When he was acquired by the Carolina Hurricanes at this year’s trade deadline, forward Max Domi wasn’t touted as the type of difference-maker that a player like Florida Panthers star Claude Giroux received.
That was understandable; Domi’s star had dimmed somewhat since he posted a career-best 28 goals and 72 points for Montreal in 2018-19. And in the 19 regular-season games he appeared in for the Canes after the trade, Domi had only a pair of goals and seven points.
But the Stanley Cup playoffs are famous for tales of redemption and making the most of the moment – and on Saturday afternoon, in Game 7 between Carolina and the visiting Boston Bruins, Domi had the game of his life, scoring a pair of goals and adding an assist (and a primary assist at that) to push the Hurricanes into the second round. The game was Domi’s 11th career playoff game, but the two goals were the first playoff goals of his career. The performance instantly made the 27-year-old’s trade cost – the rights to Russian forward Egor Korshhkov and prospect defenseman Aidan Hreschuk – welll worth it.
Now, Domi’s contributions on offense may not have been enough if Carolina wasn’t so good at protecting the lead in Game 7. The Hurricanes built a 2-0 lead on a late-first-period marker from forward Teuvo Teravainen, and Domi’s first of the game, 3:14 into the second frame. However, Boston wasn’t about to roll over, getting on the scoreboard at 5:04 of the second when winger Jake DeBrusk scored his second goal of this post-season. Yet that didn’t shake Carolina. Five minutes after DeBrusk cut the lead in half, Domi struck again to restore their two-goal advantage.
And for a very long while, that was it. Carolina played an up-tempo, quietly assured defensive game the rest of the way – or at least, until the final minute of regulation time, when the pressing Bruins pulled within one goal on David Pastrnak’s scoring play with 22 seconds left. If the game had of continued for another minute, Boston might have forced overtime. But it was not to be for them this season – a year that could be the last of star center Patrice Bergeron’s Hockey Hall of Fame career. Bergeron was hugged by all his teammates after the game ended, and if he wasn’t thinking of retirement, it sure seemed strange he’d be as emotional as he was.
But we can celebrate Bergeron another day. Today is about acknowledging the Hurricanes’ evolution. With the victory Saturday, Carolina has won their first-round series in four consecutive years. If they had of fallen to the Bruins, it would’ve been a bitter disappointment; getting to the second round was the bare necessity for them to try and make it to the Eastern Conference Final for the first time in three years.
Now, the Hurricanes will take on the winner of the New York Rangers/Pittsburgh Penguins Game 7 Sunday. And when Carolina plays, it’s possible they get back No. 1 goalie Frederik Andersen, who missed the entire first round with a lower-body injury. No. 2 netminder Antti Raanta played well in Andersen’s absence, including stopping 27 of 29 shots by Boston in Game 7, but Andersen earned the starter’s job during the regular season, and Canes head coach Rod Brind’Amour isn’t going to deny him the chance to play when he’s ready.
In some ways – mainly, because of Bergeron’s status – it felt like a passing of the torch between the two teams. Carolina feels and looks like a franchise on the rise. Boston feels and looks like a transition is coming, as it inevitably does for every championship core.
But today was Max Domi’s day. And because of that, it was the Hurricanes’ day, as well.