by Kate Shefte
Hours after losing their final game of the regular season, 3-2, to the New Jersey Devils, the Carolina Hurricanes found out that the first round standings were set. Guess who they’ll be playing? The New Jersey Devils. Carolina lost its final two games of the season and the Penguins beat Montreal – an ideal situation for those who didn’t want a first round meeting with rough and tumble (and scary good) Philadelphia. Carolina fell out of fifth place and will now face New Jersey in the first round.
Carolina has faced New Jersey more than any other franchise in the playoffs since relocating, so this series guarantees a little bit of drama. The Devils took the first meeting in 2001, bouncing the ‘Canes in the quarterfinals, but the Hurricanes have taken the two more recent match-ups in 2002 and 2006. Despite New Jersey’s possession of both the best goaltender in the league and a talent-laden offense, the ‘Canes have matched up well against the Devils in recent years. However, New Jersey will have home ice advantage, a benefit the ‘Canes enjoyed during those two successful seasons.
The ‘Canes may have dropped their most recent decision to New Jersey, but they took the series 3-1. That game – or the one before it, for that matter – was not an ideal way to exit the regular season, but it was not indicative of the hockey we should expect to see. Cam Ward was not in net for Carolina, and though the final tally found the net with five minutes left in the game, the ‘Canes did not have their best nor most motivated showing against the Devils. The team just sort of sat back and let Anton Babchuk do his thang. Did they, uh, “not try as hard” these last two games to ensure a better match-up? Whatever. Here at Triangle Offense, we don’t judge.
The first game of the series will take place either Wednesday or Thursday at the Prudential Center in Newark, where the Devils were 27-12-1 this season. Check back here for more coverage during the next few days.