As the Carolina Hurricanes emerge from the front half of November, it’s pretty safe to say they’ve had one heck of a month so far.
Despite starting with back-to-back losses to the Tampa Bay Lightning and New York Rangers, something snapped for the Hurricanes, and they suddenly decided this stuff had gone on long enough and it was time to do something about it.
The November homestand saw Carolina emerge nearly unrecognizable from the last four weeks. Wins over the Philadelphia Flyers and New York Islanders were appetizers for the main course in the following three games. Other than the shootout loss to the Minnesota Wild, Carolina was flawless the entire week. Even the loss to Minnesota netted a much needed point in the standings.
The cake was iced in the back end of the homestand as the second and first place teams in the NHL came into Raleigh, and were both sent home defeated. The win over the Colorado Avalanche was just the thing fans and players alike needed to rejuvenate faith. While it’s true the Anaheim Ducks came into Friday night’s game on a losing streak, slammed by a flu bug, and with Jonas Hiller playing more like Jonah Hill, the Ducks absolutely came to play, and Carolina still earned their win.
Streaks eventually end, and there’s little anyone can do about that. Mathematical probability can be a cruel mistress, and Saturday night, the St Louis Blues handed Carolina their first no-points-earned game since Nov. 2. Even in a loss, however, Carolina showed signs of the turnaround, notching two shorthanded goals — something that had yet to happen this season.
Despite coming up short in St Louis, Carolina is suddenly something they haven’t been in a long time — a .500 team.
Some will put their hands on their head and ask, “Who the heck are these guys?,” but the answer has been in front of them all along. They’re the Hurricanes, and they’ve always been this good. The problem has been that they didn’t know it yet. They’ve had the talent and guns to compete all along, despite key injuries at the worst possible times. Big time performances were turned in by the conspicuously not-injured Nathan Gerbe, Jordan Staal and for some reason, Chris Terry. Throw in the fact that replacement goalie Justin Peters has been playing with his hair on fire, and the question turns into, “Where has this version of the team been all year?”
Reports from practice have regular starting goalie Cam Ward skating with the regular group, and possibly returning as a back up early in the week. Forward Jeff Skinner remains day-to-day, but is making progress. It’s true that Alexander Semin took a nasty hit from Alex Pietrangelo in the St Louis game, but no decisions have been made as to his status, pending a medical report.
The back nine of November is no picnic, with the Boston Bruins and New Jersey Devils both showing up twice, as well as matchups against the Ottawa Senators and Detroit Red Wings. Boston and Detroit will be the acid test for Carolina’s new “contender” status, and can cement their legitimacy in the Eastern Conference.