Like everyone else, I am spent after a disappointing ending to the 2021-22 Carolina Hurricanes hockey series. And writing a ‘blah’ game recap seems poorly-timed right now in addition to being no fun. Within the next few days, I will write up some more detailed thoughts on the season, but right now is just a few random thoughts…
First, I think that losing in the second round rates ‘disappointing’ at best. That in itself says a lot about how far the Canes have come in four years since the ownership change and Rod Brind’Amour assuming head coaching duties. With four consecutive playoff appearances, the players and fans obviously wanted more. But those with a bit longer memory know that entering the season with the expectation that the team will enter the playoffs and achieving that four years in a row is a massive step up from the decade of struggles. tldr…This team is in a much better place than it was only a few years ago.
Though a key reason for the Canes struggles in both playoff series was the sub-par performance part-time (mostly on the road) or even full-time for a few of the key players offensively, I still like the young core of the team. The talent and skill is there and the players like Aho, Svechnikov, Jarvis and Teravainen at forward play the game the right way, work hard and are coachable. Getting stuck at about this point before eventually pushing over the hump is not uncommon. Some forget that the Lightning were swept in the first round after winning the President’s Trophy by a wide margin the year before winning consecutive Stanley Cups. The Penguins had a couple misses before Crosby and company broke through. The Capitals had a team capable of winning it all for nearly decade before breaking through. And the Avalanche are probably the team longest stuck at the hump seemingly destined to win a Cup. So while the play of the Canes top forwards was disappointing in the 2022 NHL Playoffs, I would be much more inclined to double down on the core and try to make improvements in the middle of the lineup.
The way the game played out with Shesterkin having a lot of answers and the Rangers being opportunistic even if not dominant offensively, I feel like the game was destined to be a Canes loss one way or another. That said, the sequence around the Jacob Trouba hit on Seth Jarvis was a huge turning point. Already down a goal, the referee right in front of the play either missed or let go a hit that was very clearly high – shoulder to head. Then the Canes picked up a too many men penalty because a seemingly concussed Jarvis basically crawled to the bench. Then the Rangers score a second power play goal to go up 2-0. I have zero reason to think that the Canes would have scored on the power play, but playing up a man would likely have pushed the game two minutes deeper with the Canes down only a goal. And for those with a good memory, how eerily reminiscent was that of Scott Stevens’ hit on Ron Francis in 2001? If my memory is correct, it was roughly in that same part of the ice that Francis similarly tried to crawl to the bench.
Sticking to positives and saving negatives for another day, Seth Jarvis really impressed me in the playoffs. As a young, smaller, skill player, he could figure to be a player to disappear in the playoffs. Instead, he fared very well in playoff hockey spending time in the dirty areas in front of the net and being willing to take hits to make plays and battle on the boards. Jaccob Slavin and Brett Pesce also had strong playoff series. Though game 6 in New York was a stinker, Antti Raanta played a critical role in winning the first round series and also helping the Canes win at home (until the end) against the Rangers. Jordan Staal’s line wins the most valuable line for the win over Boston and was also integral to getting the Canes deep into the Rangers series with a chance despite the special teams issues and not getting enough from some of the other forwards. I also thought Vincent Trocheck was arguably the Canes most consistent forward. Finally, though game 6 was a stinker for Antti Raanta, the team would not have won the first round series without him, and he really did not have a bad game until that game 6 loss in New York.
Keep the faith Caniacs! Though it does not feel like after a disappointing season-ending home loss, this team is in the group of teams that have a chance to win a Stanley Cup. Though that comes with exactly no guarantees that it will ever come to be, it is still a good starting point for building a team for the 2022-23 season.
We thank our team for a great year and a great run though the ending came too soon.
It was a very fun season to watch and our team is fulll of skilled players who could go all the way but just haven’t quite figured out how.
Either way, I think this year belongs to the west, either Col or Edm, both teams are very deserving of a cup.
One of the big differences, their superstars are playing like superstars, especially the duo of McDavid and Dreizeitel.
Hopefully next year we can take it all the way.
In the meantime, the Chicago Wolves have been dominating the AHL playoffs (through 2 rounds) and the team is a fun to watch, AHL glory is definitely possible and there are some exciting players who could come up and bolster the “Canes’ roster next season, though it’s too early to speculate. We got a lot of time to do that.
Every team needs elite goal scoring. Kreider had never scored more than 28 in a season until this year. I wouldn’t say the Rangers have any better “elite goal scorers” than the Canes. Their guys showed up. Canes players did not. I thought Teravainen and Trocheck pretty much played their games. Svechnikov, Aho and Necas did not. Jarvis was outstanding for what you would expect of a rookie.
The Canes need a heavier team to succeed in the playoffs. Aho needs help. Someone who can win battles down low and control the puck. Teravainen and Jarvis are very nice players, but that line is soft as tissue. Aho struggled against the bigger Kreider and Zibanejad. No room. We’ll see what happens this summer, but a top 6 player that is more than 200 lbs would help.
Another hallmark of Car vs. NYR had to do with the playoff additions.
NYR went aggressively after a couple of players at the deadline and I think their forward additions ended up very impactful.
The Canes stood pat, except adding Domi sort of as a last-minute afterthought.
This is where the Canes could’ve tried to get a scoring wing, a big top 6 forward or shore up their D for the playoff run.
A team that is ready to win it all goes after additional talent at the deadline. It doesn’t always work out, but it quite often does, and it sends a certain message to the team and the fans.
How would they do that? They had no cap space. They had to send Florida a player to get them to take a bunch of Domi’s money. If they traded for a higher dollar guy who was going to go? The mistake was made in the fall when they came to camp almost at the cap. Possible the biggest downside of paying Kotkaniemi $6M was that they had little flexibility at the trade deadline.