The Canes met the regular season’s best team in the Bruins, and Carolina was outmatched in a fairly lopsided series that featured one strong game for the Hurricanes.
The Canes needed more from their stars
Carolina’s leading trio of Sebastian Aho, Teuvo Teravainen and Andrei Svechnikov combined for 77 goals during the 2019-20 regular season, good for 35 percent of all of the Canes’ goals. In this five-game series against the Bruins, Aho, Teravainen and Svechnikov combined for three goals, with the regular-season leader, Aho, scoring none.
Aho did have four assists, but the Canes really needed more from their top three players if they wanted to have a chance against the Bruins. The one game where Aho, Svechnikov and Teravainen all had at least a point was game two, the one game the Hurricanes won.
So often for the Canes over the past few years Aho has stepped up and scored big goals, but he was quiet all series on the goal-scoring front. Aho scored the Canes’ first goal of last year’s Eastern Conference Finals against Boston, tallying on the power play just over three minutes into the game. In the eight games the Canes have played against the Bruins in the playoffs since, Aho is scoreless.
Teravainen was able to find the net twice this series, but he also only picked up one assist, which he led the Canes in during the regular season. Svechnikov missed the final two games of this year’s series after getting injured in game three, but he was held off the scoresheet in both game one and three.
Apart from the Canes’ lone win, Carolina got its goals this series from the not-so-usual suspects. If Aho could have stepped up and scored a few, this series could have been very, very different.
The good news for the Canes on this front, is that Aho, Teravainen and Svechnikov average out to just 22.67-years old. The three of them have plenty of playoff games ahead of them, and playing a team as good as this Boston squad two years in a row will be a big learning step for all of them, particularly Aho and Svechnikov (Teravainen does have a Stanley Cup already, after all).
The emergence of one Haydn Fleury
In the 132 games that Canes’ defenseman Haydn Fleury has played in his regular season career, he has four goals. Coming into 2019-20, he had none. In the Hurricanes’ five-game series loss to the Boston Bruins, Fleury scored twice, highlighting a strong all-around series for Carolina’s young blue liner.
If there was a bright spot in the Hurricanes’ quick departure from the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs, it was the play of Fleury, who has struggled to consistently get himself into Carolina’s lineup during his career. He played in 45 of the Canes’ 68 regular season games this year, splitting time with Trevor van Riemsdyk for Carolina’s last defenseman slot..
After a great showing in this series to build on what he’s already done for the Canes, Fleury really shouldn’t be fighting for playing time for Rod Brind’Amour moving forward (assuming the Canes re-sign Fleury, who is a restricted free agent).
It wasn’t just the goal scoring that stood out for Fleury in this series, as the 2014 first-round pick was engaged and stellar on the defensive end of the ice as well. Fleury laid some big hits early in the series, setting the tone for a great five-game stretch for him personally.
Huge hit from Haydn Fleury on Kase early in overtime. pic.twitter.com/qnxbR9CXTi— Brett Finger (@brett_finger) August 12, 2020
Haydn Fleury throws a big hit, and Boston ends up taking an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty in the aftermath. pic.twitter.com/tZ9yoC7Xcp— Brett Finger (@brett_finger) August 14, 2020
The goals were also a great bright spot though, as Fleury bookended the series with a game-tying, third-period goal in game one and Carolina’s lone tally in the final game.
Haydn Fleury, from downtown. His first NHL playoff goal has tied the game in the third period. 3-3 between the Hurricanes and Bruins in game one. pic.twitter.com/28z25iBeyj— Brett Finger (@brett_finger) August 12, 2020
Haydn Fleury with an absolute snipe off of the post and into the net. His second goal of the series gives the Hurricanes a 1-0 lead in the first period of game five against the Bruins. pic.twitter.com/LrrfhIXBOg— Brett Finger (@brett_finger) August 19, 2020
I’m not sure many people would have predicted Fleury to be the Canes’ best player heading into this series, but he very well might have been Carolina’s best on the ice from start to finish against Boston.
Boston had the best record for a reason
After the Hurricanes’ dominating three-game sweep of the Rangers and the Bruins’ struggles in the seeding round-robin, it was easy for Carolina fans to have pretty lofty expectations heading into this series.
The Canes came in with momentum and a chance to win, something that made the sting of how the series went that much worse. With the regular season so far removed it was easy to forget just how good this Bruins team is, but Boston gave everyone a reminder of that in this series.
Even without leading goal scorer David Pastrnak for the middle games and Vezina Trophy finalist Tuukka Rask for the back half of the series, the Bruins came out and showed why they were so good in the regular season.
David Krejci led a dangerous second line that is only a second line because Boston may have the best top line in the Eastern Conference, and the Bruins’ defensive corps showed why Boston gave up the fewest goals in the league by a wide margin this year.
Boston’s power play was firing on all cylinders throughout the series, and Jaroslav Halak came in for Rask and played fairly well to keep things strong between the pipes.
The Canes didn’t lose to a bad team. In fact, the Canes lost a series that they absolutely should have lost on paper. Carolina won game two, but was simply outmatched by the Bruins the rest of the way. And that’s OK.
The Hurricanes have a young corps that has just continued to get better over the last few years. On the other hand, the Bruins have an experienced and veteran corps that has been playing together for well over half a decade now.
What Boston is now is something the Canes can strive to be in the coming years, and the experiences of this series and the last are definitely something that the likes of Aho and Svechnikov can learn from and build off of.
The Canes made the Eastern Conference Finals last year, but were unfortunate in the way these playoffs worked themselves out to have Carolina face probably the best team in the Eastern Conference in the first round. The sting of a playoff loss will always be there for the team and the fans, but the future is brighter than ever for the Carolina Hurricanes.