Here we are the fifth and final installment of the potential first-round matchup series. Here are Parts 1, 2, 3 and 4. Today I am going to be looking at a possible first-round matchup against the Carolina Hurricanes. A rematch of last year's Eastern Conference finals which the Bruins won in four games could happen in the first round this year. The Bruins currently sit as the favorites to win the favorites to win the Stanley Cup, still in control of the President's trophy race with the most points in the league. Carolina currently sits in the top wild-card spot with a 38-25-5 record good for 81 points. With the season still suspended and no clear plan for how to resume the regular season, or what the playoff format could look like, really anything is possible at this point. That anything also includes the NHL finishing the season and the Hurricanes securing the second wild-card spot to face us in the first round.
The Hurricanes have tons of talent throughout their forward group. The stars of that group are Sebastian Aho, Teuvo Teravainen and Andrei Svechnikov, all of whom have over 60 points on the season. Svechnikov has been a breakout star so far this season, with 24 goals and 61 points in 68 games. After a decent rookie year that saw him score 20 goals and 37 points he has blown those numbers away, proving why he was the number two overall pick in the 2018 draft. Aho continues his rise as one of the top young stars in the league, with another almost point per game season so far.
When we take a look at the depth of the Hurricanes it's highlighted by some players who weren't a part of last year's series. Rookie Martin Necas and deadline addition Vincent Trocheck are key parts of the Canes secondary scoring. Along with players like Warren Foegele, Jordan Stall and Justin Williams they have a very dangerous mix of experience and skill. This is very close but I still give the advantage to the Bruins. With the Bruins top tier talent and some deadline moves to help their depth they still have the edge.
The Hurricanes have a very talented defensive group that could give our offense problems. An already solid group got even better with the deadline additions of Brady Skjei and Sami Vatanen. Thanks to the season pause Dougie Hamilton will be able to return from the injury that has cost him almost half of his career year. With Jaccob Slavin, Joel Edmundson, and Jake Gardiner this group has a good mix of offensive skill and shut down ability. However, the loss of Brett Pesce will be felt. This one is too close to call, so it's going to have to be a tie. While I like the Bruins top options more, Carolina’s depth is more proven. Lauzon, Grzelcyk, and Cliffton have done well, but they are not quite at the level of the depth defensemen of the Hurricanes.
Finally we move to the goalies. Petr Mrazek has been the number one for most of Carolina’s season with a 21-16-2 record a 2.69 goals against and a .905 save percentage. The growth Carolina was hoping for has not happened, and while Mrazek has been a decent starting option there is significant room for improvement. James Reimer has been slightly better, going 14-6-2 with a 2.66 goals against and a .914 save percentage. While his numbers are better he hasn’t been able to take control of the starting job. If Mrazek struggles in the playoffs a quick switch could be made. Both goalies have had strong stretches of play, but inconsistency has been an issue all year. This was a big reason many thought Carolina would add a goalie at the deadline. This one is an easy call in favor of the Bruins. Rask is still a top goalie in the league, and if we were forced to go with Halak I would still give the Bruins the advantage.
As we all know goaltending is a huge part of being successful in the playoffs. Carolina’s shortcomings make me believe this series won't go more than five games, and could even be a repeat of last year's sweep. The Hurricanes have a bright future ahead of them with several young stars, but until they can get a real franchise goalie it's going to be a tough road to make any noise in the playoffs. Hopefully the NHL can find a way to finish the regular season, because these two teams were scheduled to face each other twice in the final three games. The only meeting so far was a 2-0 win for the Bruins way back on December 3rd.
I hope you all enjoyed this first-round matchup series, and now it's up to the NHL to figure out how they are going to determine who we play in the first round. Keep checking back for any news updates on when sports could be back, and feel free to check out all of our team pages to fill the void until then.
Featured image courtesy of epoole88.tumblr.com.