This is article is part 1 of 2. Part 2 which you can find HERE looks forward to the upcoming Eastern Conference Finals series against the Florida Panthers.
Heading into the series against the New Jersey Devils, I was concerned about the Canes ability to score enough and the need to clean up intermittent puck management issues from the Islanders series that could have been much more problematic against a skilled Devils’ forward group. I felt good about the Canes skating ability and mobility on the blue line being a good match up for a team with speed.
The Canes fared well on all three accounts. Arguably the biggest factor of the series was the Canes ability to generate turnovers in bunches to fuel a balanced offensive attack. Not only did the Canes fare better in terms of taking care of the puck themselves, but they also turned the table and made the Devils look horrible at times. A couple somewhat surprising X factors stepped up offensively to power a suddenly jet powered offense. After playing well in his role but not collecting any scoring points against the Islanders, Jordan Martinook erupted for 3 goals and 7 assists in 5 games against New Jersey. His line mates also produced with Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Jesper Fast collecting 6 points each. Hat tip to Rod Brind’Amour who swapped the wings from Staal and Kotkaniemi’s lines for the second round and gained a huge boost in scoring production. Down a couple scoring forwards, the Canes will need X factors to rise up offensively in the rounds to come if they wish to continue their run.
But past the players, the story of the series was the Hurricanes ability to neutralize a high-powered Devils’ offense at both ends of the ice. The Hurricanes forecheck was dominant at times, generating turnover after turnover and the higher-end scoring chances that come with turnovers in the offensive zone. At the other end of the ice, the Hurricanes’ blue line was unfazed by a talented Devils’ forward group with the potential to attack in waves. Other than the anomaly allowing 8 goals in the single loss, the Canes top 4 on defense were steady and solid.
Other quick hitters
Brent Burns: Of the Canes top 4 defenseman, Burns is the one that one might figure to be a bit more vulnerable against a team that attacks with speed. He had a strong series defensively in addition to continuing to contribution offensively.
Jesper Fast: As a defense-leaning forward who has now scored a couple overtime game-winners, he has become the Niclas Wallin of this 2023 playoff run.
Jordan Martinook: He was absolutely phenomenal offensively. In addition to a couple effort, grinding type of goals, he also had a couple really pretty finishes.
Jaccob Slavin: NHL awards always have an overdone bias on scoring, but if I had to pick a Canes MVP through two rounds of the playoffs, my pick without hesitation would be Jaccob Slavin. He has been nearly flawless in terms of steadiness and avoiding errors and just continues to make so many individual plays shutting down opposing teams’ offense before it happens. The top 4 in total has been great through 11 games and 8 playoff wins.
What say you Canes fans?
1) Was anyone surprised at how easily the Canes dismantled the Devils in 3 of the wins? (I was)
2) Who would name as an MVP through 2 rounds?
3) What are your top 3 takeaways from the Devils’ series?