NHL Playoff Daily: The Carolina Hurricanes really do #CauseChaos

Normally NHL official team hashtags are both boring and have nothing to do with the product on the ice. 

But for the Carolina Hurricanes, the social media slogan, “#causechaos” is a perfect encapsulation of the team. 

Carolina plays an unsexy, relentless brand of hockey. They dump-and-chase more than anyone in the league, all four lines forecheck well, and when they get the puck they work it low to high for shots from the point. 

It’s not about quality chance creation in Carolina, it’s more about the quantity of and the battle of attrition that eventually breaks the opponent. 

That’s what happened in Game 2 as the Hurricanes dramatically finished off the New York Islanders in a 5-3 victory. The initial story, rightfully so, will be about the back-to-back goals in a span of nine seconds that turned a 3-2 deficit into a 4-3 lead. 

But the bigger story, and the reason the Islanders lost, were the body blows that the Hurricanes delivered all night. Carolina had 110-28 edge in shot attempts, as much as the Islanders weathered the storm early – pun completely intended here – it eventually eroded their defensive structure in the third period when Sebastian Aho and Jordan Martinook scored in quick succession. 

Martinook’s goal was Hurricanes hockey. Nothing fancy, nothing overly difficult about it. Simply a chip-and-chase by Jack Drury where Martinook won the battle on the forecheck and scored against a beleaguered Islanders team. 

Carolina is going to take chunks out of teams, they are going to make teams hate showing up to the rink each game. The fact it’s working this early, against an Islanders team that we’ve been told has a more steely resolve, is a pretty good indication Carolina’s chaos is going to be a theme throughout the postseason. 

We had the wrong goalie discussion

Going into Game 2, there was the question about whether the Boston Bruins would continue to alternate goalies or go back to Jeremy Swayman after he was sublime in Game 1. 

Boston went with Linus Ullmark, continuing the rotation, and he also played well, stopping 30 of 33 shots in a 3-2 loss to Toronto. 

Auston Matthews scored the game winner on a breakaway, on a play that all started with Ilya Samsonov handling a breakout well at the other end. Samsonov’s precise pass, under slight pressure, to Ilya Lyubushkin unlocked the early Boston forecheck and led to Max Domi’s balloon pass to Matthews for the breakaway. 

Samsonov won’t get a point on the play, but it was hockey’s equivalent of “total football,” where building out of the back with the goalie eventually led to just enough breaks at the other end for a finish. 

Samsonov was also good at his main job. He stopped 27 of 29 shots, effectively staking his claim to the net for Game 3 despite some whispers coming into Game 2 that Joseph Woll could be an option for Toronto. 

It’s part of Samsonov’s story that other teams have taken note of this season. The goalie struggled to start the season, so poorly that he was waived and assigned to the AHL. But instead of forcing him to play through his struggles, the Maple Leafs gave him the mental reset to get his game back in order and he skated on his own. 

It’s something the Edmonton Oilers probably should have done with Jack Campbell. Another NHL team executive told me earlier this season that the Samsonov handling also led to conversations within their offices about what would happen if they had a goalie go through something similar. 

Either way, now it’s a 1-1 series. Boston will probably keep rotating in net, rightfully so, while Toronto has a playoff No. 1 because of hitting the pause button earlier in the season.

The LTIR captain strikes

To be clear on something, I don’t blame the Vegas Golden Knights for maximizing their LTIR usage and using Mark Stone’s lacerated spleen to improve their roster. I also don’t blame Vegas for deeming he wasn’t ready for Game 81 or 82 of the regular season, but was in the clear for Game 1 and a 4-3 victory against the Dallas Stars. 

Every team knows these tricks, they aren’t well hidden anymore. Vegas is just more brash about doing it, and unless the NHL and other GMs push back on it – and they don’t seem to have the appetite for that – Vegas plays by the rules. 

But, at the same time, there is some frustrating irony for Dallas on this. 

The Stars won the Western Conference in the regular season, something we don’t nearly celebrate enough in hockey – being the best team over 82 games, frankly, is more difficult than winning a chaotic tournament. 

Yes, hot take, but it’s true – the regular season is a better sample size of the true “best team,” than the Stanley Cup playoffs. 

And Dallas' reward was getting a Vegas team that re-loaded because of NHL LTIR rules, and effectively iced maybe the best lineup on paper the Golden Knights have ever had. If Stone hadn’t been injured, this matchup never would have happened in the first round. 

Vegas wouldn’t have been in the wild card hunt, they would have been higher in the Pacific Division, and Dallas wouldn’t have had to worry about meeting the defending Stanley Cup champions until potentially the Western Conference final, like they did last season. 

It’s one of those cases where two things can be true. 

  1. Vegas didn’t cheat. 
  2. Dallas got a raw deal. 

Game 2 should be fun on Wednesday.

Hyman’s hat trick heroics 

One of the reasons Zach Hyman has succeeded this season is because he understands one of the NHL’s simplest rules and has the spatial awareness to play with one of the best players in NHL history. Hyman is like a pinball paddle that roves and opens up for Connor McDavid, he’s patient and sets and fires when McDavid finds him. It’s not difficult in theory, but in practice – and emotionally at times – it’s a role that others have struggled with in Edmonton and alongside other top players. 

In Game 1 against the Los Angeles Kings, Hyman effectively scored thrice in that manner in a 7-4 victory. McDavid spun and dipsy-doodled, Hyman just got set and waited for the opportunity. 

Before the series I picked the Kings, against my better judgment, because I thought it would be difficult for the Oilers to beat the same team in the first round of the playoffs three years in a row. 

I’m already regretting that pick of going against Edmonton.

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This article is about:
NHL Boston Bruins Carolina Hurricanes Dallas Stars Edmonton Oilers Los Angeles Kings New York Islanders Toronto Maple Leafs Vegas Golden Knights NHL Sebastian Aho Jack Campbell Max Domi Jack Drury Zach Hyman Ilya Lyubushkin Jordan Martinook Auston Matthews Connor McDavid Ilya Samsonov Mark Stone Jeremy Swayman Linus Ullmark Joseph Woll
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