Carolina is moving on! After a tough six-game series against the Nashville Predators, the Central Division Champions are through to round two, where the daunting task of the playoffs gets that much harder. While Nashville barely snuck into the playoffs, the next opponent happens to be the reigning Stanley Cup Champions. It’s Carolina and Tampa Bay.
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Despite being in the old southeastern division together, this will be the first-ever meeting between these two organizations in the Stanley Cup playoffs. While Tampa did win the cup in the bubble, they won it in 2004 too, which was the last time it was awarded before the Canes’ magical run to capture it in 2006.
In the regular season, Carolina went 4-3-1 against the Lightning and outscored the Bolts 18-17. Martin Necas‘ 3 goals and 5 assists for 8 points mark the Canes’ top scorer against the Lightning, with Alex Killorn‘s 2 goals and 3 assists for 5 points being the Lightning’s top scorer against the Canes.
However, there’s a new threat on the Lightning who didn’t play a single shift in the regular season. Nikita Kucherov had off-season hip surgery and only made his return to the lineup in Game 1 of the first round of the playoffs against Florida. Kucherov has returned in a big way this postseason with three goals and eight assists for eleven points in just six games this postseason so far. It’s almost like he’s been healthy for a while.
Since the organization was relocated, the Carolina Hurricanes have not lost in the 2nd round of the postseason. While it’s an impressive feat, the Lightning will pose the toughest challenge to that impeccable record.
Openly being over the cap, Tampa wandered their way into the playoffs with the bulk of their Stanley Cup-winning core form last year. It’s no secret that Tampa will not just roll over and allow the Canes to walk through them and into the third round. It’s going to be a grueling series and a grinding mess for both teams.