This matchup between the Carolina Hurricanes and Florida Panthers would seem inevitable if it wasn’t so improbable.
Both of these teams are hard-working, forechecking buzzsaws that have been building up for a deep run for several seasons, and if you forget that one of them got 91 points in the regular season and was an overtime goal away from elimination, it would be a classic and predictable matchup.
That said, despite their 113-point regular season the Hurricanes have had to overcome adversity throughout the post-season. Several idiots (myself perhaps among them) saw them as vulnerable to the New York Islanders in Round 1 even before they lost Teuvo Teräväinen, putting a lot of stock in their injuries and stumbles down the stretch.
Then they were underestimated against a hot and fast New Jersey Devils squad who seemed to have the potential to overcome the Canes’ rush defence. Not so much. This is the second Conference Final trip for this team and the first time perhaps that they are favoured to go all the way.
The Panthers have taken down two titans by throwing bodies at them and getting saves when needed. Since Game 5 against the Boston Bruins, they’ve been almost unstoppable, giving them a lot of momentum for an eighth seed. They even finally fixed their wretched home arena camera angle. But do they have what it takes to overcome the Hurricanes?
My playoff previews are stats-based, going off of both macro- and micro-level statistics gathered by TopDownHockey and AllThreeZones respectively. This allows us to look not only at high-level results (like goals, shots, and expected goals) but also the stylistic process that creates them (like passes, shot types, and transition play) to get a better sense of how the teams match up. Instead of comparing offence to offence and defence to defence, I’ll be breaking down the offence vs. defence matchups.