The Carolina Hurricanes face the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 2 of their Eastern Conference finals series tonight, which in Carolina Hurricanes 'speak actually means "Game 1." As we've said before, the Canes care less about playing well in the official first game of a series than most of you care about Carolina being in the playoffs in the first place.
They've given up eight goals in the previous two Game 1's, to one goal in the previous Game 2's. Goalie Cam Ward(notes) has stopped 68 of the 69 shots he's faced in the second game of the other two series. The Canes are using this trend for inspiration, based on their strong effort for most of Game 1 against the Penguins. As Luke DeCock writes in the News & Observer:
Mistakes were made, to be sure, but as they left the arena Monday night, the Hurricanes walked out saying they had played their best Game 1 yet. "Yeah, but the other two Game 1s were terrible," center Matt Cullen(notes) said Wednesday. "We played a little better. We played OK. But it's the conference finals, and we need to have our 'A' effort every night. Hopefully, we can take care of business [in Game 2]."
Sure, they're going to be some adversity. The status of both Tuomo Ruutu(notes) and Erik Cole(notes) is going to be determined closer to game time after their Game 1 injuries. (Kudos to the non-suspended Matt Cooke(notes) facing the media yesterday, such as it was.) This could mean an overhaul of the Carolina forward lines ... and color us intrigued by a Scott Walker(notes)/Chad LaRose/Matt Cullen troika.
But in the end, as it has been for the last three months, this is Cam Ward's moment to make or break the Hurricanes' fortunes. DeCock points out that not only has Ward never lost a Game 2 (or a Game 7 for that matter), but he's 5-0 with a 1.18 and a .956. save percentage in five career Game 2 starts. That's obscene.
So based on the recent history, the Penguins will have a tougher test in Game 2. Best advice? Have this incredible fan-made playoff video from Chris Benson (of the hilarious playoff beard clip we published previously) playing on a continuous loop. Dude designed a full-scale 3-D digital Mellon Arena for it. Outstanding, and shiver-inducing (we assume) if you're a Pens fan.