net by Bruins forward Nick Ritchie. Hurricanes goalie Petr Mrazek then attempted to freeze it while Boston’s Anders Bjork simultaneously jammed at it. Mrazek appeared to contain the puck under his glove for a second or two, but no whistle is blown. Instead, Bjork jarred the puck loose to Coyle, who buried it into the empty net.
Brind’Amour was then asked by the referee to choose between one of two challenges – to argue a hand pass, or to challenge the stoppage.
“They came to me, and I said, ‘If he has possession of it then it’s goalie interference. If he doesn’t have possession then it’s a hand pass. It’s one of the two. I don’t know what you’re calling on the ice,’” Brind’Amour said. “All he has to do is tell me. ‘We’re calling it non-possession (by Mrazek),’ then we’re challenging a glove-hand pass. If it’s possession, then goaltender interference. I said, ‘Tell me the call on the ice.’ They wouldn’t do it when I say, ‘What is the call?’ So I had to flip a coin.”
On top of that, when the Hurricanes lost the challenge, they were assessed a delay-of-game penalty.
Brind’Amour’s comments earned him swift punishment by the NHL – a fine of $25,000. His frustration may be justified, but the Coyle goal isn’t the sole reason the Hurricanes lost this game. They had moments of pressure, but the majority of puck possession, and the shot totals (40-28), favored the Bruins.
Hurricanes Brought the Physicality
The Hurricanes are a tenacious team, and they were heavy on the forecheck for the entirety of Game 1. Although they struggled to generate prime scoring chances, the ‘Canes outhit the Bruins 51-32 and were constantly pushing the tempo with their speed and physical play.
The Hurricanes like to hound the puck, but that over-aggressiveness also caused them to occasionally lose defensive assignments that left Bruins players wide open, leading to dangerous and avoidable chances.
Mrazek also has a tendency to play overly aggressive, and the Bruins exposed that with swift left-to-right puck movement that forced Mrazek to over-extend to either side. This was most evident on the David Krejci goal and the Bruins’ overtime-winning goal when Patrice Bergeron paused just long enough to allow Mrazek to completely lose positioning in front of his net.
Fleury Has a Standout Performance
Before the playoffs started, the Hurricanes were handling an overload of defensemen, and it was up for debate which six of the eight they would ice to start the playoffs.
As the No. 6/7 defenseman for most of the season, Haydn Fleury’s spot on the blue line for these playoffs wasn’t set in stone. With the additions of Sami Vatanen and Brady Skjei at the trade deadline, the 24-year-old Fleury had to play his way on to the lineup.
Any lingering doubt has now been removed, however, as Fleury’s performance in Game 1 was one of the best games he’s played all season. He has only scored four goals in his 132-game career, but his massive third-period marker was what allowed the Hurricanes to pull even and stretch it into overtime.
Aside from scoring a huge goal and registering four hits, he was also entrusted with key penalty-kill minutes. It’s a promising sign that Brind’Amour now has the confidence in Fleury to utilize him in those important situations. If there is any Hurricanes player deserving of special recognition from Game 1, it’s him.
Hamilton’s Return Was Largely Uneventful
While Dougie Hamilton’s return to action was much anticipated, it was a largely uneventful night for the 27-year-old defenseman. He logged 26:48 time-on-ice (TOI), which was fourth on the team. He finished minus-2 for the night, without recording a shot on goal.
Jaccob Slavin logged a game-high 37:03 for the Hurricanes. It seemed like he was always on the ice, often taking double shifts with both Hamilton and Joel Edmundson.
Edmundson, who scored the opening goal for the Hurricanes, had one of his best showings of the year, logging a mammoth 30:33 TOI to go along with five hits and three shots on goal.
Williams and Vatanen Late Sit-Outs
Under the protection of the new rules in the NHL bubbles, reasons for player holdouts do not need to be specified. Because of that, all we know is Vatanen and former Hurricanes captain Justin Williams were both deemed unfit to play prior to Game 1.
Both Vatanen and Williams suited up for all three games of the Qualifying Round against the New York Rangers.
Reimer Likely to Start Game 2
Coming off a double-overtime loss, and with the Hurricanes on a back-to-back, James Reimer is likely to get the start for in Game 2.
Reimer’s steady goaltending style may be better suited to deal with the tendencies of the Bruins’ offense. However, Boston’s top line of Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak excels at fooling goaltenders with quick puck movement and backdoor passing plays as they executed so well in Game 1, and in last year’s Eastern Conference Final.
Game 2 will be Thursday at 8 p.m. The Hurricanes will be seeking their first win against the Bruins since Dec. 23, 2018.