Most fans who picked a bracket or joined a playoff pool this April were more than likely disappointed by the end of the first round. Over half of the first round series resulted in upsets, with of course the biggest two being the sweeps of the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Pittsburgh Penguins. Tampa Bay, who finished first in the Atlantic by a hefty margin, was swept by the second wildcard Columbus Blue Jackets. Whereas the 2016, 2017 back to back cup winning Penguins, were swept by the New York Islanders, who’ve been noticeably absent from the playoffs for the last two years.
However, with the second round in the books, it’s evident that sweeping a series did not translate to second round success for either Columbus or New York. Can the Carolina Hurricanes buck this trend? or is their downturn even more likely?
Sweeping, Getting Swept, What’s Next?
Carolina was the only team to sweep a series in the second round. As of course both teams who swept in round one were unable to continue their streaks. The Game 4 win the Islanders earned over the Penguins would be their last win of the playoffs, thanks to Carolina. Additionally, Columbus hardly fared any better, losing their second-round series four games to two, against the Boston Bruins.
The Hurricanes earned a ticket to the playoffs by clinching the first wildcard spot out east. They were the underdogs in their first series and have remained the underdogs in all three of their series to date. (All following playoff stats are as of May 11th 2019) Although in goals for per game the Hurricanes are 5th out of all 16 playoff teams and they’re 13th out of 16 teams for goals against per game. However, those are some of the teams most favorable playoff statistics, and yet Boston is ahead of them in those categories and other major playoff categories as well.
Boston Is Bringing It
Boston has the best record for goals against per game out of all playoffs teams, allowing only 2.14 goals per game. Boston also has the best power play percentage in the playoffs at 30% to Carolina’s third last 12.2%. Additionally Carolina has the third worst penalty kill percentage at 73.2% to Boston’s 5th best at 82.5%.
Love him or hate him, (It’s probably the second one) Brad Marchand has also been an extremely instrumental part to his team’s playoff success. Marchand is the only player on either Boston or Carolina to be averaging higher than a point per game at 1.07. The highest points per game forward on Carolina who has played in all of the teams 12 playoff games is Sebastian Aho at 0.83 points per game.
When it comes to the Stanley Cup Playoffs, momentum in a series can change spontaneously. All of a sudden yesterday’s stats may no longer represent the current direction of the teams. With that in mind, It’s important to maintain a healthy level of skepticism when looking into traditional head to head stats and odds.
Sometimes the good old fashion eye test can be an equally valuable tool. Unfortunately for the Hurricanes though, the eye test in game one of the Eastern Conference Final seems to favors the Bruins as well. Even though the majority of the hockey world seems to want the Jerks to move on, it looks as if the Boston Bruins have the best odds to do so. Further to this point, moneypuck.com not only has the Bruins as the favourites to win the series, but the favourites to win the Stanley Cup.
One last prominent difference between Carolina and both the Islanders and the Blue Jackets, is that the Hurricanes had fewer days off between series sweeps. Carolina was only kept from playoff hockey for five days, whereas the Islanders rested for ten days and Blue Jackets were left to rest for nine days. However, this may be hollow comfort now, as Carolina showed no signs of benefiting from this shortened cool down period during game one. It seems like Carolina may be destined to continue this years trend of sweeping and then getting handily eliminated in the next round.
#UnfortunatlyItsProbablyBoston. Not as catchy I must say.