The Carolina Hurricanes have exorcised demons of playoffs past. After losing to the Boston Bruins twice in the playoffs in the past three seasons, the Hurricanes defeated the Bruins in Game 7 in Raleigh. This year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs have been filled with excitement, and this series was a big part of that. For Carolina, they can look forward to playing either the New York Rangers or Pittsburgh Penguins in the second round. For Boston, Game 7 marked the beginning of an offseason filled with questions.
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) May 14, 2022
Carolina Hurricanes Advance to Eastern Conference Semifinals
If anyone needed a reminder of how important home-ice advantage is in the postseason, just watch this series. The home team won each game of this series by multiple goals (except Game 7.) The Hurricanes knew that Jordan Staal‘s checking line was the perfect foil to Patrice Bergeron‘s line. In Raleigh, the Hurricanes were able to leverage having the last change to stifle Boston’s top line. When Boston had home ice, they matched Bergeron up with Sebastian Aho‘s line, which was a successful game plan.
Home-ice advantage also provided Carolina’s Antti Raanta with plenty of confidence. Raanta was a stand-in for Hurricanes starter Frederick Andersen and was able to deliver on home ice. Andersen is expected to return at some point in the second round, so Raanta’s shaky road performances are not a significant concern for the Hurricanes. On the other end, Hurricanes fans made life incredibly difficult for Linus Ullmark and Jeremy Swayman when the series switched to Raleigh.
Big Names Step Up For Carolina
Move over Sebastian Aho and Andrei Svechnikov, there are new point producers in town. Carolina’s top-two scorers in the first round led from the back, not the front. Defencemen Jaccob Slavin and Tony DeAngelo led the Hurricanes in scoring this series. Both guys were able to “quarterback” the team and capitalize on the powerplay. Each guy also averaged over 20:30 of ice-time per game and had a +/- rating of 10 and 6, respectively. Carolina was also helped tremendously by 20-year-old Seth Jarvis, who bagged five points (including one powerplay goal) in this series. Getting production like this outside of your core offensive producers shows that the Carolina Hurricanes may finally have the depth necessary to make a long postseason run.
Potential Semifinal Opponents
Hurricanes fans, coaches, and players will be watching the Pittsburgh – New York matchup tomorrow with great interest. The winner of that game will ultimately travel to Raleigh for Game 1 of the semifinal round at some point this coming week. Both teams are divisional adversaries to Carolina, and each poses a different challenge. The Rangers are led by the all-world Igor Shesterkin manning the blue paint. In a match-up with the Rangers, Carolina needs to be prepared to face a better goalie than what they faced against Boston.
The most intriguing match-up, however, would be against Pittsburgh. The Penguins are similar in structure to Boston (having a strong veteran core with an uncertain future) and play a physical game. Pittsburgh is currently managing injuries to star player Sidney Crosby and starting goaltender Tristan Jarry. Despite injuries, Pittsburgh has battled the Rangers to Sunday’s pivotal Game 7 and seems keen on giving it their all in what could be Kris Letang and Evgeni Malkin‘s last season with the club.
Offseason Questions in Boston
The final buzzer in Game 7 served as a stark reminder for Bruins fans: could this be Bergeron’s last game? The Bruins’ captain is an unrestricted free agent after this season. It is unlikely that Bergeron would sign with a different club, but at his age, retirement is currently part of the conversation. Bergeron has played over 1,200 regular-season games for Boston and, at age 36, will evaluate his hockey future as the dust settles.
If Bergeron does decide to resign, Bruins management will have to juggle a tight salary cap situation. Recent contracts handed out to Jake DeBrusk, Nick Foligno, and Hampus Lindholm will force Boston’s hand. Whatever happens this offseason, it is certain that the Boston Bruins will look different in the next campaign.