The Carolina Hurricanes fell short of the Stanley Cup aspirations, losing to the Florida Panthers in the Eastern Conference Finals by a sweep.
Rod Brind’Amour and his staff pride themselves on playing hockey the “right” way and they have been a force since Brind’Amour took over in 2018. A Jack Adams award in 2020, three division titles, and five playoff appearances speak for themselves.
The Hurricanes have the ability to play against many styles of play from their opponents and that is something very unique in the NHL.
The playoff opponents faced this spring certainly showed several styles of hockey in each round. The one problem is that other teams have been built to play a given style so well it is tough to defeat without elite scoring.
In the first round of the playoffs, the Canes matched up against the top Wild Card team the New York Islanders. The Islanders are not known for their high-scoring prowess but for a structured defensive game behind Ilya Sorokin.
The physicality from the Islanders was very noticeable early and it was a part of the game that the Canes were not comfortable playing. However, the Canes matched the physical play, and their edge in skill really came out.
The next round brought a much different style of play.
The New Jersey Devils brought a young, speedy, offensive-minded team to face the Canes. Not nearly as physical as the Islanders, the Devils brought a new challenge.
Carolina came out swinging and brought some of the grit learned in the prior series to this one while continuing to score goals.
Goaltending was extremely solid going against the scoring juggernaut of Jack Hughes and Jesper Bratt. The experience and poise were evident from Carolina in this round and they were able to quickly put the Devils to sleep.
Against the Florida Panthers, they ran into a hybrid version of the first two rounds of opponents. The Panthers played with grit but had a ton of skilled players to fill in the gaps with goals.
Ultimately the Hurricanes fell to a team on a heater and with a goaltender that was playing lights out. They were in every game and nothing more can be proof of this than losing by one goal in each match.
It was poor timing but the first two rounds were impressive and even points of the Florida series. This team is balanced but may be too balanced as odd as that sounds.
Like many other teams, the Hurricanes need to strengthen a weakness like goal-scoring and find cheaper options to fill in the depth.
The depth guys and “glue” guys can be found for a bargain and are sometimes easier to find at the trade deadline. Either way, the makeup of the team needs some shake to break through the playoff struggles.