A very intriguing 2018-19 NHL season has drawn to a close, and the Stanley Cup Playoff frenzy has begun. This series sees the Carolina Hurricanes vs Washington Capitals. The Hurricanes are making their first appearance in the postseason since 2009. While it’s not a complete shock to see them here, very few had the Hurricanes as a playoff lock last October. Sebastian Aho, Teuvo Teravainen, and Nino Niederreiter had other plans.
The obvious mission for the Capitals here is to follow in the Pittsburgh Penguins‘ footsteps and repeat as Stanley Cup Champions. Their superstar power from last season remains, including another 50-goal campaign from Alex Ovechkin. This season has seen them repeat as Metropolitan Division Champions with a record of 48-26-8 and 104 points.
While the Capitals certainly look like the stronger and more experienced team on paper, Carolina is playing with an energy and personality that hasn’t been seen in recent years. Aho has developed into a true No. 1 center and Niederreiter has provided sizzling production since his trade from the Minnesota Wild.
Here are some things to look for in this matchup.
Carolina Hurricanes Vs Washington Capitals
Will the Hurricanes’ Surge Continue?
Since February 15, the Hurricanes went 14-7-4, good enough for 2nd in the Metro over that time frame. They’ve been consistent at home all season (24-13-4), supplemented by their viral Storm Surge celebrations. While trivial, they’ve been representative of the chemistry building with this team. Many teams would only be so lucky to have a character like Justin Williams as their captain, as he’s helped make hockey in Carolina to once again be a fun experience for both players and fans.
While Carolina is rolling in with momentum, Washington has certainly found their game recently as well. They are looking much more like the 2018 Stanley Cup winning version of the team, and will definitely be a tough first step should the Hurricanes look to make a Cinderella run.
So while Washington is certainly the loaded favourite, this series feels like it will be evenly matched.
While Rod Brind’Amour is in his first year as coach for Carolina, he was on the team the last time the Stanley Cup came to Raleigh in 2006. While not many players on the Hurricanes have playoff experience (aside from “Mr. Game 7” Justin Williams), Brind’Amour could be a huge experience factor in this series.
As mentioned earlier, Carolina hasn’t made the playoffs since 2009. There isn’t exactly a playoff culture developed in that locker room, and Williams will be the lone player with significant experience (aside from maybe Niederreiter and Jordan Staal). Washington, however, has many players that just won the grand prize.
Washington definitely takes the cake in terms of this intangible.
The Hurricanes, aside from Calvin de Haan, are fully intact heading into the playoffs. Staal has fully recovered from his previous injuries this year and is playing at 100%. de Haan is now day-to-day with a wrist injury and it is unknown if he will suit up for Game 1.
The Capitals are mostly healthy heading into the postseason as well. However, one cog from last year’s run, Michal Kempny, is out for the rest of the campaign with a torn hamstring. His solid, two-way presence on the back-end will be sorely missed.
On both ends, their star power is healthy and ready to go. No team appears to really be set back by injuries heading into the series.
Washington is a team that knows how to win and has the depth this year to do so. They are also a team that is notoriously known for their slow starts in the playoffs. Being down to Columbus 2-0 last year and getting off to a rocky start against Toronto two years ago doesn’t instill confidence. Carolina is a team that could capitalize on Washington’s early mistakes and make them pay.
The last two times Carolina has made it into the postseason, they have made it into at least the 3rd round. Carolina is rolling now, and should the Capitals give them any momentum, it will be very hard to get back into the series.
So, Carolina Hurricanes vs Washington Capitals? Carolina in 6 games.