This post was originally written as a FanPost by Thomas Hall, but we decided to bump it over to the main site.
The Boston Bruins were able to advance past the Columbus Blue Jackets to their first Eastern Conference Final appearance since 2013. Now this team has a chance to move onto their third Stanley Cup Final appearance in the last nine seasons.
But first, the Bruins will have to find a way to get past the surprising Carolina Hurricanes. You may not be super familiar with all of the guys from Raleigh, so here are three players from the Hurricanes the Bruins must watch-out for:
When you think of the Hurricanes defense, your mind usually jumps to Justin Faulk and or Dougie Hamilton. But Jaccob Slavin has arguably been more valuable to the Hurricanes during these playoffs than those two. Slavin currently leads his team in points during the playoffs with 11 and in blocked shots with 28.
The 25 year old is also tied for 7th among defensemen in the league for blocked shots. While most people might not consider Slavin to be one of the better defensemen in these playoffs, his numbers say otherwise. He ranks 6th in league in average TOI/G at 26:36, and he’s tied with Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo for 3rd-most points by defensemen.
Bruins fans know who Jordan Staal is, but may think that his best hockey is behind him. While the 30-year-old center wasn’t much of a offensive threat during the regular season, he’s been able to produce for the Hurricanes in their 11 games this postseason. Staal is currently tied for fourth on his team in goals (4), and ranks 5th on the team in points (9).
However, Staal’s ability at the faceoff dot is why he’s a player to watch in this series. He currently ranks 4th in the league during these playoffs in faceoff wins (139).
Staal could also prove to be a very important player for the Hurricanes in this series if he’s matched-up against the Patrice Bergeron line. He’s likely to be deployed in a shutdown center role to try to stop that trio, which will be key for Carolina if the Hurricanes hope to advance.
This one may or may not be important, depending on the health of Petr Mrazek.
The Hurricanes must be thanking the hockey gods that the Maple Leafs chose to put Curtis McElhinney on waivers earlier this season, because he’s been almost unstoppable ever since taking over for the injured Petr Mrazek. McElhinney was forced to take over the starting goalie position after Mrazek went down with a lower-body injury in Game 2 against the Islanders.
Since then, McElhinney is 3-0 with a 1.56 GAA and a save percentage of .947%. McElhinney has also had decent numbers against the Bruins in his career. In 7 games against the Bruins, he has a 2.21 GAA and a .934% save percentage.