The Carolina Hurricanes are in a very unique situation. They are going to have to face the Nashville Predators for nine straight games potentially. With the Predators earning two points with a regulation win Saturday night, they have secured the four seed in the Central Division which now means they will play the Hurricanes in the first round.
The Canes did not get the outcome they were looking for. While it may seem like the sky is falling, it is important to note that this is the first regulation loss for the team since April 12. The loss also marked the first time in 14 games that they did not earn a standing point. That 13-game point streak matched a mark set by the 2016-17 team for a franchise record.
Canes dealt potential blow
No one here could possibly have anything negative to say about Jaccob Slavin. He is widely regarded as one of the nicest players in the league and has served as an alternate captain on the team for the last few years. The team greatly relies on the abilities of Slavin to shut down the opposition’s best players without taking penalties.
In fact, he has only taken one penalty this year and it was a puck over the glass.
The Carolina Hurricanes were possibly dealt a blow last night in the first period. Slavin was hurt in the first period and did not return to the game. In the post game, Brind’Amour said that while the decision was partly precautionary and there was hope Slavin would be fine, it wasn’t nothing.
“Well we definitely took him out precautionary, but there was definitely something that he tweaked, so that’s a little bit alarming there for sure,” Brind’Amour said. “It’s exactly what you wouldn’t want to happen in these kind of games. We’ll know more tomorrow, but I’m hopeful that it’s nothing too serious.”
Brind’Amour is right that that’s the last thing the team would want from these games, and obviously they’ll have to hope Slavin’s injury isn’t serious and he’s good to go for the playoffs next week.
Wax On Wax Off
Through the last few years, the Predators/Canes series has gotten increasingly physical. Whether it is in the pre-season or throughout this season, the two squads have seen some physical games.
This kind of play is exactly why it was important for the Canes to add both Cedric Paquette and Jani Hakanpaa to increase the physicality of the team. However, in the last few games without Pacquette, there has not been any physical response to players taking runs on the Canes.
With the Blackhawks, it was Nikita Zadorov and with the Predators, it has been multiple players. While it has been the regular season and not worth the possible consequences to react, the Canes cannot afford to let teams take liberties with them in the postseason. They could already be without their top defenseman snd they can’t lose anyone else.
Indiana Jones and the Legend of the Hot Goaltender
For years the Predators have used the strategy of “make the playoffs and see what happens.” This year seems like the perfect year for this strategy. I mean heck, even the Canes won a Stanley Cup with the “oops we have a hot goaltender.” This issue this year is that Juuse Saros is the most likely candidate to do the same this year.
Last night Saros stopped 21 of 22 shots. This is not some kind of aberration, he has been a top-five goaltender all season. Last night his .955 sv% was above his season-long, fourth-best .927%. While the Canes have been successful at scoring all season, they could run into the 2021 version of Christobal Huet.
While not to over-exaggerate, Carolina needs to find some success ticking the twine so they don't get too in their own heads about being able to score in the playoffs.
With the Canes losing tonight and the Vegas Golden Knights winning, the Canes have ceded the President’s Trophy advantage. The two teams are tied with 80 points each, with the Knights having one game in hand over the Canes.
The Knights also hold the regulation wins and ROW tiebreakers over the Canes so the only hope for the Canes to win the President’s Trophy is to beat the Predators tomorrow and hope that the Knights also lose to the Colorado Avalanche.
The Canes can still be happy with the number two seed in the playoffs to get the overall three seed when the NHL re-seeds (if they get to that point). The Canes also have one game to get the competition right before they see the same team for the next two weeks in the playoffs.
There are still some decisions to be made about goaltenders for the Canes, but they also need to tickle the twine a couple of times to get some confidence heading into the postseason.