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The Carolina Hurricanes Look Ready

Despite suffering goaltending issues int he playoffs once again, the Carolina Hurricanes look good enough to overcome the flaws that otherwise would have sunk them.
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Different year; same story. The narrative beats are there. 

The Carolina Hurricanes charge into the postseason on the back of a cavernously deep roster meticulously crafted to display equal measures of skill, flash, and grit, only to watch their goaltending crumble with injuries or poor play at the exact moment they need them, ultimately rendering their efforts fruitless. 

History seemed ready to repeat itself once again this year. The Hurricanes, fresh off heartbreaking defeats, had seemingly remedied their Achilles' heel in net, signing two former starters with something to prove in Frederik Andersen and Antti Raanta before sitting back as the former rewarded them with a Vezina-calibre performance. 

Andersen's late-season injury was a hard pill to swallow for the Hurricanes, especially given how close it came to the playoffs, but it wasn't the devastating blow it otherwise would've been in years past. 

The team did have Raanta, after all. And the 32-year-old's track record and career .919 save percentage offered solace in his ability to handle the load until Andersen returned. 

Then David Pastrnak crashed into him on Wednesday night, and the Hurricanes went from having an enviable veteran goaltending tandem to a 22-year-old rookie in Pytor Kochetkov. 

And yet, miraculously, it doesn't matter. 

The Hurricanes have absolutely curb-stomped the Boston Bruins through the first two games of their first-round series thus far, controlling the action at both ends of the ice while out-scoring their opponent 10-3 and looking as if they haven't missed a beat despite losing every NHL goaltender on their roster. 

Sure, facing an out-matched and clearly banged-up Bruins squad might make these speed bumps a tad softer. But the Hurricanes have overcome their usual flaws with tight defense and a focused attack, pushing Boston's shooters to either the outside or the top of the crease while continually setting up shop in Linus Ullmark's kitchen at the other end. 

Even when score effects kicked in at the end of both Games 1 and 2 and tilted the ice in the Bruins' favor, goaltending, as it so often failed to in recent years, rose to the occasion. Raanta stopped 41 of the 42 shots he faced before the Pastrnak collision, with Kochetkov, who began his relief appearance with two career starts under belt, proceeded to turn aside 30 of the next 32. 

Despite their horrid injury luck, it's hard not to look at the Hurricanes as a team for which everything is going right. 

The big guns have shown up when needed, with Neidereiter, Aho, Trochek, and Svechnikov all at a point-per-game or better at the moment. But it's Carolina's depth that has truly pushed the Bruins to the brink so early. 

While Boston came out swinging in Game 2, and the officials effectively rendered even-strength meaningless by dolling out 14 combined power plays, Game 1 served as a clinic for the Hurricanes' bottom-six might, with Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Jordin Martinook in particular posting ridiculous 90.93 and 89.91 percent expected goal shares, respectively, in roughly 12 minutes each of five-on-five usage. 

That, of course, is amazing. And controlling nearly 100 percent of the possession for one-sixth of the game is undoubtedly going to impact the final result, seemingly having dealt a blow to the Bruins that they are unable to counter. 

This depth is what has made the 2022 Hurricanes so different. 

It's been the additions of Kotkaniemi and Max Domi via trades that didn't surrender any notable roster pieces, the promotion of super-prospect Seth Jarvis, and the luxury to let Neidereiter and Necas feast in bottom-six roles against inferior competition that has given these Canes a unique edge. 

The Bruins, one of the postseason's more top-heavy teams, don't have an answer. And when the likes of Pastrnak, Brad Marchand, and Patrice Bergeron are going toe-to-toe with pairings led by Jacob Slavin and Brett Pesce, two of the best pure shutdown defenders in the league, the role players can go to town on an inferior Bruins supporting cast. 

And they have, leaving the Bruins in a two-game hole as the series shifts to Boston. 

Andersen's status will be the most pressing development to track as Carolina's playoff run goes deeper and deeper. His return is undoubtedly crucial despite the results so far. But this year's roster has the tools to paint over the flaws that would have sunk them previously. 

The Hurricanes look ready. And so far, they've acted like it. 

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