The date was May 16th, 2019, the Hurricanes were eliminated at the hands of the Boston Bruins in game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals. It was a dominant display by Boston as they dashed the dreams of the Cinderella Hurricanes. Although the performance of the team in the series was disappointing, there was a lot of optimism surrounding the state of the franchise.
The following season the Hurricanes bought big time at the deadline after injuries to Dougie Hamilton and Brett Pesce, as well as both of their goalies, significantly weakened their roster going into the final stretch of the season. The COVID shutdown forced the Hurricanes to participate in a much different playoff format.
The Canes got a few of their injured players back and ran through the Rangers, sweeping their play-in-round opponents. That victory led to yet another meeting with the President’s Trophy-winning Bruins, who fell to the 4th seed in the round-robin. A lot of people picked the Hurricanes to win this matchup as Carolina looked strong and confident, and Boston struggled to get anything going against other top teams.
What happened on the ice was the exact opposite of how the series against the Rangers went. The Boston-Carolina series was a nightmare for the Hurricanes. A game 1 double-overtime loss, an injury to Andrei Svechnikov in game 3, and an embarrassing collapse in game 4 before the series was put out of its misery in game 5.
In those 2 series, the Hurricanes were only able to win 1 of 9 games. They conceded 32 goals and only scored 16. Their special teams were egregious, posting a 10.3 PP% and a 64.7 PK%. The Bruins have had the Hurricanes’ number in the playoffs as of late.
Even going back to the franchise’s first playoff appearance as the Hurricanes in 1999. The team won the Southeast Division and brought playoff hockey to North Carolina for the first time. Although the run was very short-lived, being eliminated by Boston in the first round in just 6 games.
The 2009 Hurricanes should get a mention here. After a very exciting series, the heroic efforts of Scott Walker in overtime of game 7 broke this trend of Boston dominance. One thing is very apparent, the Hurricanes have a dragon by the name of the Boston Bruins that they NEED to slay this year.
Once the puck drops in game 1, the Hurricanes will have played 5 series against the Bruins since their move to Raleigh. They haven’t played any other team more than Boston. By default, the Bruins have been the Hurricanes’ biggest playoff rival in an incredibly one-sided history.
The Maple Leafs are infamously known as the Bruins’ playoff punching bag, and for good reason, but the Hurricanes are dangerously close to taking that torch. In fairness, in the 2019 and 2020 installments of the rivalry, Boston was clearly the better team. A lot has changed on both sides over the last two years.
Boston got older in a bad way, while the Canes got older in a good way. While the Bruins lost core members like Tuuka Rask and David Krejci, the Hurricanes’ young core has continued to become more mature and experienced.
There are no excuses this year, the Carolina Hurricanes have to beat the ghost that has haunted them 2 out of their last 3 playoff runs. This may sound dramatic, but it’s true. If the Hurricanes want to truly prove themselves as a Stanley Cup favorite, they need to prove that by winning this series and finally finding a way to beat Boston.
The best way to do that? Play like they did in the season series against the Bruins. The Hurricanes were absolutely dominant, outscoring Boston 16-1 in 3 games. The two games at TD Garden were especially lopsided as the Canes managed to score 13 times while only giving up 1.
Since then, the Bruins have looked much better. Since the all-star break, the Bruins have a record of 24-11-2, good for sixth-best in the league over that time. A big reason for that is the lineup getting healthier and former Cane Erik Haula emerging as their second-line center. In that same span, he has 13 goals and 15 assists, good for 28 points in 37 games. Much better than 16 points in the first 40 games of the season.
It’s worth pointing out that those dominating wins will likely be used as some sort of motivation for Boston. Nobody likes losing like that, especially on home ice while they’re honoring a franchise legend. We will likely see the social media feud between Brad Marchand and Vincent Trocheck play out more.
Another source of motivation will be Patrice Bergeron’s status as a pending UFA. There is a chance this is the last dance with this version of the core. The Hurricanes will have their hands full trying to contain Brad Marchand and Charlie McAvoy as well, both of which played huge roles in eliminating the 2019 and 2020 versions of the Hurricanes.
The pressure is on, and it’s do-or-die for these Hurricanes. This is statistically the best team in franchise history, passing the previous marks of 52 wins and 112 points. The Metropolitan Division Champions are gearing up for another run at the Stanley Cup, and have to learn to beat teams that have previously bested them.
I cannot think of a more disappointing result than losing in the first round to this Bruins team yet again. We all believe that this team is special, and they have a chance to really back it up in the first round. The road to the Cup starts by going through Boston, and I personally cannot wait to see them finally get over this roadblock.