2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs: Five reasons the Carolina Hurricanes were swept away
Written by Gobi Moore on May 17, 2019
By Pete Blackburn
The Carolina Hurricanes are out.
The Hurricanes became the Cinderella story of the Eastern Conference during these playoffs, but the clock struck midnight on the Canes in the Eastern Conference Final. Carolina was swiftly swept by the Boston Bruins, and it wasn’t particularly close either.
After entering the playoffs as a seven-seed and making the postseason for the first time in 10 years, there’s plenty for the Hurricanes to feel good about. They knocked out the reigning champs in the Washington Capitals and then swept the New York Islanders. But where did things go wrong against the Bruins?
Let’s take a look at why the Jerks looked like junk.
The Bruins holding a special teams advantage in this series was entirely predictable based on what we’d seen coming into the ECF. Boston had the top power play conversion rate of the remaining teams heading into the third round while Carolina had struggled mightily on the man-advantage for long stretches.
As it turns out, that advantage was even more lopsided than expected.
Boston scored on the power play at least once in every game of this series, going 7-for-15. Those goals often came in big spots, too. In Game 1, the Hurricanes took a 2-1 lead into the third period before the Bruins scored back-to-back power play goals to take a lead that they never relinquished. In Game 3, Brad Marchand’s game-winning goal came on the power play. In Game 4, the Bruins and Canes were locked in a scoreless tie for most of the first 25 minutes until the B’s scored back-to-back goals on the PP in the second period.
As for the Hurricanes’ power play? Just 1-for-14, and at points it looked even worse than those numbers would indicate.
Tuukka Rask came into this series as the hottest goalie in the playoffs, and he exits possibly even hotter than he entered.
Rask stopped 109 of 114 shots he faced in this series, good for a .956 save percentage. That brings his postseason save percentage up to .942, tops among any goaltender this postseason. Rask was particularly great in Game 1, when he limited the damage that Carolina was able to inflict until the Bruins’ offense came alive in the third period. Then in Game 3 he stopped 35 of 36 in a 2-1 win.
On the other side, goaltending wasn’t a strength of the Hurricanes. Petr Mrazek, who was injured during the second round, looked shaky to start the series after a long layoff. He gave up eight goals through the first two games (42-for-50, .808 save percentage) before being replaced in net by Curtis McElhinney, who fared better over the next two (48-for-53, .905 save percentage) but couldn’t nearly match Rask’s dominance.
The Bruins’ depth
The Bruins’ top line gets all the headlines and glory (we’ll talk about them in a bit) but Boston has received significant depth contributions throughout the playoffs. Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak didn’t account for a single even-strength goal in the first three games of the series, but it didn’t really matter — the bottom-half of the roster picked them up offensively.
Through those first three games, the Bruins got 10 goals from guys who typically serve in a bottom-six or third-pairing role. That includes two goals apiece from Matt Grzelcyk and Chris Wagner, as well as tallies from Marcus Johansson, Charlie Coyle, David Backes and Danton Heinen. Replacement-level defenseman Connor Cliftonscored his first-ever NHL goal, and Steven Kampfer scored a goal in the only game he played while filling in for a suspended Charlie McAvoy.
Coyle and Johansson were acquired at the deadline to help bolster this team’s depth up front and they’ve proven to be tremendous additions.
Meanwhile, Greg McKegg, who scored in Game 1, was the only Carolina forward outside of the top six able to get on the board.
Hurricanes’ front six got shut down
It was a tough offensive series for the Hurricanes on the whole and the great play of Rask in net certainly didn’t do them any favors. But the Canes’ top stars up front were almost completely neutralized by Boston’s defensive pressure.
Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen came into the series red hot and were the biggest forward headliners for Carolina, but Boston’s shutdown guys limited the Canes to a pretty stunning extent. Aho and Teravainen had just one goal apiece, with Aho’s coming on the power play.
While the lack of offensive production from the Bruins’ top line was picked up by the guys behind them, the Canes got next-to-nothing in relief. Justin Williams was the only forward other than McKegg to score behind the top line and he had a rather rough series. When the Canes’ captain and elder statesman wasn’t in the penalty box (10 PIM in four games) he was busy describing, in entirely too much detail, exactly what eating a “poop sandwich” tasted like.
Failure to adjust
Watching the Hurricanes’ offense try to get anything going in this series was often like watching someone repeatedly bang their head against a brick wall hoping the wall would eventually crack before their skull did. Spoiler alert: The wall did not crack.
The Canes’ offensive strategy of throwing pucks on net from the point and hoping to cash in on rebounds didn’t work like they had hoped it would. Rask was just too good with rebound control and the Bruins limited the opportunities around him. When all was said and done, the Canes only got a single goal between the circles at 5-on-5.
Rod Brind’Amour and the coaching staff failed to adjust on the fly and counter the Bruins’ stingy presence in their own end. Things looked particularly dire for the Canes’ attack in the finale, when the Canes could barely make it through the neutral zone and failed to get almost any high quality chances on Rask.