Experience, Especially In Goal, Will Help Canes Against Devils

As William Faulkner wrote in Requiem For A Nun “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” The same is true of you, me, the Carolina Hurricanes, the New Jersey Devils, and the bard of Oxford, Mississippi. While New Jersey gave Carolina their $.2 worth during the regular season, and will again when the puck drops in Round 2, it will be playoff hockey experience, especially in goal, that will pay off big time for the home ice advantaged Canes.

Apr 25, 2023; Raleigh, North Carolina, USA; Carolina Hurricanes center Sebastian Aho (20) celebrates his goal with defenseman Brett Pesce (22) against the New York Islanders during the third period in game five of the first round of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs at PNC Arena. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

New Jersey is fast, young, and productive. Still the Devils just came off a 7 game series against a very tough and dirty New York Rangers team. Not only that, for 7 Devils that bruising experience was their first career Stanley Cup Playoffs series. Rookies Dawson Mercer, Michael McLeod, and Jack Hughes did make the best of their first time accounting for a combined 4 goals, but the rest of New Jersey’s rookies were relatively quiet.

The Sound and the Fury was a bestseller for Faulkner, but it can hardly be used to describe the rest of the New Jersey Devils when it comes to Stanley Cup playoff goal scoring. This can partially be chalked up to a lack of experience for the Devils, but only 66% of the team have ever lit the lamp in the post season. 9.5% of the team has double digit goal tallies in the playoffs.

New Jersey’s lack of playoff experience shows most between the goalposts. Akira Schmid and Vitek Vanecek have a combined 11 playoff appearances and just 5 wins. Schmid did shutout the Rangers twice in their Round 1 series, but in his other games he let in 7. Vanecek took two losses on 9 goals against New York, so if the Hurricanes can get to these young, inexperienced goalies early, it might be hard for the Devils to recover.

Yoknapatawpha County, would be the kind of place Brent Burns could build a farm. It was wild once and remained wild until the Compsons,  Sartoris family, de Spains, and the Griersons tamed the land at their own peril. But someone like Brent Burns, who played his 100th NHL playoff hockey game against the New York Islanders could tame it.

Apr 17, 2023; Raleigh, North Carolina, USA; Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Brent Burns (8) takes a shot against the New York Islanders during the third period in game one of the first round of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs at PNC Arena. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

And speaking of Burns, he leads a very Stanley Cup Playoffs experienced Carolina Hurricane team. One hundred percent of the Hurricanes on the roster that will hit the ice against the New Jersey Devils have playoff experience. But not just experience. They have lots of it. Where the Devils have an average of 28 postseason games (602 in total) the Hurricanes average 46, with a team total of 923. A full 83% of the Canes have double digit playoff games driving that point home even further.

Carolina not only has the experience edge over the Devils, but has the playoff production edge on them too. Max Lajoie, Jack Drury, and Jalen Chatfield are the Canes without a career goal in the “yoffs.” Everyone has put the biscuit in the basket at least once over their career. The team has a combined 143 goals in the playoffs and an average of an even 7 per player.

No more evident is the experience level than in goal for the Hurricanes. Antti Raanta has 23 appearances after regular season play with 9 wins, and he is Carolina’s least experienced goalie, though only by one game. Pyotr Kochetkov (owner of my favorite playoff moment thus far) has 24 games and 12 wins, but is of course eclipsed by Frederik Andersen. In 54 games, Andersen has 28 wins and 1,660 shots with a SV% .917. If there is anything that Freddie can do, it is put up a brick wall when it counts in the playoffs. Or at least he has for other teams.

If you have not, I would encourage you to read the analogous story “The Bear” by William Faulkner. It talks about the old south dying in the arms of a new, more modern south. It is a magnificent story, but has little to do with the Stanley Cup Playoff series between the New Jersey Devils and the Carolina Hurricanes. The Hurricanes have a veteran presences and (offensively productive) experience abounding where the Devils only have less experience as Postmaster of Oxford, Mississippi than postseason hockey.

Look for Carolina, with several extra days of rest, to get ahead of New Jersey’s young goaltenders early. Carolina saw Vitek Vanecek 3 times in the regular season, took him for 6 goals in total, and stole a win. Both Devils goalies are slightly better on the road, though playing on the road, in Raleigh, and in the playoffs is very different than starting against Anaheim on a Tuesday night. Getting a goal early in Game 1, and subsequent games, will rattle these inexperienced netminders. Then Carolina’s experience, and home ice advantage can work in their favor.

A goal or two from the Pesce/ Skjei line, can set the pace for the Hurricanes. The tandem was help scoreless against the Islanders, and change that can help put the Hurricanes on the offensive. Five scoreless games for Brad Skjei is one of the longer streaks for him this season, but it is possible he hits a seem and lights up.

Carolina has experience. That experience will be a much bigger advantage over the New Jersey Devils than the New York Rangers. If the Hurricanes can get an early goal in Game 1 it will likely rattle the young Devils goaltenders. When that happens, the Canes have a good chance to use their rest, and experience to their advantage. Winning a game or two early will put the Devils even further on their heels and make it more likely that Carolina’s experience in closing out big games comes into factor.