We’ve known for a while that Hurricanes/Devils was a great series, but after that ending, it has to be in the discussion as one of the best first-round series of all time.
It had a little bit of everything – great play from star players, a stellar goaltending match-up that lived up its billing and some of the most dramatic endings in recent memory.
It also marked the birth of an out-of-nowhere Hurricanes playoff legend – Jussi Jokinen. Prior to this series, Jokinen was best known as one of the premier shootout specialists in the league, but I imagine that has changed by now. There are no shootouts in the playoffs – there aren’t even that many breakaways - yet the man clearly made his mark with two stunning late-game goals.
Although his initial reputation was well-earned, I think there is something else that goes along with it. His continued dominance in that aspect of the game doesn’t just speak to his one-on-one skills, but perhaps more so to his ability to be a clutch performer with an ability to deliver in key moments. In that regard, few were better in the first round.
“You want to put your smartest guys out who are most comfortable with the puck,” said Coach Paul Maurice of using Jokinen in some of the season’s most important shifts. “This is not a coaching thing, and it’s not me seeing something. It’s about what he’s got.”
Even before the playoffs, it had long been said that the trade to bring Jokinen in from Tampa Bay was underrated for the versatility he brought to Carolina. Again, the days of that flying under the radar should now be over.
Things have gotten to the point where, if you are an NHL general manager and Jim Rutherford calls to ask about a seemingly expendable player you’ve made available, you may want to reevaluate the situation, because you’re probably missing something.
Although, to be fair, every other team missed it as well – twice – as that’s how many times Jokinen cleared waivers.
“What he’s not is a flashy player, so he’s probably not going to score four on a given night,” said Maurice. “He’s also not going to be minus-4 on a given night. He’s a very smart player.”
We’ll have more about the upcoming match-up with the Boston Bruins in a bit, including video of Maurice’s press conference at the RBC Center this morning. Look for that on the home page.
Also coming later – official information about the second round broadcast schedule. Local fans need NOT be concerned about the “joined in progress” aspect of the Versus coverage, as FS Carolinas will show games 1, 3, 4, 6 and 7. When Versus shows parts of those games on “JIP” nights, they will be picking up the feed from either FSC or NESN, the network that covers the Bruins.