With a back and forth series that went seven games, the Canes received an early dose of the rollercoaster ride that the NHL playoffs can be. The series was an odd one in that though it went the full seven games, it really was not a close series on a game by game basis. It took a goal with 21 seconds to go in game 7 to yield the only game decided by a single goal. For the most part, the team able to dictate match ups on home ice was the better team. Those very binary results depending largely on match ups play into today’s Daily Cup of Joe which looks at positives and negatives from the first round series win.
(not in a particular order)
1) Seth Jarvis
He really impressed me. Though he was caught up in some of the struggles on the road trying to match up against the Bruins top line, what stood out most about his game was his willingness to consistently due the hard things not necessarily core to his strengths when the nastiness and physicality increased. Other Canes skill forwards could learn a lesson from Jarvis’ willingness to go to the top of the crease. He had a huge game 5 with two goals, and all three of his goals came from playing hockey between the face-off circles. Equally importantly, he fought for pucks on walls and took hits to make plays when needed. As skilled scoring type, a rookie and a player who lists as 5 foot 10 inches and 175 pounds, he very much fits that category of player who could struggle in the crowded and physical playoffs and rightfully take some time adjust. I did not see that as the case with Jarvis.
2) The top 4 on defense
The top 4 defensemen did not win every battle, but they held up well over the course of the series and at least at home were able to slow Bergeron, Marchand and Pastrnak which turned out to be just enough to eke out a series win. Before the series started, I said that whether or not Tony DeAngelo would be capable enough defensively in addition to what he does offensively. He was good enough or better in the first series. Jaccob Slavin is actually a better player than he was only a couple years ago. He still plays with the same leaning forward aggressiveness and has arguably the best stick in hockey. But compared to a couple years ago, I think he has improved as an offensive player most notably with more comfort keeping the puck on his stick a bit longer which puts more pressure on opposing defense to continually sort things out as he moves up the ice and also create passing lanes. I also think he is better on the walls than he was only a couple years ago. I would not say this was a weakness previously, but I think he has become even better at knowing how to use his strength and reach to gain and keep pucks on dump ins and other battles on the wall. Brett Pesce also continues to be underrated as an equally steady defender. He and Brady Skjei were the primary match against Bergeron’s line at home where the Canes won the series. Skjei was the other half of the duo that succeeded with the precarious task of not letting the Bruins top line steal a single game in Raleigh that would have tilted the series to the Bruins.
3) Antti Raanta
If I were to write a season evaluation right now, Canes management would get mixed reviews on the moves in total, but the decision to spend a bit to get a second veteran goalie behind Frederik Andersen proved incredibly smart in the first round. Raanta’s first round numbers in total are good, and I actually think they are understated because the team in front of him struggled so much in a couple of the road games. Raanta was better as the series wore on and was especially sharp with rebound control in the last couple games. Word seems to be that Andersen could be ready in the second round. That is great news, but I would continue to ride Raanta as long as he is playing well. I would be very surprised to see Brind’Amour do otherwise.
4) Jordan Staal’s line
Among the forwards, Staal’s line was the difference-maker. They were able to score some and give up very little against the Bruins’ top line at home. The difference in the previous two playoff series losses to the Bruins was exactly the reverse. Bergeron and company were better, too much better, than anyone else on the ice for the Canes to make up the difference any other way. The results were a four-game Bruins sweep in 2019 and a 5-game series win by the Bruins in 2020. If Staal’s line does not have the series it did, the Bruins steal one or even two wins in Raleigh and win this game in five or six games. Credit also to Jesper Fast and Nino Niederreiter. Niederreiter played easily his best playoff hockey as a Hurricane and probably even overall. He was consistently physical throughout the series but under control, held his own defensively and chipped in some scoring. Jesper Fast was similar. More than anything, he was just flawless in terms of decision-making, sorting things out and assignments which was a key ingredient in containing Bergeron and company.
5) The second line
It was sort of in fits and spurts, but the second line provided the depth scoring needed from it. Vincent Trocheck finished the series with seven points, and Max Domi and Teuvo Teravainen were the heroes scoring all three goals in the deciding game 7. In a series where Aho’s line was not great and the fourth line was mostly non-existent offensively, getting offense from the second line was critical to prevailing.
Hope is to follow up with part 2 that offers a list of five struggles from the first round series.
What say you Canes fans?
1) If you had to pick only one positive that was the difference in emerging with a first round series win, what would it be?
2) What other positives would you add to this list?
Jaccob Slavin stands out as the biggest difference-maker. He led the Canes in TOI, +10, 2 goals, 6 assists, only 1 penalty, and 15 takeaways. Such a complete defenseman and a dark horse for the Conn Smythe IMO.
The fast pace that the Canes can play at 5 on 5 stands out and is apparent when compared to watching the other playoff teams. It seems that Domi has relegated Necas to the 4th line for now. The Trocheck-Teravainen-Domi line was a combined plus 19 for the series with 7 goals and 12 assists.
For me it was Raanta. I used to joke throughout the season that he was good for 3 goals against a game and could always tell the night by if he gave up a goal in the first 3 shots. He was a good backup but always did not feel comfortable when he was in. Now, holly smokes was I wrong. He did not get much help up in Boston. He serious was good. Kochetkov was really good as well. Did not expect those types of performances. Raanta is for real, probably just needed extended playing time. And Anderson may be coming back as well. Wow, what depth.
The other positive is not realizing how much of a difference the staal line made. You don’t see guys scoring quite as much and do not realize how much they shut down the other team. It was so obvious with home field advantage.
And a third, I though Max Domi was getting a few assists but did not really help the team much. Then game 7, it is why I am not a GM. Surprised I was not seeing that effort. So, I had a few things stand out to me that I was missing.
Rangers will be tough. Not the cake walk some are thinking…….but, Our team is so dangerous because it’s not just the top line that can hurt you. No McDavid, OV or Crosby but we have so many ways to hurt you. And scary D. I really like our D and the top 4 will be around for a while.
I say that expecting we re-sign Tony D, which should be of upmost importance.