Carolina's Season Ends With Loss to Tampa Bay
Raleigh, NC -- The Carolina Hurricanes' 2020-21 season came to an end on Tuesday night, as the Tampa Bay Lightning defeated the Hurricanes 2-0.
Brayden Point and Ross Colton scored for Tampa, and Andrei Vasilevskiy had a 29-save shutout, as the Lightning won the series four games to one.
"Well, it feels pretty bad right now," Hurricanes Center Sebastian Aho said after the game. "Maybe tomorrow or in two days, I can give you a better answer. But right now, it sucks."
After a promising season, where the team challenged for the President's Trophy, the Hurricanes' season came to an end at PNC arena in a second-round defeat to the Tampa Bay Lightning.
"You always learn from losing," Carolina head coach Rod Brind'Amour said. "This [year] feels a little different from the other ones, because we've been around a little more...You really need to have everybody at the top of their game to beat the best team. That's why it's so hard to win this thing--and why it's the greatest trophy to win."
It was another close game in a series where none of the games were decided by more than two goals.
Tampa, as in all but one game of the series, scored the first goal. It was a powerplay goal, their 15th of the postseason.
That would be the only goal Tampa Bay would need. Andrei Vasilevskiy, a Vezina trophy candidate as the league's best goaltender, served up a 29-save shutout to close out the series for the Lightning.
"I've been around a long time," Brind'Amour said. "I've seen a lot of goalies that are good, but [Vasilevskiy] is as good as anyone I've ever seen...That's what I told him [in the handshake line]...We had a lot of great looks tonight, and they looked like nothing because he's in the right place."
Still hurting after the loss to Tampa, Brind'Amour and his players found some solace in a challenging season that brought joy to the many fans dealing with a pandemic.
"It was amazing; I enjoyed every moment to see fans out there," Aho said. "Especially here, at [home], all the Caniacs supporting us, it's such a loud barn. [Having fans in the building] makes the game even better."
Carolina now moves into an offseason period that will feature an expansion draft, an entry draft, and free agency.
Only time will tell who will remain and who will move on, but Rod Brind'Amour (an upcoming free agent himself) was optimistic that he'll return behind the bench with the core of this team intact.
"I hope [to be the coach]," Brind'Amour said. "We definitely have some great pieces here, both talent-wise and character-wise. We have to make sure we keep those intact. And then if there are areas where we have to get better, we need to figure out a way to do that."
Upcoming unrestricted free agents for the Hurricanes include: Dougie Hamilton, Petr Mrazek, James Reimer, Brock McGinn, Jordan Martinook, Cedric Paquette, and Jani Hakanpaa.
Upcoming restricted free agents include: Andrei Svechnikov, Jake Bean, Alex Nedeljkovic, Warren Foegele, and Morgan Geekie.
Hamilton and Svechnikov alone might require cap hits of $7-$8m/year each, which would take up more than $14-$16m of the team's $28m in cap space for next season.
In other words, changes are coming--not everyone will be re-signed.
Also, the Seattle Kraken is likely to claim one of the Canes' defencemen during the expansion draft--with many analysts pointing to Brady Skjei as a player the Canes will be unable to shield.
With the season now over, expect General Manager Don Waddell to start making moves. Contract extensions, buy-outs, and trades are likely in the offing in the coming days and weeks.