After all of the egos that had been bruised and blood that was spilled in a sequence that swung forwards and backwards so many occasions it may induce religious whiplash, there have been conflicting feelings battling among the many Carolina Hurricanes as soon as the handshakes had been full.
Foremost amongst them was reduction, having survived and superior, even when it went right down to the ultimate 20 seconds of Game 7 on Saturday, the Boston Bruins refusing to go quietly proper to the bitter finish.
There was pleasure, after all, as there all the time is when a playoff sequence ends the suitable means, particularly ending the season of a workforce that had twice ended their very own, and at residence no much less.
But there was additionally a way of accomplishment, not just for successful, not just for exorcising these Boston demons, however for residing as much as the expectations this workforce positioned upon itself. The Hurricanes have reached some extent the place successful a single playoff sequence is not trigger for rampant celebration. It is merely a milestone on what they intend to be a for much longer path.
So Saturday’s 3-2 win, a sixth straight in Game 7s — the second towards the Bruins in that run — felt not like a conclusion however merely a starting, the beginning of one thing far larger and extra necessary.
The Bruins simply occurred to be of their means.
“This time around, it felt like it was our time,” Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour mentioned. “Our guys matured. I think they felt that too.”
To be completely frank about it, the following sequence goes to really feel the identical means, whether or not it’s towards the Pittsburgh Penguins or New York Rangers, pending Sunday’s Game 7 between these groups. The Hurricanes may have residence ice, once more. They will probably be favored to win, once more. They will embrace the expectations that include that, once more.
That is a place the Hurricanes earned, having crossed the triple-digit barrier for the primary time since 2006. And if they’d managed to screw this up towards the Bruins — and there would have been no different strategy to describe it — it might have been catastrophic, a seismic disruption on this franchise’s ascendancy.
The circumstances have modified since 2019 and 2020, with the Hurricanes on their means up and the Bruins on the way in which down, and so there’s much less glee in flipping that script than there may be satisfaction in having cleared the primary hurdle in what the Hurricanes hope is a protracted race.
They rebounded from an uncharacteristically slapdash Game 6 with a tightly performed, environment friendly efficiency when it mattered, denying the Bruins an influence play till Brendan Smith flipped a puck over the glass within the third interval. In a sequence filled with residence blowouts, the Hurricanes gained the closest sport of all when it mattered most.
“There was a lot of momentum changes and stuff that you kind of have to deal with mentally,” Hurricanes captain Jordan Staal mentioned. “Our group was getting better at it as we went. Tonight was one where we stayed on track like we wanted to. Game 6 it didn’t happen, but tonight we stayed on track and played our game for the whole game.”
It was becoming that the Hurricanes’ depth gained out ultimately — in purpose, the place Antti Raanta has been stellar with Frederik Andersen nonetheless absent, and at ahead, with Max Domi incomes promotion off the fourth line together with his Game 5 efficiency and turning into an unlikely Game 7 hero, and on protection, the place all three pairings did yeoman work towards the top-heavy Bruins, led as all the time by the delicate excellence of Jaccob Slavin.
Raanta’s crease-crossing save on Taylor Hall stored the sport scoreless lengthy sufficient for Domi to arrange Teuvo Teravainen for the opening purpose, and Domi, of all individuals, scored twice extra to offer the Hurricanes a cushion they might find yourself needing when the Bruins scored and practically scored once more with their internet empty within the closing minute.
Brind’Amour has by no means misplaced a Game 7 with the Hurricanes, as a captain or coach, however it’s additionally his perception that the primary spherical may be the hardest, probably the most emotional, with each sport of the utmost depth.
That inevitably wanes in succeeding rounds as time wears on, because the video games begin to mix into one another, however there’s additionally one thing to be mentioned for the truth that each workforce within the first spherical enters with the identical aspirations.
Everyone begins out a Stanley Cup contender, till they’re not. The Bruins not are. The Hurricanes will proceed alongside the identical path they had been already on.
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This story was initially printed May 14, 2022 9:05 PM.