The Carolina Hurricanes continue to defy the odds, as they prepare for an Eastern Conference Final showdown with the Boston Bruins.
The Carolina Hurricanes, those “bunch of jerks” as Don Cherry of Coach’s Corner christened them earlier this year, aren’t a team that you would have expected to see in the Stanley Cup Playoffs in 2019, let alone the first team to secure a conference final spot, after closing out 2018 in 23rd place in the NHL. Fans, quaintly known as “Caniacs”, expected their beloved hockey club to enter it’s 11th year of what already was a decade long post season drought, instead, on New Year’s Eve, chaos theory took full effect and the Carolina Hurricanes were suddenly the second hottest team in the league.
Now, here we are preparing for a hurricane to hit Boston, Massachusetts for the Eastern Conference Final of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. How did they get to this point? To quote head coach Rod Brind’Amour (who’s #17 hangs in the rafters of PNC Arena, the home of the Carolina Hurricanes), they have “found a way”. They closed out 2018 on a record of 16-17-5, and by the end of the regular season sat in 4th in the Metropolitan Division with a record of 46-29-7, seeded in the first wild card slot in the Eastern Conference. This placed them up against the defending Stanley Cup champions, the Washington Capitals.
WC1 Carolina vs M1 Washington
The word on the streets in early April was that the Caps would sweep the Hurricanes in four games, and it certainly seemed that way after they found themselves down 2-0 in the series. But the Hurricanes aren’t known for quitting. They successfully swung the series back even with a stunning pair of wins in Raleigh, one of which included a 5-0 shutout. When the series returned to our Nation’s capital, the Capitals again regained a series lead, on a devastating 6-0 loss, leaving many to wonder if this would be the end for the Canes and the playoff starved Caniacs. As the hockey gods would have it, the Carolina Hurricanes were just getting warmed up. The series returned to PNC arena for game 6, ending in a mindblowing 5-2 win for the Hurricanes to force a game 7 in D.C. That game 7 set the tone for the Carolina Hurricanes playoff run. A desperate, tired, and hungry Carolina played Washington to a dead standstill at 3 a piece, sending the game to not one, but two overtime periods in which they finally overcame the defending champions and solidified their place against the New York Islanders, whom had swept the Pittsburgh Penguins.
WC1 Carolina vs. M2 New York Islanders
Two days later, the Hurricanes suited up in Brooklyn, tired but driven, to begin what would become a highly unexpected sweep of the Islanders. Game 1 was a goose egg game with highly unusual circumstances, leading into an overtime win by the Hurricanes. Game 2, also in Brooklyn, saw the Islanders continue to battle unsuccessfully against the seemingly blessed, ending in a 2-1 regulation win, and the series headed home to Raleigh, NC. Back in PNC Arena, the Hurricanes were greeted by Caniacs whom had waited for them to disembark from the plane, ready to watch them play games 3 and 4 in front of sold out crowds that broke franchise records. In a feat that can be described as nothing short of destiny, the Hurricanes completed the sweep defeating the Islanders 5-2 in both games 3 and 4, leading us to now.
WC1 Carolina vs. A2 Boston
Carolina now gets ready to gear up in Boston, repeating history for the fourth time, facing the Bruins yet again on the decade mark. Both teams having previously met in the Stanley Cup playoffs in 2009, 1999, and 1989. Boston took the series in in both 1989 and 1999, however Carolina won the bout in 2009. With superstars rising in the ranks, such as defenseman Jaccob Slavin (#74, 11A) and LW Warren Foegele (#13, 5G/4A), as well as seasoned playoff veterans such as center Jordan Staal (#11, 4G/5A), defenseman Dougie Hamilton (#19, 3G/4A), and Hurricanes captain Justin “Mr. Game 7” Williams (#14, 3G/3A), the National Weather Service has issued a hurricane warning for the greater Boston area ahead of game 1, set to take place Thursday, May 9th at TD Garden.
stats from hockey-reference.com and NHL.com
featured image photo credit – Josh Tessler