Hurricanes vs Predators: 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs First Round preview

Carolina has gone from media darling and the “bunch of jerks” to arguably the favorite to hoist the Stanley Cup relatively quickly.

Nashville has gone from a Cup contender to on the fringe of being a playoff team at all with an aging or already departed core.

They are two teams heading into different eras entirely. The finale for Pekka Rinne in the regular season felt like an era ending already. Carolina, meanwhile, has seen the careers of their young players just begin to take off.

The Hurricanes are the favorites here. Nashville isn’t a bad team, and they’ve persevered all season to get to this point as it is. They won’t go down so easily.

HURRICANES VS PREDATORS – series livestream link

Monday, May 17: Predators at Hurricanes, 8 p.m. ET (CNBC)
Wednesday, May 19: Predators at Hurricanes, 8 p.m. ET (CNBC)
Friday, May 21: Hurricanes at Predators, 7 p.m. ET (USA Network)
Sunday, May 23: Hurricanes at Predators TBD
*Tuesday, May 25: Predators at Hurricanes TBD
*Thursday, May 27: Hurricanes at Predators TBD
*Saturday, May 29: Predators at Hurricanes TBD

Hurricanes – Predators: Stories to Watch

How dominant will the Hurricanes power play be?

Carolina has one of the best man-up units in the league. Nashville has one of the worst penalty kills, ranked at 29th in the league.

In the regular season, Carolina went 9 for 26 (34.6%) on the power play against the Predators.

Keep in mind, when the Hurricanes were swept by the Bruins in the 2019 Eastern Conference Final, their power play was more than disappointing. So, they have something to prove in the playoffs.

They were first in the league most of the season and have been slipping lately, finishing the regular season ranked second. Perhaps the Preds weak penalty kill is just what they need, though.

The Cinderella Preds

For a solid portion of the season it seemed like Nashville was going to in fact be sellers at the trade deadline. They really came out of nowhere, aided by a meek finish to the season for Dallas.

Goalie Juuse Saros is a big part of that, but the Predators have been playing what feels like playoff hockey for the entire season essentially. They were considered out of it and have responded by making the postseason.

Carolina is a clear, far and away favorite. But Nashville knows what it feels like to be counted out, and they know what it feels like to succeed anyways.

It’s Teuvo Teravainen‘s time

Since coming back from injury, Teravainen has played with a star. In the eight games he has been with Sebastian Aho and Andrei Svechnikov on the top line, they have outscored opponents at an 8-to-4 clip on 5-on-5.

Aho had 24 points in his last 19 games as well, but his dominance is almost expected at this point. If he’s not considered one of the top 15 forwards in the league at this point, well, that’s just wrong.

Teravainen might sneak up a bit more. He’s been playing solid hockey, perhaps he is a difference maker these playoffs.

The Brett Pesce factor

Jaccob Slavin is day-to-day but probably will be ready to go at least at some point in the series. If his injury lags, though, or even he’s not 100 percent upon his return, the Hurricanes are going to have some big asks of Pesce.

The 26-year-old is a shutdown defender on a team with tremendous defensive depth. He missed practice earlier last week, too, so perhaps someone else will have to step in for him even.

Their defensive depth will be tested one way or another, but Pesce could make a name for himself the way Slavin did the past two years if he’s ready to go these playoffs.

One big question for Nashville: Will Nashville finally perform against the Canes?

In six tries this season, the Predators were unable to top the Hurricanes. They went 0-5-1, their worst record against any team, before that seventh try, when they beat a Carolina team that no longer had anything to play for. They went a combined 6-16-1 against Carolina and the other two Central playoff teams, Florida and Tampa Bay.

Nashville’s strength is in net with Saros, but it’s not like the Predators are likely to puncture the Petr Mrazek and Alex Nedeljkovic duo with the Hurricanes. If they were facing a weaker defensive and goaltending team, they could have an advantage to exploit.

One big question for Carolina: When does the Hurricanes offense break out?

Carolina is a great offensive team but they’re so close to being the scariest in the league.

Some of it could be bad puck luck too; it happens. In the regular season, they had a 2.7 xG/60 at 5 on 5, but only 2.3 Goals/60 at 5 on 5. Something is going to give at some point, right?

They were 11th in the league in goals per game at 3.11. Given the Predators lack of penalty killing ability, the power play may carry them anyways. But imagine a Hurricanes team living up to its expected goals on 5 on 5. It’s terrifying.

Hurricanes vs Predators series prediction: Hurricanes in 5

It’s not a gimmie but, Carolina should win this. Nashville hasn’t matched up well all season, and the Hurricanes are storming (get it) into a new era as one of the best teams in the league.

This postseason really feels like the accumulation of excellent team building that spans the past few seasons. It feels like it’s their time, and the numbers agree.

Marisa Ingemi is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop her a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow her on Twitter @Marisa_Ingemi.

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    Hughes has first NHL hat trick, Devils beat Capitals 5-1

    Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports
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    NEWARK, N.J. – Jack Hughes had his first career NHL hat trick, Vitek Vanecek made 38 saves against his former team and the New Jersey Devils beat the Washington Capitals 5-1 on Saturday for coach Lindy Ruff’s 800th victory.

    “It’s exciting,” Hughes said. “Couple of two-goal games in my career, so nice to cap it off with the third one tonight.”

    Ruff became the fifth NHL coach to reach the 800-victory mark. The former Buffalo player won 571 games with the Sabres from 1997-2011. He had 165 wins in five seasons with Dallas and has 64 in two-plus seasons with New Jersey.

    “It means I’ve been around a long time,” Ruff cracked. “Great to win the game. Again, you got to do a lot of right things, have good teams, and the way our team is playing I have to give them a lot of credit for getting me there.”

    The Atlantic Division-leading Devils have won two in a row after seeing their franchise-record 13-game winning streak snapped by Toronto.

    Devils captain Nico Hischier and Fabian Zetterlund also scored.

    John Carlson scored for Washington and Charlie Lindgren made 24 saves.

    “Not scoring goals, not capitalizing on our chances,” Carlson said. “We’ve had our chances, especially today, but we only walked away with one goal. We could have had five or six. It’s just not going in right now.”

    Vanecek, meanwhile, was hoping for the shutout against a familiar foe.

    “That would have been nice, but that’s hockey,” Vanecek said, “For sure you’re trying, but not every time; the win is more important.”

    Hischier opened up the scoring with his 10th goal of the season midway through the first period on a power play after Alexander Ovechkin was called for slashing.

    Hughes wrapped the puck around goalie Lindgren’s right leg and the goal post to put the Devils up 2-0 5:59 into the second period. Hughes appeared to have lost his angle on the goal when he ripped a shot off Lindgren’s face mask and into the net midway through the period for his 10th goal of the season to give New Jersey a 3-0 lead.

    The 2019 No. 1 overall draft pick added his third midway through the third period as hats rained down on the ice with New Jersey up 4-0.

    “You want to continue to play the right way, but if an opportunity comes you want to definitely put it in the back of the net with authority,” Hughes said. “So tonight, I was able to cap it off and it was nice.”

    Fabian Zetterlund capped the scoring for New Jersey late in the third period.

    NOTES: The Devils improved to 16-0-0 this season when Hischier has a point. New Jersey’s Nathan Bastain (upper body) did not return after the first period. . Ovechkin is still nine goals away from 800 and 11 from passing Gordie Howe for second place on the NHL goals list.

    UP NEXT

    Capitals: At Vancouver.

    Devils: At the New York Rangers.

    Bruins set NHL record with 12 straight home wins to start season

    Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
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    BOSTON — The Boston Bruins set the NHL record for most home victories to start a season with their 12th straight, topping the Carolina Hurricanes 3-2 in overtime with a power-play goal from David Pastrnak.

    The Bruins broke the mark of 11 that was set by the 1963-64 Chicago Blackhawks and equaled by the Florida Panthers last season.

    “That felt awesome,” Bruins first-year coach Jim Montgomery said. “We talked about it after the second (period) going into the third. There’s been a lot of great teams in this league and you’re able to set a precedent, break a record. It’s pretty special and it doesn’t happen if those guys don’t believe in themselves like they do.”

    Boston, which trailed 2-0 late in the second period, tied it with 9:33 left in regulation when David Krejci scored his second of the game on a shot from the right point.

    “It’s never fun being down going into the third, you’re sitting in here (in the locker room) trying to figure it out,” Krejci said. “You want to come out and do the job, something special on the line. It’s hard to win in this league. To get 12 in a row at home is pretty special.”

    In overtime, Carolina was playing shorthanded after being called for too many men on the ice when Pastrnak one-timed a pass from Brad Marchand inside the far post from above the left circle.

    “It was a big win for us, obviously, coming from behind,” Pastrnak said.

    Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Stefan Noesen each scored a power-play goal for Carolina, and Pyotr Kochetkov made 38 saves. The Hurricanes lost their fifth straight.

    In a rematch of last spring’s opening-round playoff series that the Hurricanes won in seven games, Carolina shutout the NHL’s highest scoring team for nearly two periods and jumped ahead a pair of power-play goals in the opening period.

    “We took too many penalties. That’s hurting us right now,” Kotaniemi said. “I think 5-on-5 we’re doing a really good job. We started good tonight and couldn’t keep that up.”

    Boston’s tying goal was originally disallowed because of goaltender interference on Nick Foligno but overturned on a coach’s challenge after it was ruled that he was nudged into the crease by Carolina defenseman Brett Pesce.

    Boston starting goaltender Linus Ullmark made 28 saves but had to leave with 13:03 left in the third period with an undisclosed upper-body injury. Teammate Connor Clifton had jumped on him to block a shot during a scramble. Jeremy Swayman made six stops in relief.

    Carolina’s Noesen scored at 6:34 in to make it 1-0. And with five minutes left in the period, Kotkaniemi collected the puck near the side of the net after Seth Jarvis‘ shot bounced off the back glass and slipped it inside the post at 15:05.

    Krejci scored for Boston with 31 seconds left in the second.

    Boston came in with a league-high 82 goals in 20 games (4.10 per game), but it was held to relatively few chances despite getting a 5-on-3 power-play advantage early on.

    TAKE NOTE

    The Bruins honored captain Patrice Bergeron, who recorded his 1,000th career point when the team was on the road against Tampa Bay, with a message on the Jumbotron. The crowd gave him a standing ovation.

    Bergeron became just the fourth Bruin to reach the mark, joining Hall of Famers Ray Bourque (1,506), Johnny Bucyk (1,339) and Phil Esposito (1,012).

    UP NEXT

    Hurricanes: Host the Calgary Flames.

    Bruins: Host the Tampa Bay Lightning.

    Predators postpone 2 games due to Nashville water main break

    Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
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    NASHVILLE, Tenn. —  The Nashville Predators postponed two home games because of a water main break that soaked their downtown arena.

    Hours after the Predators decided they couldn’t play against the Colorado Avalanche, the team announced it also postponed the game against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Makeup dates for the two games will be announced later.

    The NHL said the water main break that occurred “significantly impacted the event level” of Bridgestone Arena. Team locker rooms and the ice surface are on the event level.

    Predators President and CEO Sean Henry told reporters that the water in the event level ranged from 3 inches to 3 feet.

    “We’re assessing it right now. We’re remediating it,” Henry said. “The good thing is, the water got shut off, the city responded in a pretty fast manner. I don’t think anyone is ready for things like this the Friday after Thanksgiving.”

    Video posted by a WTVF-TV reporter shows the water puddled up on the main floor’s concourse area and the team store. The team was forced to close the store until further notice, pointing shoppers online for Black Friday specials.

    The Predators’ next home game is now scheduled for Tuesday against the Anaheim Ducks.

    The water issue also resulted in a switch to a different venue for a college hockey game between Northeastern and Western Michigan. They also had been scheduled to play at Bridgestone Arena, a game that was moved to Ford Ice Center Bellevue.

    Rangers trade Ryan Reaves to Wild for 5th-round pick in 2025

    Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
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    ST. PAUL, Minn. — The New York Rangers traded enforcer Ryan Reaves to the Minnesota Wild for a 2025 fifth-round pick.

    Reaves had been a healthy scratch for eight of the past 12 games for the Rangers. He gives struggling Minnesota some extra muscle and a veteran presence.

    The 35-year-old is signed through only the rest of this season at a $1.75 million salary cap hit. He has no points and 12 penalty minutes in 12 games of his second season with New York.

    Reaves has played in 869 NHL regular-season and playoff games for the St. Louis Blues, Pittsburgh Penguins, Vegas Golden Knights and Rangers. He was with the Golden Knights during their inaugural season in 2017-18 when the reached the Stanley Cup Final.