Andrei Svechnikov’s style of play for Carolina Hurricanes ‘reeks playoff hockey’

The Carolina Hurricanes posted a short Stanley Cup playoff promo on social media Wednesday with the tag line: “Time to turn the temperature up.”

The first player shown was Andrei Svechnikov, his helmet off and game face on, almost defiantly flexing his stick on his shoulders like a player ready to get on the ice and get it on.

The Canes couldn’t have done that a year ago. When the 2023 playoffs began, the power forward had been out for a month and undergone knee surgery. Svechnikov’s season was over.

Svechnikov, in a white shirt and tie, did sound the warning siren at PNC Arena before the first playoff game, against the New York Islanders. He gave it a hard crank, even though teammate Seth Jarvis later joked it would have been better had Svechnikov then taken off the shirt and swirled it around his head.

“He was a little more professional than I would have been,” Jarvis quipped.

Svechnikov will be a lot more involved this year as the playoffs begin for the Canes – again against the Islanders, again at PNC Arena, with Game 1 set Saturday. He hopes to be forceful, impactful, a difference-maker.

“It was so tough last year being out of the playoffs,” Svechnikov said Thursday after a team practice. “It’s been a while and I’m excited and I have goosebumps thinking about it.

“It’s been a long season and we’ve been waiting for this. We’ve got all the skill, all the talent, on this team. We know we can do this.”

The playoffs have produced a mixture of hard-hitting play, deep emotions and disappointing injuries for Svechnikov since Carolina made the Russian winger the No. 2 overall pick of the 2018 NHL draft.

The physicality of the playoffs?

“I love it,” Svechnikov said, smiling. “It’s kind of my game.”

Boston Bruins defenseman Hampus Lindholm can attest to that, taking a howitzer of a shoulder-to-chest hit from Svechnikov in the 2022 playoffs that shattered Lindholm’s stick and sent him crashing to the ice.

“Maybe my hardest hit ever,” Svechnikov said Thursday, adding there was no intent to injure Lindholm.

Canes captain Jordan Staal said that was one element of the team play that was badly missing last year with Svechnikov out.

“You’ve watched his game. Obviously it impacted us a lot,” Staal said Thursday. “We acted like nothing happened but obviously knew in the back of our minds there was a big hole. It was hard without him.

“His style of play reeks playoff hockey. When he’s going, when he’s doing what he can do, he can change a series in an instant. We’re excited to have him healthy and ready to play.”

2019 playoffs

Svechnikov’s first taste of the playoffs, in 2019, proved to be memorable. Most of it.

In the opening round against Washington, Svechnikov dropped the gloves and decided to fight the CapitalsAlexander Ovechkin. Bad idea. After a few blows were thrown, Ovechkin dropped him with a hard right that briefly knocked Svechnikov out.

Not that Svechnikov second-guesses taking on Ovechkin.

“I don’t care,” Svechnikov said Thursday. “Whatever it takes, I will do it.”

Canes defenseman Dmitry Orlov, then playing for the Caps, remembers the fight well.

“We were leading 2-0 in the series after winning the first two at home,” he said Thursday of the Caps, who were 2018 Stanley Cup champs. “Then that happened in Game 3.”

Seeing Svechnikov square off with Ovechkin was a bit surprising, Orlov said, but added, “He showed he wasn’t afraid of anyone.”

After the Svechnikov-Ovechkin dustup, Carolina won the game. The Canes played with extra fire and vigor after Svechnikov went down, winning the series in a Game 7 thriller in Washington on Brock McGinn’s goal in double overtime.

Svechnikov did not play the remainder of the Caps series but was able to return to the playoffs as the Canes advanced to the conference finals.

Playing through injuries

The next season brought the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. The 2020 playoffs finally were held, but later in the summer and exclusively in the “bubble” cities of Toronto and Edmonton in empty arenas.

Svechnikov experienced both the good and the bad of the playoffs – a hat trick, then another injury.

The Canes swept the New York Rangers in three games in a preliminary round in Toronto, Svechnikov getting his hat trick in Game 2. But he then went down again, tangling with Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara in front of the net and awkwardly twisting his leg in Game 3 of that series.

That was that. Svechnikov was out and the Canes were soon out of the playoffs.

Svechnikov dodged any injuries in the 2021 playoffs, finishing with two goals and six assists in 11 games against Nashville and then Tampa Bay, which ousted Carolina in the second round.

Svechnikov’s brutally effective hit on the Bruins’ Lindholm was a highlight in the 2022 playoffs, the video of the collision quickly going viral. The force of the hit left the defenseman woozy and had Lindholm’s teammates chasing after Svechnikov.

That was the year the Canes were able to win home games – beating Boston in seven games – but went 0-6 on the road after being one of the NHL’s best road teams in the regular season. Carolina eventually lost to the Rangers in a Game 7 at PNC Arena.

Svechnikov’s playoff numbers in 2022 were pedestrian: four goals and one assist in 14 games. The Canes needed more from their power guy, plus a few others.

Svechnikov’s torn right ACL in March of last season left him an observer during the playoffs. And frustrated. He had participated in the 2023 NHL All-Star Game and appeared headed to a career year before the knee injury against the Vegas Golden Knights.

The Canes, after winning playoff series against the Islanders and the New Jersey Devils, were swept in four straight games by the Florida Panthers in the Eastern Conference final.

All four were one-goal games. A healthy and engaged Svechnikov could have made a difference.

“It was huge,” Canes coach Rod Brind’Amour said Thursday of not having Svechnikov. “You take one of your best players out of the lineup this time of year, that’s tough.

“Hopefully he can continue to be the impact player he has been here the past few games. It certainly makes us a better group.”

Svechnikov, who turned 24 in March, missed some games early this season and again during the season, finishing with 19 goals and 53 points in 59 games. He played his 400th career game, notched his 300th career point and scored his third career “lacrosse-type” goal.

The lacrosse goal came April 9 against Boston as Svechnikov ended the regular season with two goals and four assists in the last four games he played.

“He’s a beast,” center Sebastian Aho said Thursday. “Obviously having him now for the playoffs is exciting. It’s exciting for him and it’s exciting for the team.”