Carolina vs. Boston…here we go again. Last spring, the Carolina Hurricanes campaign came to an end when they were swept (4-0) at the hands of the Boston Bruins in the Eastern Conference Finals. Fast-forward 15 months and the two teams are scheduled to lock horns, once again, in the first round of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs in what promises to be a scintillating encounter. So just what can we expect this time around between two evenly-matched, well-coached teams? Let’s read on and find out.
Behind the Bench:
Bruce Cassidy, Boston Bruins
For the second time during his tenure as Bruins coach, Cassidy has been nominated for the Jack Adams Award as coach of the year. The 2019/20 pandemic-shortened campaign saw the Bruins win the Presidents’ Trophy amassing 100 points to go along with a 44-14-12 record through 70 games. This was quite the impressive season, wouldn’t you say?
Throughout his time in Boston, Cassidy has been praised for his ability to push “all the right buttons at the right time”, and for his propensity to play long, dominant stretches of hockey. Last year, he and the Bruins came to within a game of hoisting Lord Stanley’s mug, losing to the eventual winners, St. Louis Blues in heart-wrenching fashion. Cassidy’s style revolves around effective communication, who can beat the opposition with speed, skill, physicality, and smarts. He and the Bruins will certainly be looking for redemption this time around.
Rod Brind’Amour, Carolina Hurricanes
Rod Brind’Amour has been an absolute revelation for the Hurricanes. Last season, in his first as head coach, he guided the young Hurricanes to the Eastern Conference Finals. This year, after making quick work of the New York Rangers, the Canes find themselves in the thick of the playoff picture once again.
As a coach, Brind’Amour is a defensive mastermind who’s adapted a strong, aggressive, and in your face style-of-play. His teams are hard-working, disciplined, and actually enjoy playing defense. Players would go through a wall for Brind’Amour and are truly buying into his system, which is excellent news for Canes fans. The ongoing chess match between Cassidy and Brind’Amour is certainly something to keep your eye as a major focal point in this series.
The Bruins enter this series owning one of the most potent offenses in the National Hockey League led in large part by their top line of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, and David Pastrnak. In addition, the B’s also have players such as Jake DeBrusk, Charlie Coyle, Sean Kuraly, and Ondrej Kase who will be relied upon for secondary scoring throughout the postseason. The Bruins are one of those teams who can score goals almost at will, and they have the depth to keep them in games and progress from one series o the next. They also receive tons of offense from their blue-line primarily in the form of Torey Krug and Charlie McAvoy. It’s all systems go in Beantown when it comes to offensive punch and fortitude.
In Carolina, the Hurricanes are seeing one of their very own blossom into a bonafide superstar right before their very eyes.
That superstar is Finnish-born centerman, Sebastian Aho. After tallying 38 goals during the regular season, Aho scored three goals and eight points during the Canes’ three-game sweep of the Rangers during the play-in round. Aho’s partner in crime? None other than Russian-born winger, Andrei Svechnikov who has also taken his game to new heights this season. The Canes will rely heavily on their incredible duo along with Jordan Staal and company all series long if they are to prevail at the B’s.
Although the Bruins have a formidable blue-line that’s more than capable of dominating and taking over a series, the proverbial “edge” on defense goes to the Hurricanes. Led by Jaccob Savin, who’s widely regarded as one of the most underrated defensemen in the NHL, the Canes have a long list of players on defense each capable of stepping into the lineup and slowing down the opposition. The Canes d-core is quick, intelligent, offensive-minded, hard-working, and an absolute handful for oncoming forwards.
The “bread and butter” of the Canes revolves around their defensive play which was on full display as they shut down Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibanejed during the qualification round. Look for the Canes defense core to play a major factor as this series progresses.
Throughout the course of NHL history, goaltending has always remained a key factor in any playoff series. I do not expect any of that to change when the puck drops between the Bruins and Hurricanes.
Rask has once again enjoyed yet another excellent campaign with 41 wins, a 2.12 goals-against-average, and a .929 save percentage, which is simply remarkable to say the least. He’s experienced, well-rested, not afraid of the spotlight, and will be raring to go when the puck drops this evening. As always, Rask will once again be relied upon to carry the load in the playoffs backstopping the killer B’s.
After winning the President’s Trophy, the Bruins have stumbled out of the gate and look anything but the juggernaut team they were considered earlier in the season. With that being said, they’re still a very well-balanced team with the ability to break a game wide open in the blink of an eye. However, if my vote counts for anything, I’m taking the Hurricanes in 6 games. This decision comes in large part to the Canes’ defensive acumen, growth as a team, and the dynamic 1-2 punch of Aho and Svechnikov. Time will tell if my prediction olds firm. In the meantime, have at it, hockey fans!
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