Today’s Daily Cup of Joe builds on yesterday’s informal look at the upcoming playoff series between the Carolina Hurricanes and the New York Rangers. With the long layoff and fan-less games, the playoffs could prove to be the most unpredictable in recent history which is saying something for a league that recently had wild card teams sweep. As such, the possible story lines for the Canes/Rangers series are endless. Today’s Daily Cup of Joe tries something a bit different and presents a bunch of possible story lines for the series and leaves it to readers to pick which are most likely and also add some of their own.
Broad NHL story lines
It’ll be wild I tell ya’…
The regular season series saw the Hurricanes mount decent attacks at least in terms of shot volume but struggle to crack the Rangers’ goalies much. The Rangers scored in bunches. With the long layoff, might the games be a bit loose at first such that we see some big scores?
‘Inside the bubble’ — The story of August hockey
If the NHL plays it right, I really think the stories coming out of the bubble could be the most fun part of the 2020 NHL playoffs. The world desperately needs some levity right now. The ball is on the tee for the NHL to encourage and support personalities and fun and break free a bit from its staid and stodgy personality. Will it capitalize?
Aho and Svechnikov rise up
Svechnikov started strong but then had his rookie playoffs interrupted by the layoff after his unsuccessful bout with Alexander Ovechkin. Aho was not bad in his NHL playoff debut, but as noted earlier this week, the top players on other teams were better. In their second playoffs and playing together, Aho and Svechnikov find a higher gear and show that they are stars even when the lights are brightest.
The forecheck returns
The Canes calling card late in the 2018-19 regular season and then again in the playoffs was the teams overwhelming and smothering forecheck. Though the Hurricanes were successful again in the 2019-20 regular season, the forecheck was much less of a factor. But with hardware now on the line, the Hurricanes find that higher gear in terms of in your face pressure.
At the point when his season was cut short with a broken leg, Dougie Hamilton was making a case for being the team’s 2019-20 most valuable player. He was due to be back by early April, so he should be ready as anyone when hockey resumes. Without missing a beat, he continues to terrorize opposing teams with his offense.
In the odd circumstances and playing in an environment without the usual boost from the crowd, I think leadership will be vital to help teams shake off downturns and maybe artificially find a higher gear if needed. Despite not wearing a letter, Justin Williams’ presence could again be critical. Jordan Martinook is often the most vocal of the group. The Canes’ leadership plays a significant role in how far the team advances.
The goaltending becomes mental
The Hurricanes were beaten fairly handily in the regular season series, but if one looks a bit deeper, the games swung quite a bit in net. As I mentioned earlier this week, the Canes goalies were not particularly good against the Rangers, and the Rangers goalies seemed unbeatable. If the series starts in that same direction, the Hurricanes could start to grip the sticks a bit too tight, try to do too much and lose a series that was winnable.
Inability to contain the Rangers’ fire power
The other big story line of the regular season series was Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibanejad running rampant on special teams and to some degree at even strength. Playoff series are often decided by which teams’ best players are better. In this series, the Canes young guns get outgunned by the Rangers’ best and that decides the series.
Not your 2019 blue line
Sort in the same vein and especially minus Brett Pesce, the Canes blue line is much lighter on defensive soundness. Gone are Brett Pesce, Calvin de Haan and Justin Faulk. In are Jake Gardiner and Brady Skjei. Reasonably sound defensive play is table stakes for going deep in the playoffs. The Hurricanes find that they are missing that and pay the price.
What say you Canes fans?
1) Which of the positive Canes story lines do you see as mostly likely?
2) Which of the negative Canes story lines do you see as most likely?
3) Who has a couple more possible story lines to be mulled over?
1) Aho and Svech rise up. The top line (Teravainen is consistently underrated) can dominate. If they do, the Canes will go be fine.
2) The Blue Line could be a real problem. Skjei was underwhelming in his 7 games. If he continues to be an average D-man and Gardiner struggles, then whichever of Panarin/Zibanejad faces one of the bottom two pairings could feast.
3) Necas takes another step. If the top lines cancel each other out and Staal & Co are able to slow the Rangers’ other scoring line, then Necas having a productive series would make the difference. The rookie was playing some of his best hockey before the pause.
1. Aho and Svech seems most likely, especially playing on the same line.
2. Goaltending. I have a suspicion that we’re going to see a couple of sweeps in these 5 game series and it will be really obvious that one set of goalie start hot while another set struggle to adjust to the abrupt return. The worst thing to happen to Canes in Game 1 would be losing a 1-0 shutout in a game in which they dominate the pace and shots but can’t get one past the goalie. Game one, hell goal one, is huge.
3. Foegele (and perhaps Geekie). Foegele is just one of those players who I think elevates his game for big moments – whether it’s season starting or playoffs. His wild, fast, and disruptive play is perfect for playoffs if he brings that intensity. Geekie is an x factor and, while he may not see much ice time, I’d love to see him get a chance. He has that same intensity and playing style as Foegele that could be perfect for the playoffs.
Big, strong, rough and tumble guys usually stand out in the playoffs while soft pseudo-skill players disappear. I know Brind’Amour loves vets, but I would have Dzingel on a very short leash. If he shows any soft play or missed assignments I would have Geekie in the next game.