Qualifying for the Stanley Cup Playoffs has become an expectation for the Carolina Hurricanes. This season, they once again matched that expectation with a great regular season.
Unfortunately for the Canes, that great season came to an end in the Eastern Conference Final, as they were swept by the Florida Panthers.
The Hurricanes really never got anything going in this series, though they showed their potential at times. A 4OT loss to start the series put Carolina behind the eight ball, and a goal from Matthew Tkachuk with less than five seconds to play in Game 4 finished the job.
This marks the third time since 2009 that Carolina has been swept in the Conference Finals.
How will this Hurricanes season be graded?
In search of their first Stanley Cup Final appearance since winning a championship in 2006, the Hurricanes kicked off the 2022-2023 campaign with a busy offseason. By bringing in players like Max Pacioretty and Brent Burns, the Canes sent a message that they were ready to win it all.
The regular season yielded great success for the team that eventually won the Metropolitan Division crown. However, injuries to players like Pacioretty and Andrei Svechnikov hindered Carolina. The injury bug was only just getting started in the regular season.
Playoff hockey did not bring health with it for the Hurricanes. I don’t believe that to be the only reason the Canes were eliminated, but it definitely contributed.
Running into a red-hot Panthers team with an us-against-the-world mentality may be the largest factor in this round-three sweep. The Cats have shown that no matter the skill level of their opponent, they are playing too well to be defeated right now.
Still, that’s no excuse for Rod Brind’Amour’s team. The expectation is that it’s time to win the Stanley Cup, so losing in four games in the East finale is unacceptable. To some degree, this series seemed to bring a perfect storm of Hurricanes impediments, but they still needed a better showing.
Overall, the Hurricanes posted a 52-21-9 record (113 points). They eliminated the New York Islanders in six games and the New Jersey Devils in five games before losing to the Panthers, four games to none.
I’ll cut Carolina some slack considering the circumstances, but being swept puts a damper on an otherwise impressive season.