Five points for the Hurricanes going into the conference finals

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Carolina Hurricanes goalie Curtis McElhinney talks about the win over the New York Islanders

Hurricanes goalie Curtis McElhinney in his second career post-season start, helps Hurricanes sweep series

Hurricanes goalie Curtis McElhinney in his second career post-season start, helps Hurricanes sweep series

1. THE CHOICE Rod Brind’Amour has leaned on goalie coach Mike Bales all season when it comes to picking goalies, but this choice will be more philosophical than technical. Does Brind’Amour stick with Curtis McElhinney, winner of three straight, in Game 1 on Thursday, or go back to the apparently healthy Petr Mrazek, who carried the Hurricanes through the first round? McElhinney is clearly the sentimental choice, Mrazek probably the pragmatic one. It will be fascinating to see which way Brind’Amour leans.

2. THE FERLAND FACTOR Micheal Ferland has been back practicing for a while, saw a specialist Tuesday and earlier this week said he would be ready for Game 1. But the Hurricanes haven’t exactly been open and transparent about his status since he left the third game of the first round and it’s hard to tell whether they’ll try to get Ferland back into the lineup right away or continue to wait. Ferland, an impending free agent, has only one goal since the trade deadline, so a playoff second chance could be worth millions to him.

3. TOUCH AND GO Clearly, Jordan Martinook will try to play in this series. And clearly, the Hurricanes will need the physical edge he can provide. But his chronic lower-body injury continues to be an impediment, and he couldn’t make it through these five days between games without leaving practice, although he was back on the ice Wednesday. It isn’t a question of whether Martinook wants to play; it’s a question of how long he can gut it out.

4. SLIGHTLY SPECIAL TEAMS The Hurricanes have gotten this far without a functional power play, which is nothing short of amazing. They’re converting at a 10.5 percent rate, which is a third of the Bruins’ clip (28.6 percent) and 14th out of the 16 playoff teams. (The two worse lasted a total of 10 games.) There was plenty of power-play practice and even some personnel shuffling during the interim between series. But the Hurricanes are still too easily kept to the perimeter, and without giving themselves more options – either by moving more skill players into lower, playmaking positions, or getting a distributor in the slot to create more passing lanes – they’re going to have a hard time advancing.

5. FATE OR FICTION? At times, the Hurricanes have looked like a team of destiny with some fortunate bounces and timely unexpected goals. At others, they have just flat-out outplayed the opposition five-on-five, even while losing. This will be as rough-and-tumble of a series as they have played yet, against as good of a team as they have faced. They’re going to need both fortune and performance to get a shot at the Stanley Cup.

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