It’s been a good long while since Carolina Hurricanes fans have had anything to really and truly get happy and gloat over. Sure there’s been some wins in there, but they haven’t had anything actually huge to get nuts over.
That all changed Thursday night as the Hurricanes defeated the Eastern Conference powerhouse Toronto Maple Leafs in a thrilling contest at the Air Canada Centre.
Trouble started early as Toronto starting goaltender James Reimer went down with a possible concussion after a freak collision with Josh Leivo put a knee into his head. Reimer already has a history of head and neck injuries, and Toronto wisely played it safe, leading him to the quiet room for baseline tests. According to reports from the Toronto Star, Reimer is not seriously injured and could possibly return as soon as Friday. Leafs head coach Randy Carlyle summed Reimer’s condition up simply as “he’s got a headache.”
Backup goaltender Jonathan Bernier was able to fill in with no warm-up and performed magnificently. The Hurricanes did their best to take advantage, putting traffic in front of Bernier, filling the slot, and setting up chances.
It’s the much maligned Hurricanes power play unit that ended up saving the night. Ryan Murphy netted his first NHL goal off of an assist from Jeff Skinner. In the end, this was the go-ahead goal, not the own goal that came off of Bernier mishandling a waved off icing call. Eric Staal ended up putting in the tying goal, riding the momentum of the period, as the Hurricanes would tally three unanswered in the third.
Toronto fans will point to the odd own goal and say the Hurricanes won off of a flukey “garbage goal.” However, looking at the stat sheets, the Leafs were outshot 14-8 in the third and were trailing in giveaways, 14-9. Carolina going 1-for-4 on the power play– while Toronto came up empty — was what sealed it, not a “weird goal.” In all reality, the Hurricanes were going to score at some point anyway, fluke or not.
A monster upset with all players contributing and playing their parts shows two things. First, this is not a rotten team. The Hurricanes have talent to spare and only needed to utilize said talent. Justin Faulk ended up playing like the defenseman everyone knows he can be, leaving the question of where that has been all this time. The top line of Staal with Alexander Semin and Jiri Tlusty was finally communicating, and Nathan Gerbe was all over the stat sheet as well as in opponent’s faces.
The other benefit is that the Hurricanes have seen that Toronto, and therefore the rest of the conference, is human. They have the ability to run with the best in the East and have finally seen it. With the remainder of the October road trip containing major games against the New York Islanders and the red hot Colorado Avalanche, this surge in confidence will pay off in spades.
Contributing to the good fortune is the possibility of regaining injured defenseman Tim Gleason, who is reported to be possibly returning as soon as Thursday’s game against the Minnesota Wild, as well as rookie skater Elias Lindholm. Both skaters have joined the team on the trip and according to reports by the team, have been on the ice in practice.
Momentum is the most important thing in all of sports, and the Hurricanes are riding a perfect combination of confidence and momentum which has the possibility to turn around a young season that seemed to be heading towards disaster.