The Carolina Hurricanes were the favourites in the quarter-finals of the Stanley Cup playoffs where they faced off against the New York Rangers. However, due to holes in the team’s powerplay and spotty performances, the Hurricanes playoff run came to an end in game seven, and will now be looking towards the off-season and how they might strengthen their lines in the draft and free agency. As well, this off-season should see some training camp growth that could see a few rookie players enter the Hurricanes lineup on opening day or in pre-season matchups.
Hurricanes Playoff Round One and Two Recap
In the first round of the playoffs, the Hurricanes faced off against the Boston Bruins, who were definitely tough competition for the team. The Hurricanes and Bruins went through a full seven-game series that saw the two go back and forth between a lead for the Hurricanes and level throughout the series. During these games, the standout performers were Jeremy Swayman and David Pastrnak from the Bruins, and rookie Seth Jarvis and Max Domi for the Hurricanes. The Hurricanes managed a game seven victory despite missing regular starter Frederik Andersen due to injury.
In the second round, the Hurricanes and Rangers faced off, and it was a strong showing of goaltending for the Rangers as Igor Shesterkin backstopped the series and saw the Rangers move on. The series started much like the one from the first round, with the Hurricanes going up by two wins, followed by the Rangers coming back and tying the series, and a battle to game seven where all bets were off about who would win. Each time the Hurricanes won, they only managed a two-goal margin, whereas the Rangers managed to win multiple games by three or more goals. The key players for the Rangers were the aforementioned Igor Shesterkin, and former Norris Trophy winner Adam Fox, for the Hurricanes’ the key players were Sebastian Aho, and surprise performer Brendan Smith.
The Hurricanes’ playoff performance suggests issues with goaltending depth, as Antti Raanta was called on to start almost every game to the point of facing an injury himself. For a veteran goalie such as Raanta to be called on that often is irregular. Regular starter Andersen was strong during the regular season, however, has proven to be largely injury-prone, especially when coming to the end of a season where he has played a majority of games. To help resolve this issue, the Hurricanes could look toward the free agency market where there are some quality players up for grabs, ranging from Ville Husso to Braden Holtby, with Malcolm Subban, Jack Campbell, Marc-Andre Fleury, and Eric Comrie all being currently available.
While the Hurricanes have had a great defensive performance, including the surprising performances of Ian Cole and Brendan Smith, there is the potential to bolster their defence in the offseason, making it so the team could be more comfortable rolling three lines, as well as accommodating how they are seemingly uncomfortable playing Ethan Bear on a regular basis. Potential signings could include picking up Sebastian Aho from the New York Islanders, as well as Nikita Zadorov, Ryan Murray, Jack Johnson, or even Kris Letang. Alternatively, the Hurricanes could start playing Bear in order to make use of their current defensive talents more effectively.
In terms of forwards, the Hurricanes really won’t be looking to change much, only possibly implementing a couple of the rookies with likely candidates being Ryan Suzuki or Ville Koivunen, who have both looked strong in their development and could aim to break into the Hurricanes lines on opening day.
Overall, the Hurricanes could make some interesting moves in the offseason to maintain their cup contender status going into the 2022-23 season, especially after making a shocking exit in the quarter-finals during this year’s Stanley Cup playoffs. Only time will tell how the Hurricanes will shape up in the coming season, but one thing is for sure, the Hurricanes are looking to be serious cup contenders for years to come.
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