1. The Journey Ends Here
The Hurricanes have been playoff hockey for the better part of five months.
They powered their way up the standings in the second half of the season to earn a playoff berth in the second-to-last game of the regular season.
They won an emotional and grueling seven-game series against the defending Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals in double overtime of the winner-take-all final match.
They rode that emotional wave into a Second Round sweep of the New York Islanders.
And then they ran into the Bruins, and in four short games in the Eastern Conference Final, the Hurricanes playoff journey ended.
Video: BOS@CAR, Gm4: Bruins, Hurricanes exchange handshakes
"The tank has been low for a long time. We've just been running on adrenaline and just sheer will," Justin Williams said. "It's always tough to swallow when the season ends abruptly like that."
The season ended just as quickly as the series began, it felt like. The Bruins, easily the favorite to win the Stanley Cup, never allowed the Hurricanes to get to their game.
"I didn't think it'd be done quite like this, but you tip your cap sometimes," Williams said. "Boston played great."
"You've got to give them tons of credit. That's really where it starts," head coach Rod Brind'Amour said. "They're a great team, and we knew that."
2. Lessons Learned
The Hurricanes certainly were not the most experience-heavy team coming into this postseason, but they grew up quickly.
That experience will serve the team well in the years to come - we all know there's more where this came from, and now the Canes have knowledge to lean on.
"I know we learned how hard it is. It's going to be that extra little bit to get you over that hump and where you want to be," said Jordan Staal, who returned to the playoffs for the first time since 2012. "It's not easy to get to where we got, so we're proud of that, but at the same time, we wanted more as a group."
Video: McElhinney: "It's been a crazy year and a lot of fun"
"At the moment, it stings, you know? It hurts," said Sebastian Aho, who, in his third NHL season, got his first taste of the playoffs. "It's a tough way to end the season, but we're going to look at the big picture, remember this feeling and hope that helps us in the future."
3. The Story of Special Teams
The story of this series was special teams. Simply: The Hurricanes were not good on their power play, and the Bruins were very good on their power play.
The Hurricanes were just 1-for-14 (7.1 percent) on the power play in the series, while the Bruins were a lethal 7-for-15 (46.6 percent).
"Let's face it. They played a great series, and they were the better team, obviously," Staal said. "In the end, I think our special teams kind of killed us."
Video: CAR Recap: Season ends with 4-0 loss in Game 4
"Their power play was better, and their penalty kill was better," Williams said. "It's tough when you lose the special teams battle against this team every single night."
Game 4 followed a similar script. The Hurricanes couldn't convert on the power play, including one they had just 78 seconds into the game, while the Bruins tallied their first two goals on the man advantage.
And then there was Tuukka Rask, who stopped 109 of the 114 shots he faced in the series (.956 save percentage). In Games 3 and 4 in Raleigh, Rask made 59 saves on 60 shots (.983 save percentage).
"We didn't break through," Brind'Amour said. "We didn't get that one early that just kind of got the momentum going. It never happened in this series for us. It's tough."
4. Thank You, Fans
As the clock ticked down the final 90 seconds of Game 4, the Hurricanes' faithful at PNC Arena rose to their feet, waved their towels and clapped their hands in appreciation of their team. Chants of "Let's Go Canes" broke out in the final 30 seconds as the cheering only swelled.
"They've been unbelievable all year, especially in this playoff run," Staal said. "They gave us life in that first series, pushed us in the second one and were great here in the third."
"I want to thank the people and community for supporting us. I hate that we went out like that on that game. That was a dud game for them to come watch. I apologize for that," Brind'Amour said. "Tremendous support for our team. It means a lot to me, our players and the organization to see the people not just coming back but the way they do it and get behind our group. It's a real community feel. It's something special."
Video: Brind'Amour: "I'm proud of this group"
After exchanging handshakes with a Bruins team bound for the Stanley Cup Final, the Canes gathered near center ice, lifted their sticks and saluted the crowd one final time. The Storm Surge ended in late March, but the connection with the fans has never dwindled.
"I feel like this is a little bit more of a family atmosphere than a hockey team and its fans. I feel we've all been encapsulated in what we've done this year, and we've all done it together," Williams said. "To see this crowd and the area the way we want it to be and the way I remember it is awesome to see. It was a genuine great relationship between us."
5. Closing Time
It's all too raw to process right now, but what a season it was. This Hurricanes team fought until the bitter end, the final, painful horn bringing a brutal, abrupt end to a magical run.
The run was the result of hard work, of talent, of belief. This is a team that united as one, as a brotherhood, as a family in attempt to achieve a goal those on the outside didn't think was possible.
"We wanted to get back to relevancy. We wanted more, but being one of the final four teams playing accomplished that," Staal said. "For a young team, knowing we can build off that is promising. I think the fans understand that. I think the city understands that. You can tell they're excited about this group, as we are, and we want to continue to be the team every year continually playing like that, in these games."
Video: Williams: "I'm proud of every one of my teammates"
And now what? Now, it ends.
"It stings right now. It's going to sting for a little while," Brind'Amour said. "I'm super proud of this group. I'm super proud of this organization."
"It's always tough to swallow when the season ends abruptly like that," Williams said with beads around his neck and his kids by his side. "I just told my kids I was planning on going to Boston tomorrow, but I'll be home tomorrow after school. Life goes on."
This end, though, is only the beginning.
"I'm proud of what we've done," Williams said. "I'm proud that we've gotten ourselves relevant again. I'm proud that we raised the bar in this organization. I'm proud of every one of my teammates."