Caps vs. Canes

Amanda Mugari

Last year’s Stanley Cup champion, the Washington Capitals, looks great and is ready as ever heading into the 2019 Stanley Cup playoffs. The Capitals spent the break before the season relaxing and reliving their win of the Stanley Cup the previous year. When time came for the season to start up again, the Capitals did have some lows, including a seven-game losing streak in mid January. Alex Ovechkin, the captain for the Capitals, set the tone for the team and made sure they pushed harder. The Capitals are without one of their top defense-men, Michal Kempny. Unlike last spring, Washington enters the playoffs with no uncertainty in net: Braden Holtby is the starting goalie for the caps. Holtby ended the season with five straight wins. Petr Mrazek has been great for the Hurricanes this season, but it wasn’t the first time they’ve seen such greatness from the 26-year-old. The Capitals’ penalty killing has improved as time has gone on, especially since adding Carl Hagelin to the team.

The Carolina Hurricanes have been showing many of the “haters” wrong for the majority of this season, through their numerous wins. The Hurricanes seems to be giving off a new energy. In his first full season as the majority owner, Tom Dundon has been intimately involved in the day-to-day operations of the team. Rod Brind’Amour has shined as a rookie NHL head coach. The Hurricanes improved their attendance and clinched their first playoff in a decade, ending the NHL’s longest postseason drought. They also boasted a strong defensive structure. Finns Teuvo Teravainen and Sebastian Aho, plus captain Justin Williams, set the bar for the offense, who led the Hurricanes in scoring, with a career-high thirty goals and fifty-three assists. He’s due for a turn, as they say “there’s no place to make your mark than the playoffs,“ especially if he is getting the chances to go up against Washington’s center, Evgeny Kuznetsov. 

Many have said that they don’t see Ovechkin and the team falling behind anytime soon, as the Hurricanes might have a hard time in particular beating Tom Wilson, the team’s very aggressive forward. The Hurricanes showed off some of their talent with their second line, but not long after that the upper hand dropped. The Capitals are also strong on their second line, and their third line has been very good this season, thanks to Brett Connolly.  Washington’s power play is slightly above league average, whereas the Hurricanes power play is slightly below. Rod Brind’Amour and Todd Reirden are in their first seasons as NHL head coaches for the Hurricanes and the Capitals, respectively. Brind’Amour has had experiences of long playoff runs as a player, including winning the Stanley Cup with Carolina in 2006; Reirden has the experience of a long playoff run from last spring, as a lead assistant for the Cup-winning Capitals. Overall, at this point, it’s fair game; no one knows who’s going to win or lose, we just have to see as time goes on.