After both winning their first round series, the #1 seed Carolina Hurricanes and the #2 seed New Jersey Devils face off in this second round series between these two Metro Division teams that finished the regular season just a point apart and battled all year at the top of the division. The Hurricanes beat the New York Islanders in six games in the first round while the Devils beat the New York Rangers in a seven game series for the Battle of the Hudson.
These teams split their four games during the regular season. Carolina won the first game 4-1 at home on December 20th, the Canes won again 5-4 in a shootout in Jersey on January 1st, the Devils answered back on January 10th with a 5-3 win on the road in Carolina, and they finished the season series with a 3-0 shutout win at home on March 12th.
The Carolina Hurricanes had a fantastic regular season, winning the Metropolitan Division on the last day of the regular season finishing a point ahead of the Devils with a 52-21-9 record. Despite ending the regular season with two wins in a row to win the division, they were on a slight slump finishing the season, with five wins in their last eleven games.
The Hurricanes have been good on both ends of the ice. They’ve scored an average of 3.2 goals per game, the 15th-most in the NHL on an average of 34.8 shots per game. They’ve generated the fifth-most expected goals (3.58 per game) and the third-most high-danger shots in the league. Carolina has scored on 19.8% of their power play chances. They are led in scoring by Martin Necas (71 points, 43 assists) and Sebastian Aho (36 goals). The Canes will be without three of their best players though, who are out for the rest of this season with injury in Andrei Svechnikov, Max Pacioretty, and Teuvo Tarvainen.
Carolina has allowed just the second-fewest goals in the NHL, an average of only 2.55 goals per game on an average of 26 shots allowed per game. They’ve given up the fewest expected goals (2.56 per game) and the fewest high-danger shots. The Canes have the second-best penalty kill in the NHL, killing off 84.4% of their penalties.
Freddy Andersen’s been good this season in goal with a 21-11–1 record, a 2.48 GAA, a .903 save percentage, and a shutout. Andersen started in Game 6 of their first round series against the Isles after Anti Raanta started the first five games. Raanta had a 19-3-3 record with a 2.23 GAA, a .910 save percentage, and four shutouts.
In their first round series against the Islanders, Carolina Game 1 at home 2-1 inside regulation and then won Game 2 4-3 in overtime. In Game 2, the Canes outshot the Isles 36-26 but were outplayed by an expected goal rate of 2.71-2.29 with the game-winner coming off a controversial no-call for high sticking. After the Canes won Games 1 and 2 at home, the Islanders poured it on in the last four minutes of Game 3 for the first playoff game at UBS Arena, with four goals in those closing minutes to win 5-1 in a game that was much closer than the score showed. The Islanders outshot Carolina 37-31 and dominated the Hurricanes by an expected goal rate of 5.16-2.37. The Canes answered back in Game 4 on Long Island with a huge 5-2 win on the road to take a 3-1 series lead. They dominated the Islanders by an expected goal rate of 3.67-2.19. The Islanders held off elimination with a 3-2 win on the road in Carolina in Game 5 on Tuesday night. The Canes outshot the Isles 36-22 and outplayed them by an expected goal rate of 3.95-2, but couldn’t tie up the game with another great performance in goal from Ilya Sorokin. On Long Island in Game 6, the Hurricanes ended the series with a 2-1 overtime win on the road with Paul Stastny’s game winner six minutes in OT. They outshot the Isles 41-34 and outplayed New York by an expected goal rate of 3.96-2.78.
The Canes struggled offensively in the first round of the playoffs against the defensive minded Isles. They scored just the sixth-fewest goals of the first round, averaging 2.67 goals per game on an average of 35 shots per game. Their power play scored on 20% of their chances. Defensively Carolina was fantastic. They allowed the fourth-fewest goals of the first round, an average of 2.5 goals per game, on an average of 29 shots per game. They had the best penalty kill of the first round, killing off 94.4% of their penalties against the Isles.
The New Jersey Devils have had a phenomenal season, making the biggest turnaround in a single year in NHL history as they enter the playoffs in second place in the Metro Division with a 52-22-8 record, finishing the regular season just a point back from the Hurricanes. They went into the playoffs hot, ending the regular season with six wins in their last eight games.
The Devils have been fantastic on both ends of the ice this season. Offensively they’ve been great, scoring the fourth-most goals in the NHL, an average of 3.52 goals per game on an average of 34.4 shots per game. They’ve generated the third-most expected goals (3.63 per game) and the sixth-most high-danger shots in the league. New Jersey has scored on 21.9% of their power play opportunities. They’re led in scoring by Jack Hughes, who has a franchise record of 99 points, 43 goals, and 56 assists. They improved at the deadline as well, acquiring Timo Meier from the Sharks.
New Jersey has been just as fantastic defensively. They’ve allowed an average of 2.71 goals per game, the eighth-fewest in the NHL, on an average of 28.2 shots allowed per game. They’ve given up the third-fewest expected goals (2.79 per game) and the third-fewest high-danger shots. The Devils have the fourth-best penalty kill in the league, killing off 82.6% of their penalties. Goaltender Vitek Vanecek, who was acquired in the offseason from the Capitals has been very good this season with a 33-11–4 record, a 2.45 GAA, a .911 save percentage, and three shutouts. After the first two games of their first round series against the Rangers where he was horrible, head coach Lindy Ruff made a coaching change going to young goal Akira Schmid. In his five games he was sensational, with a 4-1 record, a .951 save percentage, and two shutouts to backstop them to the series win.
I anticipated an incredible series in the Metropolitan Division for the Battle of the Hudson in the first round as the Devils played the Rangers. The first two games of the series didn’t live up to the hype in Jersey, as the Rangers dominated both of those games on the road with 5-1 wins. I thought the series was pretty much over at that point heading back to MSG but after getting a 2-1 overtime win in a grind of a Game 3 in New York and a huge 3-1 win in Game 4 on the road, to tie the series and then winning in a dominant 4-0 shutout at home in Game 5, the Devils have now flipped the script and put the Rangers on the brink of elimination in Game 6. In Game 5, the Devils outshot the Rangers 43-22 and dominated New York by an expected goal rate of 5.38-2.12. To extend the series to Game 7, the Rangers dominated Game 6, bouncing back from their three straight losses with a 5-2 win at home on Saturday night. In the loss, the Devils outshot New York 36-29 but were outplayed by an expected goal rate of 4.38-3.6. New Jersey easily cruised in Game 7, with a 4-0 shutout win for Akira Schmid and the Devils, despite getting out outshot 31-24 by the Rangers but absolutely dominated New York by an expected goal rate of 5.37-1.61.
The Devils played very similar to the way Carolina did in the first round, with lousy offense but very good defense. They scored just the third-fewest goals of the first round, averaging 2.43 goals per game on an average of 29.4 shots per game. Their power play only scored on 16.7% of their chances, the fourth-fewest of the teams that made the playoffs. New Jersey made up for it with fantastic defense and excellent goaltending from Akira Schmid. Despite giving up five goals in each of the first two games of the series, they allowed just the second-fewest goals of the first round, allowing an average of 2.43 goals per game on an average of 27.7 shots per game. Their penalty kill was the fifth-best of the first round, killing off 82.1% of their penalties.
Going into the first round, I said whoever won the first round series between the Devils and the Rangers would advance past whoever won between the Hurricanes and the Islanders. I absolutely still stand by that. I expect the Devils to get through this series in five or six games as the far superior team. Both teams match up pretty close statistically, but the Devils are a much more well rounded team especially offensively, which should get them the win in this series. The Rangers are the far superior team than the Islanders. Carolina struggled at points against the Isles where the Devils were the far better team over the Rangers. I really like the Devils to win this series to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals and will take them to do so for three units. Expecting them to win the series, I’ll also take them to win Game 1 for a unit on the road.
I already have futures from very early in the season on both of these teams, with fantastic odds on both of them, guaranteeing that I have a future alive going into the Eastern Conference Finals. If I didn’t already, I would absolutely jump in on the Devils and suggest you do too if you made it this far reading this long ass blog and weren’t already on them.
Both of these teams have been very good defensively and I’m expecting the games in this series to trend under. During the regular season, the Hurricanes allowed the second-fewest goals in the NHL, having given up the fewest expected goals and the fewest high-danger shots. The Devils allowed the eighth-fewest goals in the NHL, having given up the third-fewest expected goals and the third-fewest high-danger shots. In the first round of the playoffs that continued. In the first round, the Devils allowed the second-fewest goals backstopped by the incredible goaltending of Akira Schmid, and that’s despite allowing five goals in each of the first two games of the series. The Hurricanes were very good defensively in the first round as well, allowing the sixth-fewest goals of the first round. I’ll take the under in Game 1 for half a unit.
1.5u Carolina Hurricanes – Stanley Cup Champions (+1300)
1u New Jersey Devils – Stanley Cup Champions (+1600)
3u Devils to win series (-124)
Game 1 Bets
1u Devils ML (+102)
.5u Hurricanes/Devils under 5.5 (-132)
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