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NHL Eastern Conference Final Preview and Prediction

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Courtesy @FlaPanthers

The NHL Eastern Conference Final gets started on Thursday night with an unlikely matchup between the Carolina Hurricanes and the Florida Panthers. The Hurricanes finished the regular season as the two seed and were one of the favorites in the eastern conference, but their opponent is one of the biggest longshots in NHL history. The Panthers are a wild card team that barely snuck their way into the playoffs thanks to a late season winning streak. 

The Florida Panthers were riding a three-game losing skid and looked dead in the water with roughly two weeks left in the season, but a six game winning streak and some help from other teams allowed them to secure the second wild card spot. This gave the Cats a first-round date with the Boston Bruins, a team coming off the greatest regular season in NHL history. The Panthers went on to pull off arguably the biggest upset in NHL playoff history as they beat the Bruins in seven games and moved on to face the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Panthers were a heavy underdog again coming into this series but handled the Leafs with ease. The Cats disposed of Toronto in five games to advance to their second conference final in franchise history.

On the other side of the bracket the Carolina Hurricanes have been the most consistent team in the playoffs. After winning the Metropolitan division and securing the two seed, the Hurricanes faced the Islanders and won the first round series in six games before taking on the Devils. The Hurricanes continued their impressive run and dismissed New Jersey in an easy five gameseries. Carolina has looked the best of any team in the playoffs and currently has the best odds to win the Stanley Cup.

Both the Hurricanes and Panthers have gotten great goaltending play from experienced netminders during their playoff runs. After a heavily criticized regular season, Panthers’ goalie Sergei Bobrovsky has stepped up and been a major factor in the Cats’ improbable run. Bobrovsky has made a few incredible late game saves to close out games for the Panthers. Across the ice, the Hurricanes will be relying on a talented duo of Antti Raanta and Freddy Andersen. Carolina has only allowed more than two goals in two of their eleven playoff games this postseason. 

In front of Bobrovsky, Matthew Tkachuk and Carter Verhaeghe helped fuel the Panthers offensively. Tkachuk has sixteen points through twelve games, while Verhaeghe has added another twelve. Cats’ captain Aleksander Barkov faced some backlash for not making much of an impact in their opening round series against the Bruins, but has come on stronger as the playoffs continued. The Panthers will need big performances from their leaders to have a chance against a Carolina team that looks incredibly dangerous.

The Hurricanes have a deep line up lead by Sebastian Aho and Jordan Martinook. Both Aho and Martinook have ten points through eleven playoff games, but have had a lot of help from a talented roster. Carolina has eleven players that have at least six points in the playoffs this year. The Hurricanes are likely the deepest and most talented team left in the playoffs and will provide a huge challenge for the Panthers.

The Panthers caught fire at the right time and have had an incredible playoff run thus far. They are finally playing up to the level that many believed this team could achieve when the roster was constructed last offseason. Carolina has been one of the most consistent teams throughout the season and is now into the playoffs. The Hurricanes are incredibly talented and playing very well top to bottom right now. While the Cats’ playoff run has been nothing short of miraculous, I think it comes to an end in the conference finals against the Hurricanes.

Prediction

Carolina Hurricanes in Six

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