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Season preview: Carolina Hurricanes

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Season preview: Carolina Hurricanes

To get you ready for the 2015-16 season, we will be previewing all 30 NHL in 30 days, division by division. Check the bottom of the page for a schedule of each preview.

Today’s team: Carolina Hurricanes

2014-15 record: 30-41-11, 8th in the Metropolitan

How they finished: Did not make the playoffs

Coach: Bill Peters (2nd year)

Notable additions: G Eddie Lack, D James Wisniewski

Notable subtractions: D Brett Bellemore, RW Patrick Dwyer, RW Alexander Semin, G Anton Khudobin

RELATED: Las Vegas, Quebec City advance in NHL expansion process

Schedule against the Capitals: Sat. Oct. 17 at Washington, Mon. Dec. 21 at Carolina, Thu. Dec. 31 at Carolina, Tue. Mar. 15 at Washington

Outlook: The biggest issue for the Hurricanes last season was their offense as they ranked 27th in the NHL with only 183 goals for the season (2.23 goals per game). Alexander Semin was a huge disappoint and was ultimately bought out by the team. Other than that, Carolina made few moves to address the offense in the offseason other than bringing in James Wisniewski who should help on the power play. That means it falls to Jeff Skinner and Eric Staal to have bounce back years and Victor Rask and Elias Lindholm to continue improving.

Defensively, the Hurricanes may have both their 2015 and 2014 first-round draft picks on the ice. Carolina took Noah Hanifin with the fifth-overall pick in 2015 and considered to be the best defenseman in the draft. Both he and 2014 first-round pick Haydn Fleury will make a push for the NHL this season.

The intrigue doesn't stop at the blue line, however, as Eddie Lack will challenge long-time starter Cam Ward. With both goalies entering the final year of their contracts, they will be competing for more than just playing time.

Whatever the Hurricanes hope to accomplish this season, they will need a better start than they had last year. The season was over as quickly as it began as the Hurricanes failed to win a single game in October, going 0-6-2. It ultimately led to a coaching change as Kirk Muller was replaced by Bill Peters. I don't see the Hurricanes being so quick to oust Peters this season if things start slowly, but a winless month in the NHL does not leave a good impression with management.

Expectations: It's going to be a long year in Carolina. The Hurricanes did nothing to address their dreadful offense other than cross their fingers and hope the same players play better this season. Their best players are underachieving and over the hill, or very young and still developing. It is far more likely that Carolina ends up in the lottery than in the playoffs.

Though the team is going to be bad, they still should be fun to watch as there are a lot of young prospects that could find their way into the lineup once the Hurricanes throw in the towel and that won't take too long.

MORE CAPS: Red Wings to honor Fedorov in home game against Caps

See more team previews:

Pacific Division 
Anaheim Ducks 
Arizona Coyotes 
Calgary Flames 
Edmonton Oilers 
Los Angeles Kings
San Jose Sharks 
Vancouver Canucks

Central Division 
Chicago Blackhawks
Colorado Avalanche
Dallas Stars
Minnesota Wild
Nashville Predators
St. Louis Blues
Winnipeg Jets

Atlantic Division 
Boston Bruins
Buffalo Sabres
Detroit Red Wings
Florida Panthers
Montreal Canadiens
Ottawa Senators
Tampa Bay Lightning
Toronto Maple Leafs

Metropolitan Division 
Columbus Blue Jackets 8/24 
New Jersey Devils 8/25 
New York Islanders 8/26 
New York Rangers 8/27 
Philadelphia Flyers 8/28 
Pittsburgh Penguins 8/29 
Washington Capitals 8/30

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Alex Ovechkin scored the goal that sent the Capitals to the Stanley Cup Final

Alex Ovechkin scored the goal that sent the Capitals to the Stanley Cup Final

On June 4, 1998, Joe Juneau scored the biggest goal in the history of the Washington Capitals.

In Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Final, Joe Juneau attacked the crease and shot in a rebound past a helpless Dominik Hasek in overtime to defeat the Buffalo Sabres and win the Eastern Conference.

That goal sent the Capitals to its first and, before 2018, only Stanley Cup Final.

Alex Ovechkin’s name was already etched in the history books for the Capitals several times over, but on Wednesday he added it again with the biggest goal of his career. His goal in Game 7 stood as the game-winner meaning it was the goal that sent the Capitals to their second Cup Final.

You can watch it here:

It did not come in overtime and was not quite as dramatic as Juneau’s. In fact, no one knew the significance of the goal at the time. It came just 62 seconds into the contest. It was a significant goal, but no one realized right away that it would be an historic one.

How fitting is it that Ovechkin scored the game-winner? Ovechkin who this team was built around, who reignited the franchise and built Washington into a hockey city. After all the criticism over the years, all the talk about how he can’t win, all talk about how the team should take away the C and all the talk about how the Caps should trade him and start over, this goal was not just a moment of history, but one of vindication.

When we look back on Ovechkin’s career, at all the individual awards and accomplishments, this one single goal will stand above the rest. This was the biggest game of his career and he scored the biggest goal of his career just 62 seconds in.

There’s one way he can top that: lead the Caps past Vegas for their first Stanley Cup.

MORE CAPITALS STORIES:

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4 reasons the Caps beat the Lightning to win the Eastern Conference

4 reasons the Caps beat the Lightning to win the Eastern Conference

The Capitals dominated the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-0 in Game 7 on Wednesday to claim the conference crown and a spot in the Stanley Cup Final. Washington took an early lead and never looked back.

Here is how they bucked their Game 7 history to win.

62 seconds

The last time these two teams met in Tampa, the Lightning struck just 19 seconds into the game and it set the tone for the entire contest. This time, it was the Caps who struck early.

A big hit by Tom Wilson in the neutral zone created a turnover that started the rush for the Caps. Evgeny Kuznetsov fed Ovechkin for the one-timer and he fired it past Vasilevskiy just 62 seconds into the game.

Andre Burakovsky’s big night

Injury limited Burakovsky to just 56 games this season. He suffered another injury in Game 2 of the first round and did not return until Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final. He was a healthy scratch in Game 5 and was talking about talking to a sports psychologist over the summer. He had not recorded a point this postseason heading into Wednesday game.

And somehow, he rattled off two goals to lead the Capitals.

The start of the second period was all Tampa Bay. The Lightning were dictating the play and buzzing around Braden Holtby. They outshot the Caps 8-1 to start the frame, but Burakovsky got the momentum right back as he stole the puck away from Dan Girardi and fired a beautiful shot past Andrei Vasilevskiy. John Carlson sprung him on a breakaway later in the second period which he put through the five-hole of Vasilevskiy for his second goal of the game.

Braden Holtby is suddenly unbeatable

The last goal Holtby allowed was 33 seconds into the second period…of Game 5. After not recording a single shutout at all this season, he blanked the Lightning in both Game 6 and Game 7 for back-to-back shutouts.

The Lightning had their opportunities. They pushed and pushed hard all game long, especially in the second period as they recorded eight of the first nine shots on goal of the period.

It didn’t matter.

Holtby was up to the task as he dominated the Lightning yet again, even turning aside a breakaway from Alex Killorn to keep the clean sheet. He made 60 straight saves and did not allow a goal for 159:27. This is just the fifth time in NHL history a goalie recorded a shutout in both Game 6 and Game 7 of a playoff series.

Team defense

The Lightning had their chances, but they were frustrated all night long by the all-in defense the Caps played. As good as Holtby was, he let up a lot of juicy rebounds early on. But Tampa Bay could not get a stick to any of them because the Caps defense beat them to the puck all game long.

The Caps recorded 15 blocked shots in the game. Devante Smith-Pelly took a shot block off the back of the neck, T.J. Oshie took one off the boot.

This team was all-in all night long and it frustrated what was the league’s top offense.