Like their Western Conference counterparts, the Edmonton Oilers and Vegas Golden Knights, these teams finished the regular season just a point apart in the Metropolitan Division, in a race that came down to the wire. The Carolina Hurricanes, despite some big injuries, topped the New Jersey Devils for the title and the right to play a wild card team.
While both teams defeated New York clubs, the second-round matchup will certainly not remove any grit. Here’s what to expect from the second-round matchup between the Carolina Hurricanes and the New Jersey Devils.
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By the numbers: Carolina Hurricanes, New Jersey Devils
The first-place Carolina Hurricanes edged the New York Islanders in six games in the first round, though they were stymied by all-work goaltender Ilya Sorokin relatively frequently, resulting in multiple games that were decided by one goal. The power play was strong in the series (20%), but the penalty kill was the huge factor, stopping 17-of-18 Isles opportunities for a 94% effectiveness rate (though the Isles’ power play was horrific).
The Devils, however, can match Carolina’s special teams energy. New Jersey went 4-for-24 to collect a 16.7% effectiveness rate on the power play. And their first-round penalty kill efforts went 23-for-28 on the penalty kill, giving them an 82.1% success rate. They won two games with a 4-0 score, blanking the Rangers’ high-powered offense entirely. The Devils beat the cross-Hudson rivals in seven games.
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New Jersey Devils and Carolina Hurricanes between the pipes
Rookie Akira Schmid took over in the Devils’ blue paint in Game 3, and that ended up being the massive difference maker for the Devils, as he was able to keep calm in the face of offensive dynamos like Patrick Kane, Vladimir Tarasenko, Mika Zibanejad, and Artemi Panarin. The 22-year-old Schmid ended round one with a 4-1 record that saw him tally impressive stats like a 1.38 GAA, .951 save percentage, and two shutouts.
While Freddie Andersen was unavailable for the Canes for a few of the games because of illness and an undisclosed injury, both he and Antti Raanta are likely to see ice time against the Devils, running the same two-goalie system that the Canes used throughout the year.
Both netminders are playoff veterans and carry career playoff save percentages that are above .910. The Hurricanes also have a strong defensive corps to help out their goalies, though both are solid in their own rights–as evidenced by Raanta’s stellar play in round one and Andersen’s series-winning overtime performance.
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Playoff pros versus young talent
“We know what type of team they are. They play with a ton of pace and speed. I think it’s going to be a very fast matchup because that’s how we want to play too,” said Hurricanes forward Jordan Martinook. “They’ve got some high-skill players over there that we want to limit their time and space.”
Of course, the offense is led by Jack Hughes, who collected five points in seven games in his first-ever postseason appearance. Many of the team’s young guns in Nico Hischier, Luke Hughes, and Jesper Bratt are strangers to postseason hockey and will look to pros like Ondrej Palat and Dougie Hamilton to steady the vibe.
The Hurricanes, however, are brimming with players who have seen playoff hockey many times. That’s a fact the Devils are acutely aware of. “Tough opponent. Great, great offensive team,” said Devils forward Ondrej Palat. “So it’s going to be another tough series, but we need to use our experience that we just gained in the second round.”
The Canes are suffering, though, with several injuries to key players like Andrei Svechnikov, Max Pacioretty, and Teuvo Teravainen (who broke his hand in the Islanders series).
“I don’t know how many teams can lose three top players up front — that’s a whole line — and then expect to win in the playoffs,” said Hurricanes head coach Rod Brind’Amour. “I mean, that’s just really hard. But somehow, we managed a way to do it. That says more about what’s still left in the room. Obviously we did it, so there’s no reason we can’t keep doing it.”
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Carolina Hurricanes, New Jersey Devils playoff history
The two clubs have faced off in the postseason four previous times, in 2001, 2002, 2006, and 2009. Carolina won three of four series. In the regular season series, Carolina won two of the games and New Jersey won two, though Carolina lost two in regulation while New Jersey lost one in regulation and one in extra time.
The Hurricanes find themselves in the second round of the playoffs for the third straight year. But they have not made it to the Eastern Conference Final since 2019. The Devils, however, return to the second round for the first time since 2012–which is when they made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Final before losing to the Los Angeles Kings.
The second round of the 2023 NHL Playoffs began Tuesday, May 2.