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Washington Capitals center Evgeny Kuznetsov (92) chases the puck near Carolina Hurricanes left wing Brock McGinn (23) during the second period of Game 1 of an NHL hockey first-round playoff series Thursday, April 11, 2019, in Washington.
1. STICKS DOWN The Carolina Hurricanes gifted the Washington Capitals two power plays in Game 1 with poor stick control – Justin Faulk’s high-stick and Andrei Svechnikov’s offensive-zone hook. That’s avoidable and two too many against the Capitals’ prepotent power play.
2. PAGING SAKU Some of the Canes’ depth forwards looked a little overwhelmed at times Thursday night. While Rod Brind’Amour sounded hesitant to shake things up, the Hurricanes could use the physical presence and crease-clogging ability of Saku Manaelanen, who could draw into the lineup for Brock McGinn, Warren Foegele or Greg McKegg.
3. SEND A MESSAGE Justin Williams was the only player to challenge Matt Niskanen after Niskanen delivered a series of tooth-level cross-checks during a second-period Hurricanes power play, knowing the referees would be loathe to hand out a two-man advantage. A playoff series is a long-running narrative; the Hurricanes missed a chance to nip that sort of thing in the bud. They should make a note of it for Game 2, should the opportunity arise.
4. LOYALTY VS. SUBBORNNESS It’s justified at times to criticize Rod Brind’Amour for his stubbornness as a head coach, most notably his refusal to pull goalies or change up his lines until absolutely necessary. (He has also been proven right in his steadfastness more often than not.) It’s really more about loyalty than stubbornness, especially to his veterans. His loyalty to Petr Mrazek, who he could have pulled at the first intermission, was rewarded in the third. But his insistence on going to the misfiring first power-play unit for the majority of the first of two critical but fruitless power plays in the third – instead of the red-hot Svechnikov and Dougie Hamilton – hurt the Hurricanes’ chances. (On the second, Brind’Amour gets the benefit of the doubt that he wanted Svechnikov and Hamilton out there after pulling Mrazek for an extra attacker halfway through.)
5. YOUR BEST PLAYERS HAVE TO BE YOUR BEST PLAYERS Sebastian Aho hasn’t scored in 15 games. Micheal Ferland hasn’t scored since February. Jordan Staal and Jaccob Slavin weren’t at their best. Things will get easier at home, when the Hurricanes can get their top two lines out against the Capitals’ weak third pairing. But the Hurricanes, already facing a skill deficit, need more from their best players.