The closest Canes fans will get to playoff hockey for the 2017-18 season starts tonight when the Charlotte Checkers kick off their playoff series at home. If you missed it, please also check out my Canes-centric Charlotte Checkers playoff preview from yesterday.
Today’s Daily Cup of Joe offers a few quick-hitters from the NHL playoffs thus far.
The playoffs have historically featured close-checking hockey with tamped down scoring, but that has not been the case thus far for the 2018 playoffs. Of the seven teams who have either already advanced or are up 3-1 in their respective series, five of those teams are above or very close to four goals per game. Vegas advanced behind stingy defense and goaltending, and Winnipeg has not been quite as lights out offensively, but the other five teams have mostly won by scoring in bunches. Where will the Hurricanes find more offense this summer?
What might have been with Marc-Andre Fleury?
One has to wonder if the Hurricanes could have had Marc-Andre Fleury this past summer. The Penguins were going to lose a goalie and were committed to keeping young Matt Murray which meant Fleury was leaving. Could the Hurricanes have brokered a trade directly with Pittsburgh before the expansion draft? Or if Rutherford would not have been willing to deal him within the division, might Vegas have given him up during their early wheeling and dealing phase? And what difference might Fleury have made in a Hurricanes uniform in 2017-18?
Star power carries the day in the Eastern Conference thus far
Time and time again playoff games and series are being decided by huge efforts by star players. Sidney Crosby has 9 points in the Penguins three wins. Evgeni Malkin has five points in those three wins. Even with Patrice Bergeron missing game four, Boston’s top line of Marchand/Bergeron/Pastrnak has led the way with 23 combined points in only four games. And not surprisingly, the Tampa Bay Lightning are led by Nikita Kucherov who has a whopping nine points in four games. Is Sebastian Aho capable of being one of the difference-makers when the Hurricanes return to the playoffs?
Former Hurricanes management is well-represented
If the first round continues on its current trajectory, the eight teams remaining for the second round would feature three former Hurricanes coaches and general managers in Peter Laviolette with Nashville, Paul Maurice with Winnipeg and Jim Rutherford with Pittsburgh. With the Hurricanes general manager and possibly coaching situations in limbo, could the team be about to chuck more personnel out into the league to possibly make this list even greater in the future?
Potential trade partners
Teams with high hopes that exited early from the playoffs can sometimes become potential trade partners because their attempts to shake things up and improve. In that vein, Anaheim’s sweep at the hands of the San Jose Sharks jumps out. Still unable to get over the hump, the Ducks could be looking to wheel and deal. If Winnipeg finishes off Minnesota, the Wild could be another team trying to figure out a way to gain the extra boost needed to advance in the playoffs. Finally, if the Boston versus Toronto continues on a path toward early extinction for the Maple Leafs with trouble keeping the puck out of their own net, the result could spark another round of the Maple Leafs seeking to trade a higher-end forward for blue line help.
What say you Canes fans?
1) What do you think of these Canes-centric NHL playoff observations at this early juncture?
2) Who has more Canes-centric or just any observations on the NHL playoffs thus far?