Winning the Stanley Cup never comes without passing a series of tests.
For each team, those trials come in so many forms, ones specifically tailored to the opponent they’re facing, the adversity that comes from within, be it injuries or otherwise, and any other internal or external issues one can drum up.
The variables are endless. Not handling the rigors of each proving group they enter means the end of the line.
The Carolina Hurricanes step onto the ice for Game 1 on of the Eastern Conference Final on Thursday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN; live stream) knowing full well what they must do to reach the Stanley Cup Final.
“It’s a lot,” Hurricanes head coach Rod Brind’Amour said of the Boston Bruins. “I don’t think that there’s one thing I would say. I think they’re a championship team that knows how to get it done. They’ve got no weaknesses. They’ve got goaltending, they’ve got great D, they’ve got balance up front. I’m not surprised they’re having the success that they’re having.”
Like a bingo card, the Hurricanes will have to dab each box. But on every possible permutation for a winning card, they’re going to have to do one thing, specifically: shutdown David Pastrnak, Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron.
The results can be quite effective when you do.
The Columbus Blue Jackets jumped out to a 2-1 series lead against the Bruins in Round 2, allowing just one goal from the ‘Big Three’ as Pastrnak had a puck carom off his skate and into the back of the net for the only point from that trio in the first three games.
Of course, the results can be disastrous if you don’t.
The line combined for five points in a Game 4 win and six points to take a 3-2 series lead in Game 5. Columbus’ inability to keep the line in check for two games changed the complexion of the series, and Boston’s depth scoring took advantage of the Blue Jackets trying to overcompensate in Game 6.
Carolina seems well-equipped to deal with it.
They’ve given up a league-low 225 shots and a league-low 14 goals in 5-on-5 scenarios so far in these playoffs.
Dougie Hamilton, who’s seen nothing but top lines in the postseason, said you have to treat Boston’s top trio as any other top line.
“We’re going to have to be good against them,” Hamilton told reporters on Wednesday.
Brind’Amour, meanwhile, said his team is well-aware of Boston’s resume.
“You know that they’re going to get on the scoresheet at some point,” he said. “You hope it’s not in bunches in a game where they can dominate a game or take control of the game.”
And Brind’Amour knows Boston isn’t just a one-line team.
“That’s what makes them so dangerous,” he said. “That’s why they’re still playing and, arguably, the favorite to even win the Stanley Cup now with the teams that are going to be left because they have quality players all the way around.”