Capitals vs Hurricanes Live : The Washington Capitals will take on the Carolina Hurricanes in the first round of the 2019 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs. with Game 1 of the Capitals-Hurricanes series on Thursday, April 11 in Washington at 7:30 p.m. The longest active playoff drought in the NHL officially ends tonight when the Carolina Hurricanes take the ice against the Washington Capitals in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series.
It feels like Christmas Day. That is, it must feel like what Christmas Day would feel like if Santa Claus had skipped your house for the last nine years.The Hurricanes, who were on an 80-point pace on Dec. 31, reeled off a 30-12-2 record in calendar 2019 to surge (literally and figuratively) into the post season. Their 46 wins and 99 points is the second-best regular season record in franchise history, trailing only 2005-06 (52 wins, 112 points). They will begin their playoff journey against the reigning Stanley Cup champions, who claimed their fourth consecutive Metropolitan Division title, while besting the Canes in all four games (three in regulation and one in a shootout) during their regular season matchups.
The defending Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals look as strong as ever heading into the 2019 Stanley Cup playoffs. But the Carolina Hurricanes have been proving doubters wrong all season — and having lots of fun while they’re at it. Who wins this series? Let’s break it down.
The Capitals did slump at times — including a seven-game losing streak in mid-January — but had some dominant stretches too. The captain set the tone. Alex Ovechkin cruised to his second-consecutive Rocket Trophy, and eighth overall. Ovechkin’s 51 goals were 26 more than his closest teammate. The Caps began the season with nearly the same roster they ended with in June. They would add along the way — including depth defenseman Nick Jensen and veteran winger Carl Hagelin, a force on the penalty kill — but also lost some. They sent playoff hero Devante Smith-Pelly to the minors, and lost top pairing defenseman Michal Kempny to injury late in the season.
Carolina, meanwhile, has been injected by new energy. In his first full season as the majority owner, Tom Dundon has been intimately involved in day-to-day operations while Rod Brind’Amour shined as a rookie NHL head coach. With elaborate postgame celebrations — which drew the ire of many traditionalists in hockey media — and a fast-paced game, the Canes improved attendance and clinched their first playoff berth in a decade, snapping the NHL’s longest postseason drought. The “Bunch of Jerks” had a bunch of fun. They also boasted a strong defensive structure. Young Finns Teuvo Teravainen and Sebastian Aho, plus captain Justin Williams, set the bar offensively.
When projected starting goalie Scott Darling faltered, Carolina benefited from surprise performances from both Petr Mrazek and Curtis McElhinney.
Somehow, the defending champs look even more impressive this year. Maybe it’s because there is no longer a question of if the Capitals can win it all, or if they can beat Pittsburgh in a seven-game series – because both happened in the 2018 playoffs. So what is left is a well-balanced team with money players at every position, led by future Hall of Famer Alex Ovechkin.
Though he partied hard in the summer, Ovechkin won an eighth Rocket Richard Trophy, while a number of other forwards managed 20-goal campaigns. The power play ranked top-10 in the NHL.
On the back end, John Carlson played some of his best hockey ever and the defense did a good job at limiting shots. Adding Nick Jensen from Detroit at the deadline gave the unit some much-needed depth, and his steady hand will serve the team well as they run for back-to-back titles.
Though all the jokes about a “literal Stanley Cup hangover” didn’t end up coming true (the Caps started the season 5-3-2, including a 7-0 opening-night waxing of the Bruins), there is still a concern about just how physically taxing it can be to go through the NHL playoffs twice in a row. Does Washington have the horses to do it, especially with physical teams such as Columbus and the Islanders lurking in the division?
In net, Braden Holtby battled through his second straight subpar regular season, though he turned it on in the playoffs last year and guided his team to glory. Does that switch get flicked once again? If it doesn’t, can backup Pheonix Copley save the day?
Elsewhere, Washington has a pedestrian penalty-killing unit and does not do well on faceoffs. In fact, the Caps are the worst team in the league when it comes to draws, and every loss is magnified in the playoffs. Jay Beagle’s departure stings in that department.
No doubt Tom Wilson will play a big part of Washington’s post-season again, but which side of the line will he fall on? If the intimidating power forward spends his nights bashing opponents in the corners and scoring goals in front of the net, then the Caps will be tough to beat. If he’s suspended for yet another violent transgression, as he was in last year’s playoffs, then Washington is down a crucial player at the most inopportune of times. Given his reputation, Wilson will not get the benefit of the doubt in any sketchy interactions, so the right winger will have be on his (relatively) best behavior.