Last night was a night 1,312 games in the making for the NHL. After a grueling regular season, the Carolina Hurricanes and Boston Bruins led off the league’s 2022 playoff schedule.
For Carolina’s Seth Jarvis, last night was a night 573 days in the making.
Less than two years after getting drafted by the Hurricanes with the 13th overall pick in the 2021 draft, he was on the big stage, playing in his first NHL playoff game and doing so in front of a rabid home crowd and a national ESPN primetime audience.
If you had been paying attention, it wasn’t surprising that the opening goal-scorer was Jarvis, the youngest player on either side of the PNC Arena ice on Monday.
Jarvis closed out his standout rookie season with points in seven consecutive games and 12 points in his last 12 outings.
That point streak was extended into playoff action, where the 20-year-old looked right at home and ready for the moment.
“It just kind of was embedded in me from a young age. To just not be scared out there,” said Jarvis after the game. “I think when you play scared is when you make mistakes and that’s when your game kind of falls apart. It’s honestly, just about staying confident and obviously the help of my linemates.”
His linemates were, of course, established NHL forces Sebastian Aho and Andrei Svechnikov, the latter of whom was with him in front of Linus Ullmark and providing the second layer of net-front on the second-period goal that finally broke the ice and opened the floodgates for Carolina’s offense.
Like Jarvis, Svechnikov arrived on the big stage and scored Carolina’s first goal of the postseason during his rookie year all the way back in 2019. One year later, a rookie Martin Necas scored in game one of the best-of-three play-in series against the New York Rangers.
Jarvis has proven time and again that he is, indeed, the next in line of the Hurricanes’ bright-eyed youngsters to make an impact on the biggest games of the year. When he was on the ice at 5-on-5, the Hurricanes produced five high-danger shot attempts and didn’t give up a single high-danger chance-against.
He, like the rest of his teammates, went to the front of the net with purpose and got rewarded for doing so.
For a national audience, Jarvis might be a revelation, but for those around the team, it was just another night at the office for a player who has routinely risen above the expectations placed on him.
Jarvis didn’t have to wait all that long to have his first playoff moment. Antti Raanta, however, had a much longer journey.
Ten days before his 33rd birthday, Raanta made his first NHL playoff start, and he showed out impressively, stopping all but one of the 36 shots he faced en route to his first NHL playoff win.
“Obviously, a little butterflies here and there,” said Raanta, who was named the first star of the game. “As we came on the ice, it was just crazy to get on the ice and hear the crowd. You just started to get the energy from them. Pretty much when the game started, it was just focusing on one puck at a time, one shot at a time... It was an awesome, awesome feeling to play and get the win.”
Of his 36 saves, 24 were before Jarvis’ goal with 3:32 left in the second period.
As lopsided as the final tally was, it wouldn’t have been that way without Raanta’s play, especially in the first and second periods, where Boston controlled the lion’s share of the scoring opportunities and could have very easily netted the first goal of the NHL postseason.
The Hurricanes will continue to go without Frederik Andersen, at least for the next few games, but the team is in a position with a veteran goalie who has been waiting for this opportunity for a very long time. Raanta is a number one goalie for a team that hopes to win the Stanley Cup.
If game one was any indicator, the Hurricanes appear to be in very competent hands.
A Different Team
This is Carolina’s fourth consecutive playoff appearance, and they are trying to do something that they haven’t been able to do up to this point - topple the Bruins.
In 2019, their Cinderella run ended with a thud, thanks to a four-game Eastern Conference Finals sweep at the hands of the Bruins. In 2020, the Hurricanes were infinitely more competitive, but they still saw their season end after five games with the Bruins in the first round.
In both of those series, it was apparent from game one that the Hurricanes were the team trying to play up to the Bruins. Boston made all of the big plays, scored all of the big goals, and possessed the aura of a championship-caliber hockey team that Carolina just wasn’t ready for.
Last night, the roles were reversed.
The Hurricanes were phenomenal in the regular season, but laying an egg in game one would’ve caused people to forget about that quickly. That’s not what happened, though.
It was far from a perfect game from Rod Brind’Amour’s team, but through it all, there was never a sense of panic or impending doom like in years past. From start to finish, the Hurricanes played and acted like a team that had been there, which they have, but so has Boston.
For years, the Bruins have represented the team that the Hurricanes aspired to be. But, perhaps, this is the changing of the guard in that respect. In their three playoff matchups with the B’s under Brind’Amour, this is the first time that the Hurricanes have won game one of the series and the first time that they’ve won a game by multiple goals.
At best, game one was the Hurricanes putting their foot down and telling the hockey world that they are predators and not the prey. At worst, it was a statement to the Bruins that this Canes team isn’t the same one that got rolled over in back-to-back postseasons.
Either way, there is no denying that the Hurricanes carry a different vibe in their third go-round. From top to bottom, the Hurricanes are now a team that can go toe-to-toe with the best teams in the East. Carolina’s least-used forward in game one was Teuvo Teravainen, who ended up scoring the pivotal goal in the third period of a 2-1 game to extend the lead back to two and take the wind out of Boston’s sails.
Brind’Amour and his staff are rolling four lines, and all of them had an impact in game one. The difference between the Canes’ most-used and least-used forwards at 5-on-5 play was just four minutes.
No, these Bruins aren’t as dominant as the Bruins of recent years, but this series is huge for the Hurricanes. Obviously, it matters in that they want to win a cup, but on top of that, this core of Carolina players needs to overcome the hurdle that has undercut them in two of the last three seasons.
Game one was an excellent start, but if we know anything about the Boston Bruins, it’s that they aren’t the kind of team that will go out quietly. There will be pushback. Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak, Patrice Bergeron, and Charlie McAvoy are star players who will be heard from, especially when the series goes to Boston for games three and four.
The Hurricanes will take it one game at a time, and after three years of playoff experience for many of these young players, those games won’t feature any surprises.
“It’s another game,” said Brind’Amour after game one. “It’s a big game. But their preparation and everything they do, they’ve done it all year. That’s the thing about our group. They’ve worked hard every night for the whole year so that nothing really has to change.”
Every playoff game is big, but this first-round series doesn’t feel like just another first-round series. This one has a history, one that the Hurricanes are determined to prevent from repeating itself.
Welcome to the party.