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Game 1 Preview: Hurricanes at Bruins

Canes open Eastern Conference Final in Boston

by Michael Smith @MSmithCanes / CarolinaHurricanes.com

2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs game previews are presented by Visit Raleigh.


BOSTON - Just four teams remain in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, and in the Eastern Conference, the Carolina Hurricanes are set to battle the Boston Bruins for the opportunity to play for the Stanley Cup.

The Eastern Conference Final pits the Atlantic Division's second-place team against the East's top wild card seed in the third playoff meeting between the Bruins and Hurricanes since 1997.

"We're down to the final four here," Justin Williams said. "There's 27 other teams that want to be in our position. The microscope is a lot bigger and more people are watching. This is a fun time."

"You ask any guy in this room. We're far from finished. This is just the next step in our journey to try to be the best team," Jordan Martinook said. "I think everybody is ready to flip the page and get going in round three."

Lessons from the Second Round

In completing the sweep of the New York Islanders, the first best-of-seven series sweep in franchise history, the Hurricanes have strung together six consecutive playoff wins. It's the longest winning streak the Canes have put together this season - regular season and preseason included - and it's the second-longest winning streak in franchise postseason history, behind only the team's seven-game winning streak in 2006.

"To get us this far this year kind of got us back on the map, but that's certainly not our goal," head coach Rod Brind'Amour said. "That's not what we set out to do as far as a team and what we want to accomplish, but I think it's a good step."

Video: Rod Brind'Amour: "We're getting close"

The two playoff series the Hurricanes have played in thus far could not have been more different. The First Round was a grueling, back-and-forth, seven-game affair that required double overtime in a winner-take-all Game 7. The Second Round began with the Canes stealing two games on the road in Brooklyn before returning to Raleigh and outscoring the Islanders 10-4 in Games 3 and 4.

"Every series is its own entity, and certainly every game is. Game 1 will be no different," Williams mused. "We know what we are, and we've been resting on that all year, that we believe in ourselves."

Rested & Ready

After making quick work of the Islanders, the Hurricanes bided their time until the remaining three Second Round series wrapped up. That meant a Saturday and Sunday spent entirely away from the rink, followed by three solid days of practice, a rarity after playing 11 playoff games in a 23-day span.

GAME 1 PROJECTED LINEUP

"We got some good rest and recovered our bodies," Sebastian Aho said. "We're ready to go."

Video: Justin Williams: "We know what we are"

"You could kind of almost rest and start again versus grinding right through. We needed that, and we'll see how it affects us," Brind'Amour said. "It's how quick can we get back to it? We'll find out."

Mrazek, Ferland to Return?

Petr Mrazek departed Game 2 in Brooklyn with a lower-body injury and remained out for the balance of the series. In his stead, Curtis McElhinney stopped 71 of 75 shots to earn a 3-0 record, a 1.56 goals-against average and a .947 save percentage.

Mrazek returned to practice with the team this week and said he felt "120 percent."

Brind'Amour wouldn't commit to naming a starter for Game 1. Perhaps his last name begins with an M?

"That's a good one," he laughed. "M for sure."

Micheal Ferland has missed eight playoff games with an upper-body injury, but after skating with the team both last week and this week, the Canes' bruising forward is nearing a return.

"He's on the bubble there, I think," Brind'Amour said. "I'd be surprised if we don't see him at some point soon."

The Last Meetings

The Hurricanes and Bruins met three times in the 2018-19 regular season, and the Canes finished with a 1-1-1 record.

The most recent match-up on March 5 in Boston was perhaps most indicative of what can be expected out of these two teams in this series. It was an intense, competitive 60-plus minutes of hockey, a 4-3 overtime win for the Bruins.

Video: Dougie Hamilton: "We want to keep going"

"They're a championship team that knows how to get it done," Brind'Amour said of the Bruins. "There are no weaknesses. Goaltending, great D, balance up front. No surprise that they're having the success they're having."

The Opposition

The Bruins finished the 2018-19 regular season with a 49-24-9 record and 107 points, good for second place in the Atlantic Division. Brad Marchand ranked tied for fifth in the league in scoring with 100 points (36g, 64a).

Boston knocked off Toronto in seven games in the First Round before ending Columbus' thrilling postseason run in six games in the Second Round. 

"This isn't just a one-line team, and that's what makes them so dangerous," Brind'Amour said. "That's why they're still playing and are arguably the favorites to win the Stanley Cup now. They have quality players all the way around."

"They have a championship pedigree. Their core has won. Their core is proven," Williams said. "They're hungry. They're motivated. I'm looking forward to a great challenge."


ADVANCE AUTO PARTS KEYS TO THE GAME

1. Get After It

It's been six days since the Hurricanes last played. They're rested and ready, but they need to find their legs and their game early to shake off any rust that might have accumulated.

2. Stay Out of the Box

The Bruins have a lethal power play. The best way to guard against that? Don't take penalties. 

3. Lead the Charge

If the Hurricanes can find the first goal and command the game early, it will take the crowd out of the game and allow the Canes to establish their pace of play first while on the road. 


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