RALEIGH — As the Carolina Hurricanes attempt to eliminate the New York Rangers on Saturday night in Game 6 at Madison Square Garden, they play down the Stanley Cup Playoff trend that makes a Game 7 comeback in Raleigh virtually inevitable at this point.
“It’s kind of beating a dead horse for us not to win on the road,” center Vincent Trocheck said.
The Hurricanes’ victory in Game 5 on Thursday night made them 7-0 at Raleigh in the playoffs. They have a plus-17 goal differential and a 1.14 goals-against average, having allowed no more than two goals in a game against the Boston Bruins or Rangers in their two playoff series.
The road was much tougher for Carolina: they went 0-5, with a minus-13 goal differential and a 4.20 goals-against average.
It’s day and night, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. It’s the Carolina Hurricanes at home and the Hartford Whalers on the road.
The Hurricanes are the first team in NHL history to be involved in 12 straight games in which the home side won every game to start the playoffs. The previous mark was 11 held by the 1962 Toronto Maple Leafs.
“They are definitely a better team at home than they have been on the road,” said Rangers coach Gerard Gallant. “And I can say the same for us. I don’t know why this is happening.”
His counterpart, Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour chose to play down this dichotomy.
“It’s really not a problem. That’s all I hear about,” Brind’Amour said on Friday. “We didn’t play badly on the road. There were a few things that went wrong. Every game takes on its own kind of life.”
Still, there are undeniable differences between the Hurricanes and Rangers at home and on the road in these playoffs:
The Hurricanes were able to effectively deploy Jordan Staal’s line of control against the Rangers’ and Bruins’ best lines at home, stopping them at 5-on-5. On the road, Rangers’ Mika Zibanejad lacks a 5 point against 5 against Carolina while recording four shots on goal and five scoring chances in three games. At home, he has one goal and one assist with five shots and four scoring chances in two games.
Carolina’s Antti Raanta has a .965 save percentage and .97 goals-against average at home in seven games, as well as a .883 save percentage and 3 goals-against average. 59 in four road games. Rangers’ Igor Shesterkin has a .949 save percentage and 2.05 goals-against average in six games at home, and a .881 save percentage and 3.82 goals-against average on the road ( including the team’s first-round game with Pittsburgh).
The Hurricanes’ power play is 5 for 26 at home, scoring for the first time this series in Game 5. play on goal in both games on the road.
What’s behind this disparity for the Hurricanes?
“It’s the playoffs,” said forward Jordan Martinook, who watched the first four games of the series due to injury before returning in Game 5. When you’re home, they give you some. When you get out of here and they get loud, it gives you extra energy. It really helps.
But other Hurricanes players adopted their coach’s mindset that their losses on the road weren’t egregious. “In Game 3 we had a pretty solid game and we came up short,” Staal said. “As a group, we didn’t play very well in Game 4. We were sloppy. We hope to sharpen the knife again with a better effort.”
The Hurricanes have shown they can control the puck, pace and play defensively when blocked. They just haven’t shown they can do it in New York.
“It’s no different,” Trocheck said. “Same team, same game. It’s just a matter of preparation.”
Still, in the back of their minds, the Hurricanes must know they have two chances to end their streak and advance to the Eastern Conference Finals against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Even if the trend continues and they lose to the Rangers in New York, they know the Blueshirts need to steal a game from Raleigh to win the series.
The Rangers squandered a chance in Game 1, allowing a Carolina rally for an overtime loss. But the last two games in Raleigh were firmly under the control of the Hurricanes despite the narrow winning margins.
“We have to win a game [in Raleigh] to win the series,” Gallant said. “Hopefully it’s Game 7.”