RALEIGH, N.C. – The excitement of following NHL playoff hockey in the Triangle was back on Thursday.
Watch parties at local establishments and homes had attendees glued to their screens as the Carolina Hurricanes faced off on the road against the Capitals at Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C.
After all, it was an occasion to gather – one that hadn’t existed at this time of year for the past 10 seasons.
The result following Game 1 of the best-of-seven Round 1 series however was not the one desired – a 4-2 loss to the defending Stanley Cup champions.
Trailing 3-0 after two periods, victim to two successfully executed Washington power plays, the Hurricanes dug a hole too deep to climb out of, despite back-to-back goals in the third period from rookie forward Andrei Svechnikov.
The positive sidebar was that the young Russian became only the second 19-year-old in Hurricanes/Whalers history to score a goal in the postseason.
For the trivia buffs, Patrick Poulin was the only teenager prior to score in the playoffs for the franchise, posting a goal and two assists for the Whalers in the 1992 Division semifinals against Montreal.
Looking back at it, the Cliffs Notes version of Game 1 was clearly presented by head coach Rod Brind’Amour.
“It’s a tough game – we did a lot of good things,” Brind’Amour said.
“Obviously special teams got us, and that’s pretty much the whole story in that game.”
Playing to script
This should not exactly be a shocker to those who have followed and covered these teams this season and over past regular seasons.
The Hurricanes hold a 62-86-14-12 overall regular season record between the two teams, and now stand 0-1 in the playoffs in the series.
Even before the puck dropped, the Canes’ lack of postseason experience was well noted.
Coming into the postseason, Carolina had the second-fewest combined postseason games (363 GP) of experience among competing teams in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Only the Calgary Flames (287 GP) have fewer.
So, with just 11 players on the club’s active roster having skated in a playoff game, an opening-game loss was not far from being a possibility.
The effort was there, but the finish wasn’t.
Reason for disappointment? Sure.
Reason for concern? Possibly.
The win was what the Capitals needed to fuel them even more to focus on pressing Carolina in Saturday’s Game 2.
Expect them to try to bury and smother Carolina even more so.
The loss was what the Canes needed to take a few slaps to the face to wake up.
If the message that not playing 60 minutes without adequate goal production from his scoring leaders was not relayed adequately, Brind’Amour has to rattle those cages appropriately on Friday.
Not doing so, will not generate any wins.
The shine of making the playoffs must be rubbed off quickly.
Why be concerned?
Aside from Svechnikov, who hadn’t scored a goal in seven games, here’s where Carolina’s goal scoring sits right now:
- Sebastian Aho (0 goals, 15 games)
- Justin Williams (1 goal, 11 games)
- Nino Niederreiter (3 goals, 11 games)
- Teuvo Teravainen (3 goals, 11 games)
- Dougie Hamilton (6 goals, 16 games)
- Micheal Ferland (0 goals, 20 games)
- Jordan Martinook (1 goal, 16 games)
Understood that a strong defensive game, including exceptional goaltending, will work to hold off Washington’s powerful and talented offense at 5-on-5, as long as possible.
But, aside from tightening up on the penalty kill, if the Hurricanes do not get consistent production from any combination of their top goal scorers, then unfortunately, the postseason will end as quickly as it started.
Peter Koutroumpis: 401-323-8960, @pksport