Hurricanes still No. 1 threat to Bruins after exciting NHL trade deadline originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
The 2023 NHL trade deadline was one of the most exciting in recent memory, and the Eastern Conference saw many of its top teams load up for the Stanley Cup Playoffs by making bold moves.
The New York Rangers acquired top-six forwards Vladimir Tarasenko and Patrick Kane. The New Jersey Devils acquired top-six forward Timo Meier. The New York Islanders brought in No. 1 center Bo Horvat. The Toronto Maple Leafs swung deals for top-six center Ryan O'Reilly, top-four defenseman Jake McCabe, and depth forwards Noel Acciari and Sam Lafferty, among other additions. The Tampa Bay Lightning bolstered their bottom-six by bringing in winger Tanner Jeannot. The league-leading Boston Bruins were aggressive, too, landing top-four defenseman Dmitry Orlov and forwards Tyler Bertuzzi and Garnet Hathaway.
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One team that was linked to some of the best players rumored to be available but didn't acquire any of them was the Carolina Hurricanes. The 'Canes did make a few trades, though. They acquired bottom-six forward Jesse Puljujarvi and third-pairing defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere.
2023 NHL trade deadline winners and losers
Despite the lack of major moves from the Hurricanes, they are still the No. 1 threat to the Bruins on the road to the Stanley Cup in the East. The Bruins are on pace to break the records for most points and wins by a team in regular season history, but the Hurricanes are quietly putting together an excellent campaign of their own. They lead the Metropolitan Division and completely embarrassed the Lightning 6-0 on Sunday.
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The Hurricanes do not fear the Bruins at all.
"I think the Hurricanes have built a team designed to beat the Boston Bruins," 98.5 The Sports Hub's Ty Anderson told NBC Sports Boston's Nick Goss in a post-trade deadline B's discussion. "When they're on their game, they are so relentless and persistent with their forecheck, really hemming you in your own zone. That will affect the Bruins' ability to have clean breakouts and have their D activate like they love to do this year.
"So I look at Carolina as a team that really worries me just because I think if they can get the Bruins out of their comfort zone. They could steal a game in the Garden, and we know how good the Hurricanes have been in their building. That's a series that, honestly, it might go how it went last year when the home team wins every game. But you have to worry about that team because if the 'Canes get going they're really tough to slow down. They can dominate the puck just as well as the Bruins do."
The Bruins did not have home ice advantage in their first-round series versus the Hurricanes in 2022. It cost the B's dearly. Carolina won every matchup at PNC Arena, including Game 7, to send Boston home early for the summer.
The Bruins' troubles in Carolina aren't confined to the 2022 playoffs, either. It's a trend that spans multiple seasons. The Hurricanes are 7-3, including the playoffs, in their last 10 home games against the Bruins. The B's have a six-game losing streak at PNC Arena, with their last victory coming in Game 4 of the 2019 Eastern Conference Final.
In addition to a clear edge on home ice, the Hurricanes are the toughest matchup for the Bruins simply because they're just a well-coached, gritty, experienced team with few weaknesses.
You could make a case that the Hurricanes are the best 5-on-5 team in the league. They are one of only two teams, along with the Bruins, that have allowed fewer than 100 goals during 5-on-5 action.
The Bruins' additions at the trade deadline definitely make them tougher to play against, especially versus teams like the Hurricanes.
Orlov is an excellent puck mover on the back end and someone capable of taking punishment from a hard forecheck and still making an accurate pass up ice. Bertuzzi and Hathaway annoy the crap out of opponents and still contribute offensively. All three of these guys can kill penalties and play against the opponents' most skilled players.
A healthy and thriving Hampus Lindholm, who missed most of the 2022 series against the 'Canes with an injury, is a difference maker for the Bruins, too.
Bruins' trades give them the toughness, tenacity needed for 2023 playoffs
The B's also will have home ice advantage over the Hurricanes and everyone else in the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Barring an epic collapse over the final 20 games, the B's will win the Presidents' Trophy. They have an 13-point lead over the 'Canes for the top seed as of Tuesday morning.
If the Bruins are close to full health, they will be favored to beat the Hurricanes in the Eastern Conference Final (the only possible round they could meet). Boston's improved depth, edge on special teams and goaltending advantage are all meaningful. But it would be a very tough series with almost no margin for error on either side.
The Eastern Conference playoffs will be an absolute grind with the potential for a couple awesome series. Bruins-Hurricanes, if it happens, could be an all-timer.