They had to wait a while, but the Carolina Hurricanes have their opponent for the first-round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
It’s a familiar one.
The Boston Bruins lost all three of their round robin games, closing out with a 2-1 loser-takes-Carolina loss Sunday to claim the No. 4 seed and a rematch of last year’s Eastern Conference Final against the Hurricanes.
The Hurricanes, the Eastern Conference’s sixth seed entering the pandemic-influenced Stanley Cup Qualifiers, swept the New York Rangers in three games and will enter the 16-team bracket as the conference’s No. 5 seed. Carolina closed out its series Tuesday and have been waiting to find out who its first-round opponent would be.
The league released the dates and times for the first four games of the series, starting with Game 1 on Tuesday at 8 p.m. Game 2 will be Thursday at 8 p.m., followed by a noon start Saturday for Game 3. Game 4 is next Monday (Aug. 17) at 8 p.m.
The NHL will shift back to its normal seven-game series the rest of the way, and while all the games in the next two rounds will be played in Toronto (Eastern Conference) or Edmonton (Western Conference), the Hurricanes will be the designated home team in Games 3, 4 and 6 (if necessary).
While last year’s Eastern Conference Final sweep by Boston will certainly loom large in the quarterfinal matchup, the Bruins struggled mightily in Round Robin play against the conference’s three other top-four teams.
Boston never led in the three games, while Carolina trailed just once — for 3:06 in the second period of Game 3 — in winning all three of their qualifying games.
The teams played just once during the regular season because of the coronavirus shutdown, with Boston posting a 2-0 win behind 24 saves by Jaroslav Halak on Dec. 3 at TD Garden. Two of Carolina’s final three games of the regular season were originally scheduled against the Bruins — March 31 in Raleigh and April 4 in Boston — but both were lost when the league postponed play on March 12.