If one took a poll of Canes players likely to be the biggest difference-makers in a game 7 win, Max Domi would not have been among the top choices. But that is part of the fun of NHL playoff hockey and here we are.
Max Domi started his historic night when he received a heady Jaccob Slavin pass at the side of the and quickly threaded the needle to find Teuvo Teravainen in front who made no mistake finishing. The second period then finished with the Hurricanes gaining a double-minor power play with a minute to go in the first period.
The Hurricanes power play actually had a much better night but was unable to find the back of the net. started the Canes on the path to victory scoring late in a first period that was pretty even and mostly minus a ton of grade A chances. Despite a better looking power play, the lack of results had the potential to shift momentum to the Bruins’ favor. But Max Domi was on the scene again scoring only seconds after the second half of the power play ended with a nifty play somehow controlling a bouncing deflection behind the end line, quickly moving it to his backhand on the other side of the end line and finishing before anyone knew what happened. The play started with the work boots winning a puck on the boards, getting the puck to the point and quickly going to the net, but the finish required a ton of skill. Before the Canes could even settle into defending a two-goal lead, Jake DeBrusk scored to make it 2-1. But then less than five minutes later, Domi struck again in Aho-like fashion receiving a pretty Teravainen pass and rifling it quickly into an open chunk of net. That goal at the 10:53 mark of the second period staked the Canes to another two-goal lead and set the stage for a sometimes methodical, sometimes arduous slow trek to victory.
The Canes played a pretty clean game with the lead taking only a single penalty, avoiding bad turnovers and doing quite a bit of just advancing the puck out fo the defensive zone or into the offensive to let the clock keep running down while the Bruins mostly settled for low-quality scoring chances. Antti Raanta was spectacular when needed on a couple saves, but the team in front of him also did a great job giving him a chance on most of what he faced.
The Bruins did score late with only 21.7 seconds remaining to add a bit of late tension, but the Hurricanes ultimately held on for the win.
Despite being the #8 seed in the Eastern Conference, the Bruins represented a challenge. Even with the Canes as the higher seed, they came in as that team that had the Canes number when it mattered. They made quick work of the Canes in 2019 beating them easily in four games in the Eastern Conference Finals. And though the 2020 second round loss to the Bruins was closer than the 4-1 margin would indicate, the Bruins still had the upper hand. In that regard, Sunday’s win showed the ability to overcome previous obstacles.
Player and other notes
1) Max Domi
Already covered it above. He has the difference-maker that the Canes needed. Welcome to Carolina Hurricanes playoff lore.
2) Teuvo Teravainen
He was half of the combination on both of the first two goals too. Teravainen is always a solid two-way player but at times fades into the background a bit. In a huge game, he rose up into the spotlight.
3) Antti Raanta
He has been a star a couple times on home ice, but I actually still think his play in the series is a bit underrated because his top line stats were not great in a couple games in Boston when the team in front of him struggled. In both of the past two games, he has been incredibly sharp tracking pucks and giving up very little in terms of rebound chances.
4) Charlie Marchand?
When there is dirty stuff going on with the Bruins it is more often than not Brad Marchand, but on Saturday Charlie McAvoy found a higher gear in terms of dirty plays in the second half of the game. First at the end of the second period, he reverse checked Seth Jarvis after the whistle as Jarvis was letting up because the period had ended a couple seconds ago already. With the referees already focused on a scrum that had started, they completely missed McAvoy’s late shoulder to the chin. Then in the third period, he accidentally/not accidentally slew-footed Brady Skjei with a dangerous play while both were headed to the bench. Skjei dangerously landed flat on his back and was shaken up but returned. And finally, he chopped down Vincent Trocheck like a tree after a play in another dirty effort to upend a player. Doubt it will happen, but I hope the NHL takes a look at this especially since it was a series of multiple dirty plays, two of which could have been dangerous.
Charlie McAvoy was guilty of horribly dirty play in game 7. Even if the referees missed it or let it go, we know.
5) Special teams
The Canes did not score on three tries, but the power play was actually very good on Saturday with a bunch of zone possession time and a good number of medium or higher quality chances with Trocheck’s post being the closest. The team also followed my motto that the best way to win, or at least not lose, the special teams battle was to stay out of the box. The Hurricanes took only one penalty in the third period and killed it off making for an even game on special teams.
6) Team defense with strong play from both of the top defense pairings
As noted above, the Canes played a pretty clean game defensively. The forwards are all committed to doing the work back-checking in the system, so there is credit across the board. But in the game of crediting a couple specific players, the Slavin/DeAngelo pairing had a strong game. The duo finished the series with three goals and 13 assists between them, and more significantly the Canes consistently won with them on the ice to the tune of a team-high plus 10 for Slavin and plus 6 for DeAngelo. Before the series started, I noted DeAngelo’s ability to be decent or better defensively in the top 4 playing against other teams’ top forwards. He easily passed that test in round 1.
On home ice where the Canes were a perfect 4-for-4, Skjei / Pesce logged as many minutes as possible against Bergeron’s line. That line’s offensive eruption in games 3 and 4 in Boston showed what was possible if they got going. Though they did collect points in Raleigh, Pesce and Skjei were a critical part to keeping them from stealing a road win which would have tilted the series in the other direction.
7) A big step
Because the Canes had to push past a Bruins team that had their number in prior series, I think what was accomplished is much bigger than just another ho-hum first round win.
Next up for the Canes will be the winner of game 7 between the New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins who finish their series on Sunday night in Madison Square Garden.