As it became clear that few, if any, titans of the of the NHL's regular season would advance past the first round, a vision appeared. It was of Boston in the springtime getting ready to hate opposing hockey teams and their fans, except it would deviate from the list of usual suspects.
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Columbus. Carolina. Amazing.
Unless you watch as much hockey as your cable package allows, you likely didn't see a ton of the Hurricanes in the regular season outside of their elaborate postgame celebrations. With the Celtics in the playoffs as well, you might not have been able to catch the Canes on Bruins off-nights, either. So here's a cheat sheet to catch you up to speed.
THE QUICK NUMBERS
Carolina finished fourth in the Metropolitan Division to earn the first Wild Card and played through the Metropolitan bracket.
Regular season goals/game: 2.96 (16th)
Regular season goals against/game: 2.70 (7th)
Regular season PP: 17.8 (20th)
Regular season PK: 81.6 (8th)
Postseason goals/game: 3.09 (2nd; Bruins 3rd at 3.08)
Postseason goals against/game: 2.27 (2nd; Bruins 1st at 2.15)
SO FAR THIS POSTSEASON: TWO UPSETS, A HURT GOALIE AND A SWEEP
The Hurricanes gutted out a seven-game series against the defending Cup champion Capitals and swept the Islanders despite losing starting goalie Petr Mrazek in Game 2. Mrazek is day-to-day, while Curtis McElhinney has allowed four goals over his two-plus games.
ROOKIE COACH, YOUNG TEAM
Rod Brind'Amour, who won the Cup as Hurricanes captain in 2006 and is handsome, is in his first year as Hurricanes coach. He has them in the postseason for the first time since the Hurricanes bounced the Bruins in the second round in 2009.
This has been called a "fun" team because of the amazing celebrations that have infuriated old people. It's also because there's a ton of youth on this team. Thirty-goal scorer Sebastian Aho, who centers Carolina's top line, is just 21. Teuvo Teravainen, who leads the team with six postseason goals, is 24.
Two of the team's top defenders, Jaccob Slavin and Dougie Hamilton (!) are 25. Andrei Svechnikov, chosen second overall last summer, is [extreme my own voice] only 19.
According to rosterresource.com, the Hurricanes had the fifth-youngest roster this season with an average age of 26.6. For comparison, the Bruins ranked 26th with an average age of 28.8. That, of course, is thrown off by 61-year-old legend Zdeno Chara.
The Bruins got through one good defensive team and will now see another. Hamilton's gifts were evident in his three seasons in Boston, and he was added last offseason to a group that already included Justin Faulk (an All-Star in 2014-15), Slavin (one of the better young defensemen in the league) and UNH product Brett Pesce. Slavin leads all Eastern Conference players this postseason with 11 assists. He and Erik Karlsson (12) are the only players to hit double digits in helpers.
Carolina's defensive pairings are more fluid than Boston's set-it-and-forget-it top four of Chara-McAvoy/Krug-Carlo. Slavin leads the top pair. He's usually with Hamilton, but Brind'Amour has moved Pesce up from the second pair of late. When that happens, Calvin de Haan moves up to the second pair to play with Justin Faulk, while Hamilton drops to the third pairing with Haydn Fleury. That means that at all times in five-on-five play, the Hurricanes can have one of Slavin, Hamilton and Faulk on the ice. That's (can't swear) freaking sick.
IT AIN'T THAT DEEP
The adage of needing your best players to be your best players in the postseason has held true for Carolina thus far. Their best forwards have been very good. Right now their first line is Aho between Warren Foegele and Justin Williams. Jordan Staal centers Teravainen and a rejuvenated Nino Niederreiter. Svechnikov, who scored 20 goals this season, got knocked out by Alex Ovechkin in a fight in Game 3 of the first round, but returned from his concussion for Games 3 and 4 of the second round.
Carolina will get Micheal Ferland back this round, but Boston should still be deeper and better offensively. Carolina had three 50-point players this regular season in Aho, Teravainen and Williams, though Niederreiter had 30 points in 36 games after being acquired in a January trade for Victor Rask. Boston had five players with 50 points, including four with 70 and one with 100.
Yet Staal has been something of a revelation for the Hurricanes this postseason. Staal, who is in Year 6 of a 10-year, $60 million contract and has not reached 50 points in any of his six seasons in Carolina, is tied for the team lead among forwards in points this postseason.
Aho, Teravainen and Foegele all have nine points in 11 games. Williams has three goals and three assists. Niederreiter (four points in 11 games) has been kind of quiet.
THEY ARE A TEAM OF DESTINY
Thank you to Sara Civian of The Athletic for answering my questions as I wrote this. Read her stuff and follow her at @SaraCivian.
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