The Carolina Hurricanes’ Defense could be it’s ticket to a Championship.
There’s an old saying in sports that defense wins championships. Here’s why the Carolina Hurricanes are in good shape to make a run at the Cup when play finally resumes.
It seems as if the NHL and NHLPA is finalizing their 24 team playoff “play in” format, signifying that we are nearing the return of Carolina Hurricanes’ hockey.
A more detailed overview of the new proposed plan can be found here, but basically the top two teams in each division will automatically qualify for the playoffs and teams sitting 5-12 in each conference (based on point percentage) will play one and another in a mini best of 5 series to round out the rest of the playoff picture.
While there is a lot more to it, the level of play isn’t going to be what we are normally used to seeing during the playoffs. With everything under lockdown the past few months, a good handful of players haven’t gotten the chance to skate and who knows how many will be able to hit the ice before the NHL resumes play.
Although there will be a brief “training camp” it isn’t going to be enough for most players to get back to the high level of intensity and physicality right away, especially for those players who traditionally get off to slow starts.
Having only five or so games to determine how the rest of the season will play out is enough pressure in itself but to have to play those five games right after almost an entire offseason will be another challenge. For the Hurricanes that challenge only gets tougher as their “play in” opponent would be a familiar face in the New York Rangers.
It’s no secret that over the past seasons that New York has had the Canes number. Going 0-4 against the Blue Shirts this season, outscored 17-9 in the process, the Canes are going to look to rekindle some of their magic from last season, where they defeated the Washington Capitals whom too had swept the season series before the playoffs had started.
It really hasn’t mattered whose been in net for the Rangers the story has been the same. The Hurricanes double up New York in the shot department only to score a goal or two. On the flip side, New York takes a very limited amount of shots on goal with several of them going in, resulting in the countless Hurricanes’ losses.
This time around, Carolina is going to have to heavily rely on their defensive play if they want to officially qualify for the playoffs.
Luckily for the Carolina Hurricanes they have arguably the deepest defense in the entire league. Although Brett Pesce is unable to go until next season, both Dougie Hamilton and Sami Vatanen are ready to return to the lineup.
Adding them back into the fold with Jaccob Slavin, Brady Skjei, Jake Gardiner, Haydn Fleury, Joel Edmundson, and Trevor van Riemsdyk the Canes comfortably have eight quality NHL defenseman, many of which are top four calibers on the roster.
Although much of this defensive unit has been intact for the four losses on the season, the additions of Vatanen and Skjei give the Canes a bit of an edge this time around. These two deadline additions were brought in to help Carolina push towards a deep playoff run and replace some of what they lost with Hamilton out.
Even though Brady has only appeared in a handful of games, and Sami has yet to make his debut, the two are highly skilled guys who can generate offense from the backend. Having them, with a healthy Dougie, creates a matchup nightmare for the Rangers.
Not a deep offensive team, most of the Blue Shirts offense goes through their top line, or more specifically Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibanejad. Running the defense, Dean Chynoweth will more than likely try to deploy a shutdown pair featuring Slavin out against them whenever possible, allowing for some more favorable matchups and creativity from the Canes’ other D pairings.
In addition to the blueliners the Hurricanes are going to have to rely on the quality defensive play from their top two way forwards.
With Teuvo Teravainen, Jordan Staal, and Vincent Trocheck all playing on separate lines, the Hurricanes have a top-nine capable of providing offense without compromising anything on the defensive side of the puck. Unlikely to provide much offensive production, the fourth line is also very reliable defensively.
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Should they move on past the Rangers, the Canes are going to have to tighten up defensively even more against the Washington Capitals. The Caps have several offensive weapons and the deadline addition of Ilya Kovalchuck only added to their wealth. In this series the Canes are going to need some solid netminding for both Petr Mrazek and James Reimer if they want to once again ‘come out on top.
With the layoff this series might also start off a bit slow, as the two teams look to get back to a playoff level intensity, something that may be a bit difficult without fans in the building. As it progresses however, we’ll see more of the newfound Canes Caps rivalry that has really emerged this past season. Carolina once again has a bit of an edge in this matchup because of their depth on the back end.
Unfortunately in the postseason last year TVR suffered a shoulder injury that took him out of the lineup. Should something like that happen again the Canes are better equipped to replace a player or two without missing a beat. Having this luxury will only help as you go deeper and deeper into the playoffs.
With many championship teams built from the blue line out, the Carolina Hurricanes may be among the best suited to make a deep run at the cup. Although nothing is guaranteed with the new format, the Canes have the pieces to play sound defensive hockey.
Given the long layoff it is almost like a new season is starting, eliminating any and all momentum a team or individual player had before the break. With a trio of guys set to become UFAs on the backend, this may be the only time we get to see a defense this stacked, so we might as well make it count.
Question for CC Readers: How far do you think the Carolina Hurricanes defense will take this in this new 24 team playoff format?