The Carolina Hurricanes have players that need to step up
In a rematch of last years’ Eastern Conference Finals, here are three Carolina Hurricanes’ players that need to step up and elevate their play if they hope to defeat the Bruins this time around.
With the Carolina Hurricanes the highest seat among the remaining playin round teams in the East they knew they would be facing the loser of the Washington-Boston round robin game in round one of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. With the Bruins falling to the Caps 2-1, we now know we are set to see a rematch of last years’ Eastern Conference Finals.
Getting swept by Boston last spring Carolina knows that they are up against a serious cup contender, even though they’ve struggled through round robin play. With one of the best power plays in the entire league the Hurricanes can’t afford to take penalties as frequently as they did against the Rangers.
While the Canes did managed to sweep New York there’s still a lot of work to do. The best of five series win was pretty much won by the Hurricanes top line and the top line alone. With basically little to no secondary scoring, they are going to have to make some adjustments going into their matchup versus the Bruins.
Given how deep this team is currently depth scoring shouldn’t be as scarce as it has been. Although some guys like Vincent Trocheck have had their chances but have nothing to show for it and others like Ryan Dzingel have yet to make an appearance, there a still a few players the Canes need to be better and produce if they want to advance past Boston.
Nino Niederreiter started his Carolina Hurricanes career on fire with 21 points in his first 22 games with the organization. While he wasn’t expected to be able to sustain that production over time, for him to only have a single assist in his last seven playoff games is a bit disappointing to say the least.
Looking back at last years Conference Final Series vs the Bruins, Nino took a handful of penalties and had a few hits, but that was pretty much it. Held off the score sheet in all four games, he only managed 5 shots on goal in over 66 minutes of ice time. With one of his penalties directly leading to the game winning power play goal against in game three there’s a lot of room for improvement here.
When he is playing with confidence he is physical presence capable of chipping in offensively in the top six but when he is not, he doesn’t do much to contribute to the team. We saw the later against the Rangers, with him being relegated to fourth line ice time.
A guy known for both the intangibles he brings and the strong playoff performances he puts together, Justin Williams is a guy the Hurricanes are going to need to count on if they want to make another deep run.
Having a wealth of experience you would think that he would have done a better job at controlling his emotions than he did in the Conference Finals last spring. Letting Brad Marchand get under his skin multiple times, his ten penalty minutes not only directly led to two Bruins PP goals but it prevented the Canes for generating any positive momentum throughout the series.
A big contributing factor in their loss, you’d expected better from your (then) captain this time around.
Other than sparking the bench with an unexpected bout with Ryan Strome in game one, Williams also wasn’t noticeable much at all in the playin series. You’d hope at some point that he, and the rest of his line, will break though and find a way to impact the game.
If Williams gets going Carolina is a much more difficult team to play against which boats well for the Canes chances in round one.
Playing on the same line as Williams, Jordan Staal is a guy that needs to take advantage of the current depth on the roster. With Trocheck taking over as the team’s second line center Staal doesn’t have to be relied on as heavily as he was in the past.
Now on the third line, he is playing on average just about three minutes less a night. Because of this he should be rested and energized each and every shift.
Last postseason he was a dominating player in the first two rounds. Winning draws, using his size to his advantage, putting up points, shutting down opposing team’s top lines, you name it he was doing it. But, unfortunately for the Canes he hit a wall.
Like most of the lineup, he was invisible though out the Boston series and did next to nothing to help the team win. After a similar uninspiring performance versus the Rangers he needs to find a way to wake up and get back to that level he was at against the Islanders and Capitals.
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While Boston hasn’t had much success in the bubble so far, it is only a matter of time before they get back to playing at the elite level they’re known for. At the top the NHL standings before the pause in play, they were among the favorites to win it all. Much better than the Rangers in pretty much every area, they will be a difficult out.
If the Carolina Hurricanes continue to be, for the most part, a one line team that challenge increases exponentially. If Niederreiter, William, Staal and the rest of the depth pieces get going however, the Canes have the potential to become a scary good team.
Question for CC readers: Of the names on this list, who do you think will have the biggest impact on the series?