And then there were 4….
The conference finals begin tonight with the Florida Panthers traveling to the Carolinas to face off against the Hurricanes.
Toughest test yet
The Carolina Hurricanes are Stanley Cup favorites as we get started with the conference final matchups. Even with the injuries this team has suffered they have found a way. They knocked off the Isles and the young Devils to get here and look to continue their run tonight. However, the Panthers have been hot as well and even though they were not ranked as high as other teams, they have shown to be fierce underdogs in this year’s Stanley Cup playoffs. Shocking the world and knocking off arguably the greatest team of all time in the Boston Bruins was just the appetizer. They then went on to crush Toronto’s hopes in the 2nd round via an electric OT series winning goal. The Leaf’s, which Matthew Tkachuk labeled the 2nd best team in the NHL, went rather quietly into the night. The Carolina Hurricanes are not the Leafs. This matchup has all the makings of a hard fought, grueling series.
The Storm is only getting stronger
The Hurricanes are getting reinforcements in the form of Teuvo Teräväinen to add to already very solid top 3 lines. Teuvo join his team for game 1 of the ECF tonight after suffering a hand injury. This is great news for the canes and even better news for Sebastian Aho. Aho has been the Canes best skater this post season. The electric forward has 5 goals and 10 points, leading his squad to the ECF. Now, Aho gets more help and maybe will see more open ice for himself as teams now have to contend with Teuvo.
Looking at the defensive side of the ice, how about Jacob Slavin and Brent Burns? Burns has been a key addition, averaging almost 24 min of ice time per game and boasts a plus 8 while Slavin holds a PLUS 14! as a defensemen, leading the Canes. Defense wins chips and if the Canes continue to get this kind of performance from these guys, then it may be long night tonight for the Cat’s offense. Not to mention who’s going to be in net for this series.
Frederick Andersen has been dominant:
5 wins, no losses, 1.80 GAA….STUD
It all starts with goaltending. Thats what will lead any team to the promise land and the Canes have a good one in Andersen.
Time to Hunt
The Florida Panthers everyone. There was a time in which the Panthers may have actually missed out on the playoffs. Now they are competing for a chance to go to the Stanley Cup. Beating the Bruins shocked the entire NHL community. The greatest season of all time came to an end in the first round at the hands of the unlikely Panthers. Then the Leafs, who were riding high, finally escaping the dreaded first round, were stopped in their tracks by the Cats. Players like Matthew Tkachuk are to blame. This guy is a star, he leads the Cats in points this playoffs with 16: 11 assists 5 goals. He has not only provided offensive power to his team but was never afraid to get into it with the opposing squad. He’s a a modern day enforcer in a way. A guy that can score goals and drop the gloves. Look for him to make his presence known quick this series. Then you have the defensemen Brandon Montour, or should we say the offenseman? Montour leads the team in goals with 6 and has averaged almost 26 min of ice time per game. Getting this kind of offense from your defense is such a huge boost. And for the underdog Panthers, its been invaluable.
The Canes defeated Ilya Sorokin in round 1 of the playoffs and now have to contend with a goalie who has been red hot, the former Flyer ( I know, I’m mad too) Sergei Bobrovsky. Bob has 10 game this post season under his belt and has gone 7-2 with a 2.82 GAA. He’s been the rock for the Panthers and has provided steady and often times stellar goaltending. This may be his toughest test yet with Carolina but if he can continue his strong performance this post season, the Cats will surely have a great chance to contend for the Cup.
The Hurricanes are clear favorites this series, with home ice advantage, and a better team overall. But when has that stopped the Panthers? They have already proven they don’t mind the underdog label and have shown it doesn’t matter who is at the other end of the ice. This series will be a great one, maybe the best yet. Playoffs are clearly a different animal, but looking at some trends, the Cats are 14-37-2 in their last 53 tilts in Carolina. Home ice has been very kind to the Canes in this matchup. More recently however the Panthers are 5-2 in their last 7 while playing in the Cane’s house though. Regardless of trends, its going be a tough matchup for both teams. Its been a fantastic post season so far and it will for sure continue to deliver.
Happy Hour Hockey’s Prediction:
Canes in 7
Thanks for reading, Go Flyers!