The two teams that advanced to round two in the Central Division are the Carolina Hurricanes and the Tampa Bay Lightning. Both teams needed six games to complete their respective series. Carolina gets the home advantage for being the higher seed being the top seed in the division with Tampa being the 3rd seed. This is the first time these teams have met in the postseason.
Lightning-Hurricanes Game 1 will be Sunday according to @NHLonNBCSports. They didn't announce a game-time yet.
— Lightning Radio (@BoltsRadio) May 28, 2021
During the regular season, these two teams squared off eight times. In eight games these two were damn near equal. Each team won four games in the series. Carolina had 18 goals to Tampas 17. The last meeting these teams had was on April 20th in Tampa. The Canes came out with a 4-1 victory.
The top-seeded Hurricanes squared off against the Nashville Predators for the opening round this playoffs. They scored 22 goals in the series while only allowing 16. They took games 1 and 2 PNC Arena. They then traveled to Nashville where they lost games 3 and 4 both in double overtime. Game 5 was back in Carolina where the Canes won 3-2 in OT and game 6 was another game that went to overtime with Sebastian Aho scoring the goal that sends the Canes on to round 2.
Sebastian Aho is leading the Canes in scoring through the first round. He has 5 goals and 2 assists. After Aho, there were a plethora of guys behind him that recorded at least one point in the series. That includes all 12 forwards and 3 of their defensemen. Between the pipes, the Canes gave the rookie to reigns. Alex Nedeljkovic 2.22 GAA and a .922 SV%. While those numbers are still impressive they were middle of the pack compared to the rest of the goalies in the first round. Nedeljkovic is still being the X-factor for this team and will be the key to their success next round.
The defending Stanley Cup Champions came out in the first round and made a statement. They came back in game 1 to win 5-4 and dominated game two to a 3-1 victory. Game 3 was another back and forth thriller, but the Panthers were able to grab the overtime winner and steal a game on the road. Game 4 was an embarrassment for the Panther with a 6-2 win for the Lightning. Spencer Knight gave the Panthers a fighting chance after game 5. But ultimately the Lightning grabbed game 6 by a score of 4-0 to take the series. The Lightning scored 24 goals while allowing 17 for the Panthers.
In this series, we saw the return of the very healthy, and a very good player in Nikita Kucherov. He posted 3 goals to go along with 8 assists in his return to action this year. He leads all of the playoffs in points with 11. Alex Killorn, Steven Stamkos, and Victor Hedman are also all among the top 7 playoff point-getters as that trio has 8 points apiece. Andrei Vasilevskiy posted a 2.64 GAA and a .929 SV% in the six games against Florida.
Even though the Lightning was the 3 seed this is still how the majority of hockey fans expected the first round to go. The Lightning is too damn good and if Kucherov played all year they probably would have been the top seed in the division. I mentioned earlier that Nedeljkovic will be the x-factor for the Canes this series. If he holds his own and lets his team in from of them do their thing then the Canes can claim the Central Division title. However, in this situation, it is too hard to not back the team with the best player on the ice and the better goalie. This should be one hell of a series because of how good both teams are. Bugzy says Lightning in 7.
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