With two rousing home wins to start the 2021 NHL Playoffs followed immediately by two losses, the Canes have already endured a first round of ups and downs in the playoffs. Today’s Daily Cup of Joe similarly looks at a few different situations through four games from both a positive and a negative perspective.
The 2-2 tie after four games
Positive: The Hurricanes are still on track to win a long series with two of the three games on home ice and a perfect 2-0 record in the first two. In addition, one could easily argue that the pair of double overtime losses in Nashville were just toss ups that went the wrong way. A single lucky bounce through more than a period of overtime hockey in either game, and the Hurricanes are up 3-1 with a chance to close out the series in five games. No doubt the series is tighter than that, but it is not so much because the Hurricanes were abysmal.
Negative: The Predators should carry some positive momentum and belief into game five. Tied at 2-2, there is some additional pressure on the Hurricanes to hold serve at home or otherwise play a possible elimination game on the road.
Negative: He was horrible in game four and in general has not been very good in the series. With some struggles in past playoffs, especially 2019, it is just possible that he is not a great playoff performer. With Slavin out and Hamilton needing to be the lead on a top 4 defense pairing, the chance of doing anything more than squeaking out of the first round seems unlikely.
Positive: There is a massive amount of upside if some combination of Hamilton himself and the team leadership/coaching to find a way to spark him. By no means is he a player whose ceiling is not high enough for his current role. It is just a matter of him finding a higher gear quickly at which point the Hurricanes become a better team.
Positive: One of the cliches about playoff hockey is that to win the Stanley Cup every team must overcome some adversity. As far as that goes, the current bout is actually less than what the team has faced and overcome in the past. In 2019, the Hurricanes lost the first two games to the Capitals before fighting back to win the series. The 2006 Stanley Cup Champions did even worse losing the first two games of their first round series at home and being on the brink of losing game three before Rod Brind’Amour heroics got them back into it. So if you buy the cliche and also consider past history, perhaps battling through a round of adversity early against a team that might allow some margin for error could be the best path.
Negative: The flipside could be that the first round struggles just suck too much energy too early leaving the Hurricanes spent mentally heading into a tough series against Tampa Bay and/or whoever follows.
The young guns – Andrei Svechnikov and Martin Necas
Negative: This one is a bit like Dougie Hamilton. Young offensive stars Andrei Svechnikov and Martin Necas have been ‘meh’ so far through four games. Martin Necas has assists on two key goals in the series, but that is all he has for scoring points, and I think the results match up to him not being a factor offensively on a regular basis. Same is true for Svechnikov whose only goal is an emtpy-netter. As I said in my recap after game four, the Hurricanes entered this season with next steps likely to be driven by growth of the team’s young players. If that does not materialize in the playoffs, it likely means a fairly short run.
Positive: The upside and ceiling are there for both players. As with Hamilton, it is a matter of somehow finding a spark. If that happens, the Canes morph back into the team that was incredibly deep offensively at its peak during the regular season.
Brady Skjei/Brett Pesce
Positive: In the absence of Jaccob Slavin, Brett Pesce and Brady Skjei have both stepped up and done everything they can to fill the void. The confidence they are building has the potential to pay dividends in later rounds especially if Slavin returns to make the team deeper on defense again.
Negative: With the volume of minutes over the past three games, the potential huge downside would be if the duo hit a wall physically and stepped down in terms of quality of play because of it. In Sunday’s loss, Pesce looked like he was completely gassed at the end of the majority of his shifts from the middle of the game on. If the team’s two best defenders by a wide margin right now burn out early, the Canes will struggle mightily to beat any playoff team.
What say you Canes fans?
1) Which side of the coin do you land on for some or all of the ones I listed above?
2) Thus far in the playoffs, what other things do you see that could be viewed from two different angles?