Raanta steps up with Andersen out

The Carolina Hurricanes now lead the Boston Bruins 21-2 on aggregate this season after a 5-1 victory on the opening night of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The final score was not entirely indicative of the back-and-forth nature of most of Monday’s Game 1, however it was ultimately more of the same in the fourth installment of this season series dominated by Rod Brind’Amour’s club.

Carolina was backstopped by Frederik Andersen in all three regular-season wins over Boston. The team’s star netminder was unable to go Monday as he continues to recover from a lower-body injury, so it was backup Antti Raanta that got the call.

Raanta went 15-5-4, won the William M. Jennings Trophy alongside Andersen this season and the Rauma, Finland native shone in his first career playoff start. Raanta had appeared in five previous post-season contests in relief; his teams had lost all of them.

The 32-year-old stopped 35 shots against the Bruins, was named the game’s No. 1 star, and needed to be sharp early with Boston jumping out to a 9-1 lead in shots within the first six minutes of the first period.

If you’re going to nitpick any element of Raanta’s performance, you could perhaps point to his imperfect rebound control. Even that steadily improved throughout the game, though, and he stayed calm as the Bruins pressed in the third period.

“Obviously a little butterflies here and there,” Raanta told reporters after the game. “For me, I was just trying to focus on the things, how I’ve been able to be successful and what I’ve been doing to get to this point. It was working nicely, but it’s only one game, one win, and now it’s just regrouping and getting ready for Wednesday.”

Andersen didn’t participate in Monday’s morning skate, which means a Game 2 return is unlikely, but after how steady Raanta looked there is no immediate need for Carolina or its fan base to fret.

Linus Ullmark got the nod ahead of Jeremy Swayman for Boston at the other end of the ice. Ullmark, 28, was also making his first playoff start and he matched Raanta save for save for more than 36 minutes before the Hurricanes got on the board and began pulling away. According to the broadcast, it was just the fifth time in the past 40 years where two goalies made their first playoff starts in the same game.

Unfortunately for Ullmark, the four goals he allowed got progressively more regrettable as the action unfolded.

Ullmark had no chance when rookie Seth Jarvis tipped home a Jaccob Slavin shot and two minutes later the goalie was unable to locate the puck through a sea of bodies on Carolina’s second of the game.

Those two tallies were encouraging goals for Carolina because they’re exactly the types of goals teams come to rely on during deep playoff runs.

The goal that made it 3-1 was a stoppable shot, although credit is due to Vincent Trocheck for settling down a rolling puck nicely on the fly and feeding Teuvo Teravainen, who wired it top shelf past Ullmark.

The fourth is one Ullmark will want back considering Trocheck was behind the goal line when he released the puck.

How can Boston bounce back from this?

Game 2 of the best-of-seven series is scheduled for Wednesday in Raleigh, N.C., with Boston needing answers to a handful of questions such as…

Can they get an early lead? Colorado was the only team with more wins when scoring first than Carolina this season so Boston can’t afford to keep giving up the first goal. The Hurricanes, according to the broadcast, improved to 43-1-0 this season when leading by multiple goals so a two-goal lead means curtains. Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy acknowledged after the game that Carolina doesn’t play the same when it isn’t leading. Easier said than done.

Who’s going to provide that offence? Patrice Bergeron was the lone Bruin to score against the Hurricanes in the regular season and the captain led his team, along with David Pastrnak, with five shots on goal Monday. Brad Marchand had an uncharacteristically quiet night and finished with a minus-3 rating. Taylor Hall scored Boston’s lone goal and seemed to find an extra gear in the third period. Can he carry that momentum over to Wednesday?

Can Boston turn up the physicality for Game 2? Boston ranked third in the NHL in hits this season. The Bruins were outhit 48-42 in Game 1. Carolina’s 48 hits were a season-high for the Hurricanes.

What can they do differently on the power play? Carolina’s No. 1-ranked penalty kill, which operated at a whopping 88.0-per-cent success rate this year, remained in typical elite form in Game 1. It was tested early when Brady Skjei took a delay of game minor three minutes into the opening frame. That one was killed off mostly thanks to Raanta.

Boston could barely enter Carolina’s zone and couldn’t establish any meaningful attack on its second opportunity and once Ian Cole’s tripping call was killed off, the crowd at PNC Arena was on its feet cheering.

They put on another PK clinic and killed off a Brendan Smith interference call that happened midway through the third when the game was still within reach.

Playoff cohesiveness a factor as Blues blank Wild

The other game not involving a Canadian team Monday saw the St. Louis Blues outclass the Minnesota Wild en route to a 4-0 win.

A majority of St. Louis’s 2019 Cup-winning roster remains intact while about half of Minnesota’s lineup suited up for their first playoff game with the Wild, one of the busiest clubs leading up to the trade deadline in March.

It showed. The Blues looked like the more comfortable team and they became the first team all season to enter the Xcel Energy Center and hold the Wild off the scoresheet.

It was the most lopsided win from either team in this season series and the Wild frustration began showing late in the third, highlighted by Jared Spurgeon’s cross-check on the ankle of Pavel Buchnevich.

Perron, Husso both set personal and franchise milestones

David Perron notched the first playoff hat trick of his career and set a new franchise record in the process, while Ville Husso did the same.

Husso stopped all 37 shots he faced to become the first Blues goalie to earn a shutout in his playoff debut.

All three of Perron’s goals, one scored in each period, occurred when St. Louis had the man advantage. He is the 14th player in Blues franchise history to record a playoff hat trick and it is the first time in which all three goals were power-play markers.

Perron added an assist on Ryan O’Reilly’s goal that made it 2-0 in the first period. Torey Krug recorded an assist on all three of Perron’s goals, the 16th, 17th and 18th of his post-season career.

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