The Carolina Hurricanes are in it to win it. After losing in both Games One and Two by one-goal margins, they came out with an absolutely dominating performance in Game Three. Their first playoff game at home in ten years saw them blow the Washington Capitals out of the water. The Hurricanes pummeled Washington by a score of 5-0, out-shooting them by a whopping margin of 45-18. While Washington jumped out to a 2-0 series lead, the Hurricanes had a strong chance in both games. All it took was home ice to give Carolina the spark they needed to topple the Capitals.
After such a strong win in Game Three, it’s worth asking the question — is this newfound momentum enough for the Carolina Hurricanes youth and energy to pull off the upset?
Carolina Hurricanes’ Youth Giving the Capitals Trouble
It seems improbable, looking at some stat lines, that Carolina is competing in this series as they are. Teuvo Teravainen? One point in three games. Justin Williams? Ditto. Micheal Ferland? No points. Nino Niederreiter, who was so electric after Carolina traded for him? No points. Looking at this, one would expect that Washington would be up 3-0 in this series and well on their way to a sweep. Especially when you look at some Capitals players’ production. Evgeny Kuznetsov, John Carlson, and Alex Ovechkin are all at a point-per-game rate, at three points each. Nicklas Backstrom tops the Capitals with four points. So how is this series so close, and how was Washington blown out of the water in Game Three?
Hurricanes’ Defence Contributing
All of a sudden, the Dougie Hamilton trade doesn’t look so terrible for Carolina. He’s been their catalyst from the blue line, collecting two goals and two assists for four points in the series. Both goals came in Game Three. Jaccob Slavin matches Hamilton with four points, all assists. Justin Faulk is almost an afterthought with two points over three games, despite ranking second among Carolina defencemen with nine shots on goal (behind Hamilton’s 11).
As for Washington, the aforementioned Carlson has three points. Brooks Orpik is second among defencemen with two. Carolina’s back-end is getting through and causing the Capitals trouble by providing an offensive threat from all over the ice, while Washington’s forwards are getting very little offensive support from their own defence.
Carolina Beating Washington At Their Own Game
When people talk about how Washington scaled the mountain last year to finally win the Cup, they talk about the team’s great depth. An easy example is Andre Burakovsky‘s great Game Seven performance against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Stellar playoffs from Devante Smith-Pelly and Michal Kempny were also huge in their run. The same can’t be said for this year, though. As good as their stars have been, Washington isn’t getting the same amount of production from their depth.
Carolina, however, is using their youthful and fast depth pieces to dismantle the Capitals. Rookie Andrei Svechnikov has three points, albeit Ovechkin injured him in a fight in the first period of Game Three. Lucas Wallmark has put up three points as well. Warren Foegele is now tied for the team lead with Hamilton and Slavin with four, including a massive three-point outing in Game Three. Brock McGinn‘s got two points as well. If Carolina continues getting this production from their bottom-six, they will become a very tough opponent for Washington; if they weren’t already.
Physicality is Key and Carolina is Drawing Even
While Ovechkin does it all for Washington, he’s not perfect at anything. A star scorer leading your team in hits is worrisome — but that’s exactly the case. Ovechkin leads the Caps with 15 in this series. This isn’t the case in Carolina. Jordan Staal had a whopping ten alone just in Game Three, giving him 15 in the series. Jordan Martinook is throwing the body too, with 13 hits in the three games.
Of course, Washington still has heavy hitters of their own. Orpik has 12, Tom Wilson has 13, but after that, it drops off, as it does with the Hurricanes. However, the Capitals are the bigger, heavier, and more experienced team. It says a lot that Carolina has the swagger and confidence to come out to not only challenge but also match Washington with this aggressiveness.
Series Is Still Even
While Carolina is certainly making their case, this series has still been played very evenly. If it goes the distance, Washington’s experience could play a huge factor in the result. However, the Carolina Hurricanes youth and depth have shown that Washington can’t sleep on them. The Hurricanes are playing like the faster, more skilled, and deeper team. If that holds up, Carolina has a definite shot at advancing to the second round in their first playoff appearance in ten years, upsetting the reigning Stanley Cup champions in the process.
Now what a story that would be.