The wild and wacky first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs has come to a conclusion. In a thrilling series between Carolina and Washington, what else was needed besides double overtime in Game 7. Brock McGinn tipped in a Justin Williams shot to send the Carolina Hurricanes to the second round and the defending Stanley Cup Champion Washington Capitals home. There will be a new Stanley Cup Champion in 2019.
NHL Metro Division Notebook: Hurricanes Knock Out Washington
With Carolina’s win more history was made in the first round. For the first time in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, all four division winners were eliminated. Not only that but this is the first time since the wild card was implemented that all four wild card teams advanced to the second round. This year’s playoffs are truly for the underdogs.
Not to mention Carolina was the first road team to win in this series. Through six games, the home team was 6-0. It looked to be 7-0 as Washington took a 3-1 lead in the second period of Game 7. However, just like the Hurricanes did all season long, they climbed back to force overtime. And anything can happen in overtime. As coach’s always say put pucks on net and good things happen. Sure enough Carolina picks up the first playoff series win since 2009.
Carolina was the better team throughout this entire series. And for stretches in Game 7, especially in overtime the Hurricanes were the better team. Carolina looked fresher as they continued to roll four lines. Give head Rod Brind’Amour a lot of credit. He knew his team was playing poorly and he let them have during a TV timeout. Once Sebastian Aho made it 3-2 late in the second period, Carolina took the game over.
Credit the players and leader Justin Williams for believing and not packing it in against Washington. Carolina is a gritty team as their playoff history has shown. Speaking of history, Justin Williams continues to earn the name “Mr. Game 7.” Through 9 career Game 7s, he has a record of 8-1 while accumulating 15 points. This guy is clutch when the game is on the line.
All season long the Carolina Hurricanes were one of the surprising teams of the season. Around the middle of the season, the Hurricanes were starting to fade. Rallying behind the moniker “Bunch of Jerks, the team started soaring up the standings. Not to leave out the “Storm Surge.” Which drew fans to the arena and motivated to win on home ice.
Throughout the series, Carolina was clearly the better team. After falling behind to Washington, Carolina found another gear and Washington did not. Carolina controlled both overtime periods and clearly was the fresher team. On the other hand, Washington was looking like a tired hockey team. Credit Carolina for outplaying the defending Stanley Cup Champions.
Barry Trotz as not only an x-factor in the Islanders but this one too. It is underheard of to have a coach leave a team he guided to a Stanley Cup and go to another team. Well, Trotz has shown he is an excellent coach. Just like with the Islanders this year, his blueprint was all over the Capitals last year. This definitely played a factor as Todd Reirden is a rookie coach and may not know how to push all the buttons just yet.
The struggles continue for Washington in Game 7, especially on home ice. Throughout the year, Washington struggled to find their game. Even though the core group was back, as mentioned earlier, playing under a new coach takes time to adjust. Captain Alex Ovechkin had a great series picking up 9 points (4 goals, 5 assists). His running buddy Nicklas Backstrom picked up 8 points. However, Evgeny Kuznetsov had a disappointing series only picking up one goal and it came in Game 7.
When Washington lost T.J Oshie in Game 4, the series changed in favor of Carolina. Oshie was a huge piece in the Capitals offense. Even though he was not producing, he brings a spark to the team that is necessary during playoff time. Another player who had a quiet series was Tom Wilson. Wilson did not play with the same edge he usually plays with. Come playoff time you need a guy like playing more physical than he did.
Carolina’s reward after getting by the defending champs is the New York Islanders. Game 1 is set for Friday night in Brooklyn. Stay tuned for the series preview between the Hurricanes and Islanders.