Hurricanes Return to Playoffs; Look to Avenge Elite Eight Loss
The Carolina Hurricanes locked in a playoff spot due to outside help
The best part of what I call "NHL March Madness" is seeing teams lock in their spots in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Boston Bruins became the first team to do so, but that was almost two weeks ago, because they were so far ahead of the second best team in the league, the Carolina Hurricanes. Twelve days after Boston locked in their spot, the Hurricanes had the chance to do the same. A win vs the New York Rangers would have done it, or just one point and outside help. Unfortunately, the Hurricanes were defeated, 2-1, on their home ice, but they could still get in with a Florida Panthers regulation loss. That's exactly what happened; the Panthers were soundly defeated, 6-2, by the Toronto Maple Leafs, and following the agony of defeat, the Hurricanes celebrated the thrill of joining the playoff party.
It is amazing to believe that this team went nearly a decade without playoffs. The Hurricanes won the Stanley Cup in 2006, and returned to the playoffs three years later, going on a long run to the Eastern Conference Final before being ousted by the Pittsburgh Penguins. The next nine seasons saw no playoffs, but they would return in 2019 and never look back. The Hurricanes have become a perennial playoff team now, this is their fifth straight playoff appearance.
The Hurricanes' core of scorers includes Sebastian Aho, Martin Necas, Andrei Svechnikov, and Teuvo Teravainen, with Aho being the top goal scorer this season. Aho has 31 goals in 2022-23, though the points leader for the Canes is Necas with 65 (27 G/38 A). Teravainen has racked up 35 points (11 G/24 A) this season, with Jesperi Kotkaniemi (in his second year with Carolina) possessing that same point total (14 G/21 A). Svechnikov's numbers (23-32-55) have also been stellar, but unfortunately for the Canes, he is out for the rest of the season. Leading Carolina blueliners is none other than Brent Burns, who is in his first season with the Hurricanes after an 11-year stretch with the San Jose Sharks. Even at age 38, Burns hasn't lost a step: 12 goals, 41 assists, 53 points, +16.
As we recall, goaltending led the way for the Hurricanes, and it's doing so again this year. It's been a true team effort: Frederik Andersen, Antti Raanta, and Pyotr Kochetkov have all come together to form quite an amazing tandem in net. The trio have combined for eight shutouts, with Kochetkov leading in that category with four. Kochetkov also leads the trio in SV% with .909, while Andersen has the most wins with 19, and Raanta leads in GAA with 2.32. Overall, the triumvirate has a combined GAA of 2.55, which is second to only the Bruins in the entire league.
Five straight postseasons, that's very impressive after going nine seasons without playoffs. However, here's what the Hurricanes have done with them. 2019 saw them go all the way to the Eastern Conference Final, only to be swept by the Bruins. In 2020, they swept the Qualifying Round over the Rangers, but were ousted in Round 1 by the Bruins. The last two seasons saw the Canes ousted in the Elite Eight, but the more recent one is the more damning elimination. The Canes' 2022 run saw them unbeaten at home, but winless on the road, meaning that their first home loss could be fatal. That home loss came in Game Seven against the Rangers, and it was a bad one. Needless to say, that exit left a bad taste in their mouths.
The Hurricanes look to avenge that Elite Eight elimination, but they are in a dogfight for the Metropolitan Division with the New Jersey Devils and (thanks to the loss) the aforementioned Rangers. The stats say they'll be atop the Metro for the second straight year, but even so, they need to turn that into something meaningful and deep. Remember: they've only reached the Final Four once in their current streak. Another second round exit could result in the word "failure" being thrown around in conversations about the Hurricanes.
If you like this story, click the heart and the subscribe button, and feel free to comment below! Tips and pledges would be greatly appreciated, but only if you want to do so!
Check out my story about the Hurricanes' Stanley Cup Championship run!
Terrific review!!! Left some love!!!