The Carolina Hurricanes' season ended in spectacularly disappointing fashion, as they were felled by the President's Trophy-winning New York Rangers in six games in Round 2 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Carolina initially fell behind three games to none before winning the next two games and enjoying a 3-1 lead heading into Game 6 at PNC Arena in Raleigh.

However, a natural hat trick from Rangers veteran Chris Kreider helped them avoid the embarrassment of a third straight loss and facing the prospect of a Game 7 back at Madison Square Garden. Once again, the Hurricanes have failed to take the next step and still have yet to advance to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in 18 years despite another successful regular season campaign.

Just who can fans realistically point the finger toward as they look for scapegoats as to why they once again were unable to make the leap to the Stanley Cup Final? Take a look at our pick below.

Both Frederik Andersen and Pyotr Kochetkov were outplayed 

New York Rangers goaltender Igor Shesterkin (31) and Carolina Hurricanes goaltender Frederik Andersen (31) shake hands after the New York Rangers victory in game six of the second round of the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs at PNC Arena.
James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

The goaltending situation for the Hurricanes has been fluid in recent years. As they began to rise from the metaphorical ashes starting in the 2018-19 season, they had Petr Mrazek between the pipes, who led them to their first postseason series victory since 2009. He was then replaced by Frederik Andersen and Antti Raanta, both of whom helped the Hurricanes continue their regular season success.

However, both goaltenders have dealt with injury woes, leading to the emergence of Pyotr Kochetkov as a realistic option. In fact, Kochetkov outplayed Raanta this season. Raanta was ultimately waived and Kochetkov was promoted to full-time backup.

Andersen was tabbed the starter for Carolina's Round 1 series against the New York Islanders, in which they emerged victorious in relatively easy fashion over just five games. And while Andersen put forth his best effort in the first two matchups against the Rangers, the Hurricanes found themselves trailing two games to none.

Kochetkov was named the starter for Game 3 in Carolina, an eventual overtime loss to put the Hurricanes on the brink of elimination. However, Andersen returned to the pipes for Game 4 and led them to victory and followed that up with an impressive performance at Madison Square Garden in Game 5.

Unfortunately, it was Igor Shesterkin who was ultimately able to outduel both Hurricanes goaltenders when it was all said and done. Andersen finished the postseason with a somewhat average goals-against-average of 2.62 and a pedestrian save percentage of .892, while Kochetkov stopped 22 of the 25 shots he faced in Game 3 for a .880 save percentage.

Failure to hold lead burned the Hurricanes in Game 6 

The script was playing out perfectly for the Hurricanes, who avoided elimination with a victory in Game 4 and then enjoyed a comeback win over the Rangers in Game 5. Suddenly, all of the pressure was on the Rangers, and things didn't start well for them after they fell behind 3-1 in Game 6.

However, the Hurricanes suffered a monumental collapse in the third period. Veteran forward Chris Kreider torched them with a natural hat trick, enabling the Rangers to seize victory from the jaws of defeat. Instead of giving themselves the chance to become just the fifth team in NHL history to complete a reverse sweep after initially trailing three games to none, the Hurricanes are once again left going right back to the drawing board.

The Hurricanes will also be lamenting their failure to convert on the opportunities that they had in front of them, as stated by head coach Rod Brind'Amour via Ryan Henkel of The Hockey News.

“We played the best team in the league,” Brind'Amour said. “So… and we're, I mean… Looking back on those first three games where we lost by a goal in overtime, there's a play here or there and everything's different and we just didn't find it,”

“Even tonight, another goal puts the game away and it's a different story,” Brind'Amour continued. “We had our opportunities and there were a couple of posts in there. I don't look at it like that. That's the way it's going to be written, but I don't look at it like that at all.”