Max Domi, Hurricanes advance with Game 7 win over Bruins

Sixteen years from now, when we look back on May 14, 2022 — the first Game 7 in Raleigh in 16 years — we’ll think of Max Domi.

Domi joined the Hurricanes at the trade deadline, and ever since we’ve been asking if they should have done more. Domi is a nice spark plug, he can match the Canes’ speed and adds the Domi-family snarl, sure. But can he ever get back to that 2018-19 season in which he scored 72 points in 82 games with Montreal?

He had a slower start on that front with the Canes, amassing two goals in 19 games. We won’t remember that in 16 years. In 16 years, we’ll remember how he matched his regular-season goal total in the second period of Game 7, lifting the Canes to a 3-2 win over the Bruins.

“Obviously I was pretty lucky to come to a team like this,” he said. “I didn’t take it for granted. I’m very fortunate. It was a fun stretch. I got adjusted and got comfortable, and obviously that was a heck of a series with this team.”

Game 7 was the Domi game, no matter how we want to look at it.

But as a visibly emotional and red-faced Antti Raanta walked into the room for another great postgame interview, I had a feeling that we’ll remember Round 1 as the Raanta Round.

The 33-year-old journeyman has shown flashes of greatness throughout his career, but many have written him off due to recurring injuries. He had a scare after a collision with David Pastrnak just minutes into Game 2 kept him out for the rest of that game and the next one. But this time he came back, and he got even better.

Raanta stopped 153 of 165 Bruins shots this series, ending with a .927 save percentage and a 3-2 record. And as we know, not many of the goals allowed in this series should be pinned on the goalies.

Many of us wondered if this was finally the year Freddie Andersen would advance past the Bruins into the second round, but as Andersen has remained out, it quietly became Raanta’s chance to prove he is who he could’ve always been.

Raanta is the oldest goalie in franchise history to win a Game 7, and in hockey dog years he’s objectively old. But speaking to him, you’re struck with the newness of it all. It was his playoff start debut, his Game 7 debut and his first three playoff wins.

He crushed it, and his performance stepping up in lieu of Andersen might be the biggest reason the Canes are on to the second round.

“It was obviously a big one to get this series done and get the series win,” he said. “When Freddie got hurt, it was kind of like a chance for me to show what I can do on the big stage. Starting from Game 1, I thought my game was pretty good. And obviously today it was lots of battling and grinding it out. Guys were playing amazing today in front of me. They killed a penalty when we needed. A lot of blocked shots and rebounds they took care of. It’s a pretty nice feeling, for sure.”

This is Raanta’s first playoff run since both his dad and his grandfather suddenly died in the span of weeks over the summer. Raanta’s dad used to text him before and after every game. It wasn’t always something big, and it didn’t need to be — sometimes it was just an emoji to let Raanta know he was watching.

“Before the game, we were talking with (goalie coach Paul Schonfelder), and we always have the chat before the game. He told me ‘whatever happens today, your old man, wherever he’s watching, he’s super proud,’ Raanta said. “I think that was the last thing to get in my head. Whatever happens today, it was obviously great to get the win and have my kids in the stands and lots of people texting me and lots of people in Finland staying awake for today’s game. It’s great. Obviously, it would be great if my dad was here to see this, but I’m sure he’s somewhere and he’s super happy.”

If you’ve lost someone close you know how hard it is to face the firsts — especially the happy ones. I loved that the Hurricanes brought in Raanta’s daughter about halfway through his postgame press conference.

“(She and my family) don’t care if we won or lost,” Raanta said.

There are so many technical aspects of this series — how Brind’Amour lost some of the coaching battles but won the war, how tilted home ice was for both teams, how the special teams affected each team. We’ll get into it all.

But Game 7s are an emotional crapshoot, Canes defenseman Ian Cole will tell you that. And 16 years from now, we’ll think about Domi when we think about this specific game. But maybe, if everything goes right, we’ll think of Raanta when we think of the whole playoff run.

(Photo of Max Domi and Jordan Staal: Gregg Forwerck / NHLI via Getty Images)


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