The Wraparound: Hurricanes have tough task ahead
The Wraparound is your daily look at the 2021 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs. We’ll break down the NHL playoff games today with the all-important television and live streaming information included.
• The Canadiens forced Game 7 and Bruins opened a 1-0 series lead in the Second Round on Saturday night.
• Carolina and Tampa Bay open their series in Raleigh, while the Avalanche and Golden Knights play Game 1 in Denver.
• Want to catch up on Saturday night’s playoff action? Check out the NHL Buzzer.
The Hurricanes were tested by the Predators, perhaps more than anyone expected. They took down the lower seed with an overtime win in Game 6, avoiding a chaotic Game 7 situation.
Tampa Bay is undoubtedly a tougher opponent. Despite being the lower seed against the Panthers, and the regular season matchup going Florida’s way, the Lightning were essentially favorites in that series.
It was competitive, but the Lightning were clearly the better team. With Nikita Kucherov back in the fold, they looked like the defending Stanley Cup champions they are.
Plenty of people want to project the Hurricanes as the next up-and-coming power in the league. They have all the pieces; a strong offense, elite blue line, and capable goaltending.
Even while elements of their game weren’t their sharpest during the first half of the series with Nashville -- defensive issues, power play struggles -- the Hurricanes were still mostly in control. Against the Lightning, they can’t afford such flaws.
The return of Jaccob Slavin in Game 5 was significant for the Canes. Dougie Hamilton started playing really well. Martin Necas broke out, Jordan Staal did everything he had to do.
Predators goalie Juuse Saros played really well, but his star is still dwarfed by Tampa Bay goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy. He’ll be a challenge on his own, even for a beyond competent Hurricanes club.
If the Hurricanes have truly arrived and are a Stanley Cup contender right now, there’s no better test than the Lightning. They’re proven, have no obvious flaws, and are better -- and more equipped -- than in the regular season.
It could be the best series of the playoffs. Whoever moves on is going to be challenged. For the Lightning, it would be another difficult series win after dealing with a good Florida team. For Carolina, it would be almost a passing of the torch to the next terrifyingly capable team.
Carolina can’t afford a slow start. That burned Florida, even when Spencer Knight took over in net and the rest of their game picked up, that 2-0 hole was insurmountable. To beat the Lightning, they need to learn from the Panthers mistakes, and their own that led Nashville to stay alive for so long in their First Round series as well.
SUNDAY’S NHL PLAYOFF SCHEDULE
MONDAY’S NHL PLAYOFF SCHEDULE