With the Boston Bruins eliminated, the Hurricanes and Devils are the two remaining teams from the top three in the regular season standings. And now they face off against each other in the Second Round. The Hurricanes, despite missing key forwards, were able to take down the Islanders even with Ilya Sorokin playing lights out. The Devils managed to hold on and win in game seven against their rivals in the New York Rangers in stunning fashion. Both teams proved their worth during the regular season. And now they clearly deserved to move on to the second round after their performances in the first round. It’s a matchup of two teams who fought tooth and nail for the number one seed down the stretch of the regular season. But now in round two, the Devils and Hurricanes will go head-to-head to legitimately see who is the best team to come out of the Metropolitan Division this year.
Through four matchups during the regular season, both teams took two wins against each other. The Hurricanes and Devils play opposite brands of hockey and they’re masters of their domain. The Devils are more focused on their high-octane offense, while the Hurricanes are focused on their tactical, structured defensive game. The Devils and Hurricanes were two of the best teams at 5v5 in the league and it showed in their playoff success so far. Both teams played really well against each other in the regular season and I expect that to remain the same now. Of all the series currently happening, this might be the closest one of them all. Two teams who dominated all year long with their specific style of play going head-to-head to see who can make it out of a potentially long seven-game series.
What to Watch:
Hurricanes: Forechecking and their Cycle
Carolina plays a strong brand of offense that pressures teams in their zone by keeping them in their own end for long periods of time. They forecheck with relentless pressure and involve their defenseman a lot in the offensive zone. Through their use of the cycle, they tire their opponents out with their passing and find opportunities to slip pucks in behind tried defenders for key scoring opportunities. Since they defend their zone so well by making it almost impossible to enter their zone, they make teams pay on the other end of the ice if they don’t break through.
Devils: Possession and Play in Transition
In contrast to the more structured game of the Hurricanes, the Devils love and live by their speed. They strip pucks from players and fly down the ice. North-South hockey is what generates their offense and gets them a ton of scoring opportunities on the rush. With their young and fast roster, they can blow by opponents, get a couple of shots and wait for the rest of the line to show for them to create havoc. Their ability to be so good in transition has also helped them prevent rushes against them as well. As long as they maintain energy and sustain momentum, they have players that can go for rushes with speed all night long.
Series Prediction: Carolina Hurricanes defeat the New Jersey Devils in seven games
These two teams match up well against each other. The matchup here is going to be one of the most interesting of the postseason. Both teams have completely different styles of play that will result in high-event hockey that will be exciting to watch. Carolina will try to grind down opponents and grind out goals with a relentless, effective forecheck, then aggressively defend their own blue line. The Devils with their premier rush ability with three lines capable of receiving passes will fly in the neutral zone and try to score.
This is another series that truly can go either way, reminds me of the Oilers and Kings series from the first round. This will be a true test of what team outlasts the other. The Devils proved they don’t back down easy and have no quit, but the overall depth mixed with a relentless structure gives Carolina the edge for me. The Hurricanes won’t have it easy, because even if they win, they’re losing an arm and a leg in this one.