Nerves. Excitement. Anxiety. All those emotions and feelings normally associated with the NHL playoffs have been mostly absent in the two conference semi-final series that resume on Thursday.
The East matchup between Carolina and New Jersey and the West clash between Dallas and Seattle have so far been defined by blowouts that lack the drama normally associated with the post-season.
Of the eight games played in those series so far, only one has been decided by one goal: Game 1 of the Seattle-Dallas series, won by the Kraken in overtime.
“It’s tough to put your finger on it,” Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “I don’t really have an answer for you on that, to be honest with you.”
The Hurricanes wouldn’t mind one more blowout as they head into Game 5 against the Devils with a 3-1 lead. The Kraken and Stars head to Dallas with the series tied 2-2 after splitting blowout wins in Seattle.
“Good team. Back and forth series. I had a feeling it wasn’t gonna be easy,” Seattle’s Jaden Schwartz said. “So best two out of three now and just regroup, get some rest and get ready to go.”
Eight of 17 games in the second round through Tuesday have been decided by three or more goals, with six of the eight coming in the Devils-Hurricanes and Kraken-Stars series. The teams on the losing end of those results have responded well, going 5-1 the next game.
Where’s the anxiety that comes for fans with every shot, every save of a close game?
The lack of drama combined with some non-traditional markets playing in this round of the post-season hasn’t been a perfect formula for the NHL. TV ratings for this round haven’t seen the bump from the opening round of the playoffs when some bigger names and bigger markets were still playing.
The Devils-Hurricanes series has been especially lopsided. All five games so far have been decided by at least four goals as well as seeing a starting goaltender chased to the bench early.
Carolina won the first two games by an 11-2 margin. New Jersey ran out to a 4-0 lead in Game 3 on its way to an 8-4 win. On Tuesday, Carolina scored five second-period goals in a 6-1 win.
“That’s just the way it’s been going right now,” Carolina defenceman Jalen Chatfield said. “It’s a little bit different.”
Devils at Hurricanes
Carolina leads 3-1 (7 p.m. ET)
The Hurricanes will get a second shot at closing out a series in five games on home ice, and they’re hoping for a different result.
Carolina led 3-1 in its first-round series only to see the New York Islanders extend the series by converting two turnovers into goals, scoring another when the puck first struck Carolina star Sebastian Aho in the face, and surviving two struck posts.
“We actually played really well in Game 5 at home last time, it just didn’t go our way,” Brind’Amour said. “I know they’re going to throw everything at us. All the games are big, we try to win them all, but I don’t think we approach it any differently.”
For the Devils, everything must change from the first two games in Raleigh. They managed just one shot on goal in the first period of the 5-1 loss in Game 1, then gave up four second-period goals in a 6-1 loss in Game 2 – with the Hurricanes dictating the flow of the game each time.
“We know we have to be better,” coach Lindy Ruff said. “We’re going to focus on our game, playing faster, supporting the puck a lot better, getting more people around the puck. Because all year long when we’ve played that way, we’ve had great success.”
Kraken at Stars
Series tied 2-2 (9:30 p.m. ET)
How important was Dallas’ 6-3 win over Seattle in Game 4? In franchise history – in Dallas and in Minnesota – the Stars had never rallied to win a playoff series when facing a 3-1 deficit.
So far, the second round has mirrored opening round for the Stars. They split the first two games and won a key Game 4 on the road against Minnesota before cruising to easy wins in Games 5 and 6.
The stars led the way in Game 4. There was another playoff goal from Joe Pavelski, two goals by Max Domi and 31:03 of ice time for defenceman Miro Heiskanen – the most by any player this post-season for a game that didn’t go to overtime.
“That’s what wins this time of year – your best players have to lead the way. Miro, Joe Pavelski, [Roope Hintz], those guys never cheat,” Dallas coach Peter DeBoer said. “Those guys are never going to put their offensive game ahead of their defensive responsibility. That kind of boosts your group.”
Seattle welcomed Jared McCann back to the lineup after he missed six games due to an injury suffered in the opening series against Colorado. McCann played mostly on the fourth line but was reunited with Jordan Eberle and Matty Beniers for parts of the third period when the Kraken made a push.
McCann led Seattle with 40 goals in the regular season but is one of two players for Seattle – along with Ryan Donato – who has played in at least two games this post-season and hasn’t scored a goal.
“Obviously first couple shifts was a little tougher, but toward the end there I felt really good,” McCann said.