It’s been a while! Life got the better of me this season, and to be honest it’s been a lot of fun just being a fan during this run the Hurricanes have been on. If you follow me on twitter you know how opinionated I can be, and well I have thoughts I’d like to share about the team’s performance and their upcoming series against the Boston Bruins.
After a choppy first couple of games against the Capitals the Canes defense men have been playing the best they’ve played all season. When the team traded for Douglas Hamilton, esquire (allegedly), I had sky high expectations for our blue line. While it took some time (and an amazing mullet), our blueliners are now playing like one of the best corp in the league and may be the best group left in the playoffs (looking at you San Jose).
It would be criminal to talk about the defense and not mention new dad Jaccob Slavin. He’s been a one man show in his own zone with entries routinely being swept away like the Islanders by his timely stick checks and pass interceptions. It doesn’t matter what line he goes against or how they try to gain the zone, if he’s on the ice it’s likely back in his possession before too long.
But it isn’t just his defensive game that has caught my eye but his play in the offensive zone. He set himself among some good company with 11 assists through his first couple of games but one thing I’m seeing him routinely do in the post season that he did not always do in the regular season, take a shot. He’s pinching, firing shots at net for tips, and generally doing everything in his power to get the team a goal. Maybe he’s shooting at the same rate he’s always done but it just feels like he’s shooting it more. (Averaged 1.7 shots per game in the regular season and is shooting at 1.8 shots in the post season, so yes more but not as drastic as I thought).
The power play is what it is. It finally got on the board against the Islanders thanks to a Sebastian “Professori” Aho attempt gets shuffled in thanks to an Islanders own goal. Professori has been starting the power play on the point on the first unit in some attempt to get the 1st unit some traction. Hopefully, the time off has given them some time to work on it. Personally, I would make reworking the power play a priority in the off season .
The penalty kill has thankfully been less disappointing after coming up short in the first game against the Capitals. It has been more reliable than not. Credit to Chynoweth and Brinda’mour for the controlled aggression the penalty kill has been using this post season. It’s kept power plays from really getting set in their zone. If the Canes want to get past the Bruins it would behoove them to stay out of the box but if the penalty kill keeps its edge then they could be okay.
This kind of break down could go on and on but let’s talk about what’s next, the Eastern Conference Finals. The Canes elite blueline and pesky forecheck against the Tuuka Rask and the absurdity that is their top line. The more I think about it, the happier I am that we drew the Bruins, not because the Blue Jackets were the better team, but because our forwards match up better against their defense men.
I want to get one thing out of the way. The Bruins could win this series. Their top line, surprising depth, underrated blue line, and goaltending could easily be the end of the line of the Carolina Hurricanes. Rask stole several games against Columbus, who seemed to have the ice tilted in their favor several times in the series with nothing to show for it. They managed to contain the Bruins top line for the most part (although they did get their goals) but the Bruins depth managed to always get a greasy goal here or a snipe there. They could do the same against the Canes.
Now that I have that out of the way… I like this match up because the Canes can successfully apply pressure to the Bruins blue line in a way they could not have done against the Blue Jackets. Werenski and Jones can move the puck extremely well and are hard to contain in their own end. The Bruins can move the puck too just not at that rate. If our forecheck can keep the Bruins on their heels like it did to the Capitals and the Islanders, the Canes have a real chance to crack Tuuka Rask.
I also like our chances against the Bruins forward group. Losing TVR hurts but this team handled the Capitals forward core well and really gave the Islanders nothing to work with. It helps that Fleury hasn’t looked lost out there as of late and if he can hold his own then the blueline shouldn’t miss a beat.
Mrazek has been better than his overall numbers suggest, especially if you take out the first couple of games against the Capitals when the team was still trying to find its playoff legs. By his own admission he’s feeling 120% ready to go
Just like Tuuka, he’s capable of finding another gear and just robbing a game. Re-signing him is probably 2nd highest on my priorities list for the team this off season, right behind re-signing Aho.
The Hurricanes can beat Boston. The teams played some crazy games against each other during the season and I could see this going a full 7.
I have a few more thoughts but I’ll save them for next time.
Until then, Let’s Go, Canes!