Canes heading into Game 7 vs Bruins :: WRALSportsFan.com

Game 7.

That’s really all you need to hear. Doesn’t matter the sport. Baseball, Basketball or the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, when you hear “Game 7” you know that when the final horn sounds one team will be moving on and the other going home.

And, in spite of having registered clubs records for wins (54) and points (116) this year, and winning a division most experts thought the Carolina Hurricanes would never be able to capture, it would mean nothing if the Canes ended up on the short end tonight. Losing a series-deciding game on home ice would be the cruelest of fates.

To make it worse, Carolina knows that they’re better than the Boston Bruins. Yet, here we are. In the ultimate roll of the dice in sports. Where one unlucky bounce can lead to check mate.

In this type of game you look to your best players to be your best players and so we’re going to circle one name and say, it’s time for Sebastian Aho to be a Game 7 star. There are some who aren’t moved by Aho’s playoff career in spite of having posted 41 points in 40 career playoff games.

But, in the series that ended the last three playoff seasons, Aho’s been just okay. In 14 games Sebastian has just 2 goals and 11 points. I guess it’s not surprising that Carolina is just 2-12 combined in those series.

Aho, also happens to be coming off one of his – how do I say this delicately? – least effective games in a Hurricanes sweater. Carolina’s leading scorer registered just one shot attempt (zero in the 1st two periods), committed a pair of inexplicable turnovers (the second of which led to Boston’s 3rd goal of the game) and was on the wrong side of his man on two of the Bruins goals.

It was a night that Aho will want to forget.

Except he can’t. Aho has to use Thursday’s performance as Game 7 fuel, like he needs to wave the tape of that game under his nose like smelling salts. Not that Game 7 needs any additional motivation, but a player of Aho’s pedigree can’t allow that to happen again – especially if it sends you home to pack for a long summer break.

Good thing the Hurricanes are at home. In those three games Aho has 2 goals, 5 points, 10 hits and 11 shots on goal. In the three games in Boston Seabass has zero points, 3 hits, 6 penalty minutes and a mere 3 shots on goal.

“He knows he needs to be better,” head coach Rod Brind’Amour told WRAL Sportsfan.com Saturday morning. “But, he wasn’t our worst player. We have a few other guys that need to up their games if we’re going to win.”

Agreed. But, Aho is the team’s best forward. Their leading scorer in each of the last four seasons. Plus, he wears a letter on the front of his jersey. If we are to believe that Aho is a future captain of the Hurricanes – and I firmly do – then we will see his best tonight in the type of game that helps to build legacies.

It’s time for Sebastian Aho to assume the position and drive his team into the 2nd stage of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes …?

Look for Steven Lorentz to draw into the line up for the first time this series. The 6-4, 205 pound forward’s energy and tenacity could prove useful in the lineup, especially without the presence of Jordan Martinook. Lorentz has 8 goals and 13 points in 67 regular season games. He skated in all 11 of Carolina’s playoff games last season with 3 assists.

With Lorentz likely coming in, expect Derek Stepan to step out of the lineup. No other changes are expected. Antti Raanta will make his 6th start of the series. And, while he did allow 4 goals in the Game 6 loss in Boston, his performance was more than good enough to produce a better result than a 5-2 loss.

Stats that don’t matter…

The Carolina Hurricanes are 5-0 in Game 7 since relocation to North Carolina from Hartford. The Canes defeated the Buffalo Sabers in the 2006 Eastern Conference Finals at home and followed that up with a win over the Edmonton Oilers in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals. Three years later the Canes won road games over the Devils and Bruins to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals.

In 2019, the Hurricanes marked their return to the playoffs with a deciding double overtime win in Washington.

Well, look who was near the play along with former winger Brock McGinn. Aho has good Game 7 memories.

Wanna bet…?

ML: Carolina -145 / Boston +125. O / U: 5.5 goals.

Coverage begins at 3:30 on 99.9 the Fan with Storm Watch starring Dennis Cox. Opening face off set for just after 4:30. Don’t forget to follow the Canes Corner Podcast as a new episode drops the #MorningAfter every Hurricanes game.

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