This is being written on the Wednesday morning after the Carolina Hurricanes had their season ended at the hands of the New York Rangers. The initial feelings after the loss can be best described as frustration, anger, and disappointment that have subsided a little, but they are still there and will be there for the remainder of the offseason most likely.
Let me start this by saying that as bitter as the end to this season feels, it is a thousand times better than missing the playoffs for nine consecutive seasons. With that being said, this is without a doubt the most disappointing end to a playoff run since the team moved to Raleigh.
Yes, they have gone out in the first-round multiple times before but think back to those teams. Did any of them have a legitimate shot at the Stanley Cup? No, that is what makes this loss so much worse. Let’s break down this playoff run.
Beating Boston in the first round ultimately felt good but there was no reason for that series to go on as long as it did. The Hurricanes were in complete control after dominating games 1 and 2 but let the Bruins crawl back in it when the series went to Boston.
I honestly think if they were able to take at least one of those at TD Garden and end that series in 4 or 5 games, that mental block would not have carried over in this series. The Hurricanes played a nearly perfect game 7 against the Bs to eliminate them but ultimately that series should have never even made it to a game 7.
The Rangers series on the other hand was borderline embarrassing. Although yes they similarly took a 2-0 lead the way they went about getting that lead was not nearly as dominant. Antti Raanta is the only reason the team stayed in game 1 and a late goal by Sebastian Aho set up Ian Cole’s overtime goal which was easily the best moment of the series for Carolina.
Getting the 2-0 lead should have allowed the Canes to get a stranglehold on the series but the series completely flipped by the time we got to Madison Square Garden. In the three games on the road, the Canes were outright outplayed in every aspect, particularly special teams.
Which all led to a game 7 where the Hurricanes completely fell apart. It was arguably their worst performance of the season as there wasn’t a second of that game where it felt like they were in control. Goals by Vincent Trocheck and Max Domi didn’t mean much as the Canes saw their season go out with a whimper.
So, what went wrong? Why did the Hurricanes lose 4 of 5 against a team who is behind them in their development curve? How did such a strong team completely fall apart in the face of some adversity?
Starting with the obvious, the powerplay. For the last three runs, the powerplay has also been bad but somehow it looked even worse this time around. Not enough movement, poor decision-making, and just too much hesitancy to shoot the puck led to the powerplay being rotten.
The penalty kill was fine usually but seemed to fold in big moments, such as allowing two goals early in their game 7 against the Rangers. The penalty kill finished at 74% and the powerplay finished at an embarrassing 13%. Simply unacceptable considering the talent on both units.
The Rangers stars took over the series, and the Canes stars faltered. Zibanejad, Fox, Kreider, and Shesterkin were all game changers. Now let’s talk about what happened to the Canes stars. These are not meant to be slander or hit pieces, simply observations of what went wrong for players that we needed more out of.
Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen are both known as the Canes’ playoff performers and while neither were bad against New York, there is just a certain level you need your best players to hit in these situations. Aho had 3 assists in the final 5 games of the series, and Teuvo had just 2.
Andrei Svechnikov had just 1 assist in 7 games. Andrei has had an up and down season for the most part, but this is the lowest he has gotten all season. Not only was he not scoring, but every other game he seemed to take a boneheaded penalty or two. I don’t think this reflects his future whatsoever but it’s still very concerning to see a star go quiet like that.
Tony DeAngelo had his worst 7 game stretch as a Hurricane by far. He was a -6 in the series, had 0 even-strength points, and did nothing but make the Rangers mad which gave them fuel. He is partly to blame for the powerplay being so ineffective and was negative on both ends of the ice at even strength.
It would not be a big deal for a $1 million defenseman usually but considering who he was brought in to replace, yeah that is unacceptable. This series showed the truth, Tony is a great top 4 offensive defenseman, but he will never be the true number one that Dougie was.
The fourth line was bad, their only goal coming in garbage time if game 7. Although Smith and Cole both scored a big goal in the series, they seemed to do more harm than good, I think the lineup could have really benefited from sitting one of them for Ethan Bear.
The honeymoon phase is over, and this team is in their window. There were a lot of positives to this season, but the team must be better in the playoffs. Going 0-6 on the road and having the same special team woes is not acceptable.
Thank you Canes for a fun season that ended way too soon. We are in for an incredibly busy off-season, and I’m sure we’re all on the edge of our seat seeing how this front office can make this team better.