First look at the NHL’s Eastern Conference finals
The conference final round of the 2023 Stanley Cup playoffs is set to begin May 17. While the two Western Conference series rage on, we know the identity of the last two teams standing in the East.
Thanks to series wins over the New York Islanders and New Jersey Devils, the Carolina Hurricanes have made it back to the conference final round. And after defeating the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Boston Bruins in Round 1 and the Toronto Maple Leafs in Round 2, the Florida Panthers have joined them.
In order for you to get up to speed before the Eastern Conference finals begin, here are the key players to know, the series schedule, notable stats and more.
Eastern Conference finals
Carolina Hurricanes vs. Florida Panthers
Game 1 (at CAR)
Game 2 (at CAR)
Game 3 (at FLA)
Game 4 (at FLA)
Game 5 (at CAR)*
Game 6 (at FLA)*
Game 7 (at CAR)*
* if necessary
Leading playoff scorers
Hurricanes: C Sebastian Aho (5 G, 5 A, 10 P) | LW Jordan Martinook (3 G, 7 A, 10 P)
Panthers: LW Matthew Tkachuk (5 G, 11 A, 16 P) | C Carter Verhaeghe (5 G, 7 A, 12 P)
Notes from ESPN Stats & Information
This will be the seventh time that three brothers have squared off in a series in the Stanley Cup playoffs, as Eric Staal and Marc Staal of the Panthers take on brother Jordan Staal of the Hurricanes. The prior occasions:
1992 division semifinals: Brent Sutter (CHI) def. Rich and Ron Sutter (STL)
1987 division finals: Ron Sutter (PHI) def. Duane and Brent Sutter (NYI)
1985 division finals: Ron Sutter (PHI) def. Duane and Brent Sutter (NYI)
1968 semifinals: Barclay and Bob Plager (STL) def. Bill Plager (MIN)
1924 Stanley Cup semifinals: Bobby and Billy Boucher (MTL) def. Frank Boucher (Vancouver Millionaires)
1924 NHL Final: Bobby and Billy Boucher (MTL) def. George Boucher (OTT)
The Panthers beat a team that had 43 more points and 19 more points than them in the regular season (Boston Bruins), and now will face a team that finished with 21 more points than them. The Panthers will be the fourth team to face three teams that had at least 19 more points in the regular season, joining:
1981 New York Rangers: preliminary round vs. Kings; quarterfinals vs. Blues; lost semifinals to Islanders
1984 Montreal Canadiens: division semifinals vs. Bruins; division finals vs. Nordiques; lost conference finals to Islanders
1991 Minnesota North Stars: division semifinals vs. Blackhawks; division finals vs. Blues; lost Stanley Cup Final vs. Penguins
Both the Hurricanes and Panthers have been exceptional at defusing opposing offensive attacks when they reach the neutral zone. Per Stathletes, here is where the two clubs rank among playoff teams in these categories:
Neutral zone steals per game: Hurricanes 1st | Panthers 3rd
Neutral zone pass interceptions per game: Panthers 1st | Hurricanes 2nd
Neutral zone deflections causing turnovers per game: Hurricanes 1st | Panthers 2nd
The Hurricanes are back in the Eastern Conference finals for the fifth time in franchise history. Each of the past two instances Carolina made it there, it was swept in those series. The Hurricanes’ last win in the Eastern Conference finals came in Game 7 of the 2006 edition. Carolina went on to win the Stanley Cup that year.
This is the second time the Panthers have made the Eastern Conference finals. The previous trip was in 1996, when they defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins in seven games but were swept in the Stanley Cup Final by the Colorado Avalanche.
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