The Carolina Hurricanes vs Boston Bruins is a series with a lot of recent backstories. Both teams will square off yet again in the first round this year. These two teams have made significant strides in improving their roster since their last meeting.
This will be the third time in the past four seasons these two have squared off in the postseason, and Carolina is hoping to beat the Bruins in a series for the first time in that span. In 2018-19, the Bruins coasted to a series sweep of the Hurricanes en route to the Stanley Cup Finals. When they squared off again just one year later, Carolina was only able to muster one win against the Bruins, falling in five games.
Carolina Hurricanes vs Boston Bruins Playoff Preview
For the Bruins, there is hope that their veteran core, more versatile defence, and stellar goaltending pair will once again defeat the Hurricanes in short order. For Carolina, this is an opportunity to settle the score and announce to the hockey world that they are a viable Stanley Cup contender. This series will showcase high levels of skill on both sides and has several storylines that will play a significant part in deciding who advances and who goes home.
Both teams have been saddled in recent weeks with questions regarding the man (or men) in their respective creases. For Boston, the lack of a true number one goaltender is indicating that goaltending duties for the black-and-gold will be shared between Linus Ullmark and Jeremy Swayman. For Carolina, injury concerns with both starter Frederick Andersen and backup Antti Raanta have left them reliant upon 22-year-old Pyotr Kochetkov to keep the crease. It was recently announced that Andersen will not start Game 1.
Both Andersen and Raanta are on the road to recovery and should return during the series, but this may all be for naught. If the Bruins can capitalize on these injury concerns, they could take a commanding series lead before it shifts to Boston for Games 3 and 4. Regardless, it is a real possibility that all five of these goaltenders make an appearance at some point in this series.
Special Teams Showcase
Depending upon the number of penalties called, fans will be treated to a showcase of special teams talent. The Hurricanes have the top penalty kill in the league (88%) thanks primarily to defenceman Jaccob Slavin. Slavin has anchored the Hurricanes’ penalty kill and has played the second-most shorthanded minutes in the league this season with 255. The Bruins’ powerplay, which is usually better than the 21.2% goal rate they put up this season, will have to be better to capitalize on the Hurricanes’ penalty mistakes. Thankfully for Bruins fans, the low percentage is largely due to injuries to star players Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and David Pastrnak throughout the regular season. When healthy, the Bruins’ powerplay is better than most.
Despite both teams having deep talent, two players in particular stand-out as being critical to their squad’s success. For the Hurricanes, Sebastian Aho needs to exorcise his playoff demons and elevate his team to the next level. Aho’s a certified superstar in the league bagged 81 points this season, most on the team. It’s hard to ask for more from him in the playoffs, but he will need to lead his team from the front with his speed and two-way ability. For the Bruins, Pastrnak will need to bounce back from his late-season injury and lead the Bruins’ offensive charge. While his numbers weren’t up to his standards this year (77 points in 72 games) Pastrnak has the opportunity to certify himself as the man to take the torch from Bergeron if he decides to retire at the end of the season.
This series is going to be close. Both teams have highly skilled players that work hard and know how to play on both ends of the ice. The Hurricanes will win this series if they can shut down Boston’s top two lines and crack their defensive pairings. For Boston, they need to wake up their powerplay and ensure that their second line (Taylor Hall – Erik Haula – David Pastrnak) maintains the hot streak they’re on. Both coaches have experience in the playoffs and should lead their teams with a level head. Whichever defensive core holds the line against each side’s high-octane offence will ultimately advance to the second round, and Boston’s defence simply has more experience when it comes to winning playoff series.
Prediction: Boston in 6.