Carolina gave it a good shot, but bade farewell to the 2018/19 Stanley Cup playoffs after being swept by the Boston Bruins in the Eastern Conference Final. The Hurricanes were basically reduced to nothing much stronger than a mild breeze by the time Boston had finished with them though as they were outscored by a combined score of 17-5 after losing 5-2, 6-2, 2-1 and 4-0.
The Hurricanes became the second team this season to sweep one series and then be swept themselves in the next set. The New York Islanders took the brooms to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round and were then ousted four straight by Carolina, who were in turn ejected by Boston in the minimum needed. The Bruins have now swept 15 best-of-seven playoff series in franchise history.
The Bruins captured the Prince of Wales Trophy with the triumph over Carolina but made a point of not touching it during the post-game celebration on the ice. They will now battle for the Stanley Cup for the third time in the last nine seasons and the 20th time overall. Boston’s record in cup finals isn’t really anything to write home about though since they’re just 6 for 19 for a 31.6 winning percentage. They last reached the final in 2012/13 and were jettisoned by the Chicago Blackhawks in six contests. Their last cup win came in 2010/11 when they edged the Vancouver Canucks in seven games, leading to riots in the Canadian city.
— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) May 17, 2019
The Hurricanes seemed to simply run out of gas against Boston and very rarely were able to sustain any pressure in the offensive zone throughout the series. They resembled a touring rock band which hit its peak two-thirds of the way through their jaunt and then couldn’t get it together or play in tune over the final leg of the journey. However, the Bruins played a big part in that by apparently unplugging their gear.
There were two main reasons for Boston’s sweep which were the power-play and the magnificence of goaltender Tuukka Rask. The Bruins went 7 for 15 with the man advantage in the series for a success rate of 46.7 per cent and struck like lightning, which was quick and often. They scored several goals within 30 seconds of their power-play as the Hurricanes just didn’t have an answer for it.
On the other side of the coin, Carolina went 1 for 14 with the man advantage after scoring on their first power-play of the series or you could say the Bruins went 13 for 14 on their penalty-killing duties for 92.9 per cent. Either way you look at it, the special teams were one of the reasons the Hurricanes were sent packing. In fact, their power-play for the entire playoffs was a dismal 9.6 per cent at 5 for 52.
As for Rask, he’s gone 12-5 in the postseason with a goals-against average of 1.84, a save percentage of 94.2 and a pair of shutouts. He’s stopped 95 of 96 shots in three series-clinching wins this year including the two shutouts. He allowed just five goals against in the Carolina series with a shutout and halted 109 of 114 shots in the series. Rask’s GAA against the Hurricanes was a stellar 1.25 with a 95.6 save percentage.
The Hurricanes entertained their fans during the postseason though, especially at home where they went 5-2. They made the playoffs in the last week of the season as the first wildcard team in the East and achieved quite a bit even though they were one of the league’s hottest teams since January 1st. They rose their momentum from the last few months of the season and managed to oust the reigning Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals in double overtime of game seven.
They kicked it into gear in the next series against the Islanders but stalled against the Bruins. And while Rask was red hot, the Hurricanes’ big guns fell silent. Teuvo Teravainen, Warren Foegele, Sebastian Aho, Jordan Staal and captain Justin Williams scored 22 goals between them against the Islanders and Capitals but managed to find the back of the net just three times against the Bruins with Teravainen, Williams and Aho notching one each.
Overall however, it was a successful season for the club and its fans as it was one of the youngest in the NHL with an average age of 26 and made the postseason for the first time since 2008/09. Don Waddell also received well-deserved plaudits as he was named one of three finalists as general manager of the year along with Doug Armstrong of the St. Louis Blues and the Bruins’ Don Sweeney.
The 60-year-old Waddell made several moves to improve his squad this season such as acquiring Micheal Ferland, Dougie Hamilton, Jordan Martinook and Nino Niederreiter in trades and signing free agent Calvin de Haan from the New York Islanders to a four-year deal worth $18.2 million. Although, Waddell has been in the GM’s seat for just over a year now nine of the Hurricanes’ 24 players in their playoff roster were acquired by him in one way or another. These were De Haan, Ferland, Hamilton, Martinook, Niederreiter, Saku Maenalanen, Andrei Svechnikov and goaltenders Curtis McElhinney and Petr Mrazek.
Waddell has a lot of work ahead of him this summer as the 38-year-old Williams is an unrestricted free agent and the team’s top scorer, the 21-year-old Aho is a restricted free agent. To add to the pressure for Waddell, Teravainen is also a restricted free agent. The latter two players could definitely help shape the team’s future if they’re signed to long-term deals while the jury’s still out on Williams due to his age. He proved he still has what it takes to play min the NHL but it’s unclear how much money Waddell will have left over to offer him.
As for the Bruins, they’re on a seven-game winning streak at the moment while outscoring the opposition 28-9. But the momentum they’ve built up will now come to a grinding halt as they await the winner of the Western Conference Final between the San Jose Sharks and St. Louis Blues. The Bruins will have home ice advantage regardless of who they play but they may face a lengthy layoff. The Sharks vs Blues series could go as long as May 23rd if seven games are needed, meaning the final series wouldn’t start until May 25th at the earliest.