Hurricanes have knack for making most of rare playoff runs

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In that magical run to the franchise’s first-ever Stanley Cup victory, the Washington Capitals finally broke a cycle of fantastic regular seasons followed by heartbreaking finishes. Finally, the Capitals made good, in part because they consistently gave themselves a chance by winning division titles, if not the Presidents’ Trophy.

The Carolina Hurricanes introduce some really fun contrasts to the Capitals, including being the analytics darling while Washington often transcends those numbers.

But an even more tantalizing narrative is a “David vs. Goliath”-type underdog story, as the Hurricanes haven’t tasted the postseason since 2008-09.

(For some perspective: the Capitals have only missed the playoffs once [in 2013-14] since 2007-08.)

Give the Hurricanes this much, though: they have an uncanny knack for making the most of their rare playoff runs. It’s something to think about as the series begins with Game 1 in Washington on Thursday night at 7:30 p.m. ET (USA; live stream).

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

This is just Carolina’s sixth playoff appearance since moving from Hartford and becoming the Hurricanes in 1997-98, yet they conjured some magic in their last three appearances. Consider those three stretches, from oldest to newest:

  • In 2001-02, the Hurricanes made it to the 2002 Stanley Cup Final, falling 4-1 to the Detroit Red Wings. With 91 points during the regular season, Carolina beat out the Capitals for the Southeast Division title, but the team nonetheless felt decidedly scrappy. Current coach Rod Brind’Amour was an alternate captain.
  • After that run, the Hurricanes failed to make the playoffs for two straight seasons, before the 2004-05 season was canceled because of a lockout. The Hurricanes then won the Stanley Cup during the zany 2005-06 season. Many remember this as a weak team for a champion, but some forget that they finished the season with 112 points, the second-highest total in the East that season. Eric Staal topped all scorers with a breakthrough 100-point season, Brind’Amour was the captain and two-way beast, and Cam Ward won the Conn Smythe.
  • The Hurricanes then missed the playoffs for two straight seasons before returning to the postseason in 2008-09, their last appearance until the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Carolina won two playoff rounds before being swept by the eventual champion Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference Final. Brind’Amour was … still captain.

So, in the Hurricanes’ last three playoff runs, they’ve won nine playoff series, and lost to the eventual Stanley Cup champions both times they failed to win it all. That’s pretty good bang for your buck, huh?

It’s also worth noting that Brind’Amour has been involved in those three runs, which … *arches eyebrow*

None of this is to say that the Hurricanes will go deep during the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, as they’re considerable, justifiable underdogs against the defending champions in Round 1, just to begin. Still, it’s remarkable how this franchise has made the most of these appearances in the past.

Hurricanes – Capitals Game 1 from Capital One Arena will be Thursday night at 7:30 p.m. ET on USA Network. You can stream it here.

For more on these two teams, check out the series preview. Get a rundown of Thursday’s full slate of Game 1 action with The Wraparound.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.