Hurricanes showing strong signs as they sweep Islanders to reach Eastern Conference final
The Carolina Hurricanes are proof that if you can just get to the playoffs, there's no limit on how far you can go.
The Hurricanes swept the New York Islanders with a 5-2 victory at Raleigh, North Carolina, Friday night to advance to an Eastern Conference final meeting against the winner of the series between the Boston Bruins and Columbus Blue Jackets. That series is tied 2-2 with Game 5 in Boston on Saturday night.
To recap: The Hurricanes have four playoff trips since 2002 and reached the conference final all four times. And they went even further in 2002 (Stanley Cup Final) and 2006 (championship). They lost in the 2009 conference final to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Carolina coach Rod Brind'Amour was a player on those teams.
The Hurricanes celebrate a power-play goal by center Sebastian Aho. (Photo: James Guillory, USA TODAY Sports)
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The Hurricanes reached the playoffs for the first time in 10 years and knocked off the defending champion Washington Capitals in the first round, winning Game 7 on the road. Then they bested Cup-winning coach Barry Trotz, who joined the Islanders after being unable to land a new contract with the Capitals.
It was the franchise's first sweep of a best-of-seven series.
Friday's win was the easiest of the bunch, though the Islanders did score first on a Mathew Barzal goal. The rest was all Hurricanes, as Islanders starting goalie Robin Lehner was pulled for Thomas Greiss.
Signs that will help the Hurricanes going forward:
-The power play, a weakness coming into the game at an 8.8% success rate, connected in the first period on a Sebastian Aho goal.
-The Hurricanes showed their depth by getting goals from three lines.
-Brind'Amour and his team dealt with a first-period surge after Trotz switched up his lines.
-Backup goalie Curtis McElhinney, forced into action when Petr Mrazek was hurt in Game 2, was strong again with 26 saves.
-Andrei Svechnikov and Jordan Martinook looked good in their second games back from injury. Svechnikov was feisty, scored a goal and drew a penalty. Martinook had an assist.
The Hurricanes are a tight bunch who have jelled under rookie coach Brind'Amour and new owner Tom Dundon. They take pride in being known as the "Bunch of Jerks," a name that Hockey Night in Canada gave them because of their postgame celebrations.
And now they'll be rested before the Eastern Conference final begins.
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