If you would’ve told me the Carolina Hurricanes would be in the Eastern Conference Final in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs I might think you were nuts, but here we are. The Cinderella story lives on.
Call me crazy, but I have caught the Hurricane Fever. The so called “Bunch of Jerks”have grown on me a lot this season in the NHL. Could it be because they have a lot of Chicago Blackhawks on their team? Maybe. But mostly because they have a lot of fun playing hockey and the storm surges this season were very memorable. To be honest though, it all stems from NHL analyst Don Cherry calling the Hurricanes a bunch of jerks during a coach’s corner back in February over their postgame celebrations. We all know the team could’ve shrugged off his comments and kept engaging fans that went to their games. But instead in an extremely savage way, they made a marketing campaign off Cherry’s comments with t-shirts which I bought one… and not to forget, an on ice projection.
Then, the team finished with a pretty impressive 46-29-7 record capping off their season with a 4-3 winner against the Philadelphia Flyers. They got in as the #1 wildcard seed and would have to face the Defending Stanley Cup Champion Washington Capitals. The Caps would prove to be a tough team to beat on home ice, taking a 2-0 lead on the Canes going into game 3 after a Brooks Orpik game winner in OT. However, taking the Jerks lightly in Game 3 would be a mistake after Warren Foegele and Dougie Hamilton would score a pair of goals, and Brock McGinn would cap off a 5-0 win. While Game 4 was a completely different game, the result would be the same with Teuvo Teravainen and Warren Foegele scoring in this one would be the difference. Let us not forget about Petr Mrazek making 31 saves in this 2-1 win. Washington being very difficult to beat on home ice would take a 3-2 series lead with a 6-0 win . However coming home, the resilient Canes wouldn’t go quietly, winning the Game 5-2, setting up what seemed to be a David Vs Goliath type Game 7 in Capital One Arena in our nation’s capital. Andre Burakovsky and Tom Wilson would give the Caps a 2-0 lead going into the first intermission. Jordan Martinook would take a 2 minute penalty for tripping at 8:35 of the 2nd period. Sebastian Aho however, would get his team on the board with a Short-Handed goal, and his 2nd of the playoffs. The score would stay that way for about four minutes until Evgeny Kuznetzov would put the Capitals up 3-1. Hearts began to sink all around the Hurricanes fan base. Rest Assured, Teuvo Teravainen would score before the end of the second period. Setting the stage for a 3rd period that would be unnerving for both sides. Jordan Staal would score the only goal for the period bringing us what we all wanted, a Game 7 OT! No one would score in the first overtime, so we as hockey fans got to see a second one. Enter Mr. Game 7, Carolina Hurricanes Captain Justin Williams. He took a shot that would be deflected by Brock McGinn at 11:05 and propelled the Carolina Hurricanes into the 2nd round to face the New York Islanders
Now, the New York Islanders were just coming off a first round sweep of the Pittsburgh Penguins. So to be honest, I was just as nervous as any other Caniac out there. Game 1 was one for the ages, Petr Mrazek and Robin Lehner stole the show both making 31 saves, but Jordan Staal nabbed the game winner. Game 2 was much of the same, except Curtis McElhinney was forced to come in after Mrazek left the game due to injury. Making 17 saves, he along with Warren Foegele and newcomer Nino Niederreiter would give the Canes a 2-0 series lead, taking both games on the road. Game 3 would also prove to be tough, but the Hurricanes won 5-2 behind a pair of Teuvo Teravainen goals. So here we are, Game 4, it’s a win or go home for the New York Islanders. Which seems strange only because this was a team that took out the 2nd best team of the decade. What feels like so long ago was on May 3rd, if you can believe that. The first period would see a pair of power play goals by Matthew Barzal and Sebastian Aho leaving the game tied at 1 after 1. Thanks to 3 goals in the second period by Teuvo Teravainen, Greg McKegg, and Justin Williams, The Hurricanes led 4-1 after 2. The 3rd period would see the teams trade goals, but Andrei Svechnikov scored his first goal since being injured in the first round after a tilt with Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals. Brock Nelson would score the other goal for the Islanders, but it wouldn’t be enough…. The Carolina Hurricanes advance to face the Boston Bruins in the Eastern Conference Final. Wait What???? That cannot possibly be right. Yes, that is absolutely what you just read.
Finally, I could go on and on about how exciting this team is. But I’ll let Don Cherry do the talking as he doubled down on his Bunch of Jerks comment, now calling fans of the team a bunch of front-runner fans, or for those who aren’t familiar with the term, bandwagon fans. Which to me isn’t a fair assessment of the Caniacs. This team deserves to have success. Whether they’re fans just along for the ride, it shouldn’t matter. It should be interesting to see just how far this team goes in this year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs, but consider me along for the ride.
stats from hockey-reference.com and NHL.com
featured image photo credit – Josh Tessler