It’s a legitimate question. What is being put in the Gatorade in Raleigh and where can they pick some up? In the first week of December, Carolina has shown that they have become dominant, and thus put the Eastern Conference on notice. First came the win over division rivals, the Washington Capitals, then the remarkable win against the Nashville Predators, highlighted by Jeff Skinner‘s face-melting hat trick performance.
On Friday came the win over the San Jose Sharks that nobody should have seen coming. Washington and Nashville are one thing, but this is San Jose; their performance this season has been nothing short of awe-inspiring. Carolina should have been happy to come away with an overtime point, or at the very least a learned lesson. Instead, they did a rope-a-dope on the Sharks, allowing them to gain a little confidence in the first two periods, then punched San Jose in the face with a four-goal third period that defied logic.
Of the top three teams in the league (Chicago Blackhawks, Anaheim Ducks and San Jose), Carolina has beat two of the three. The only top three team that’s beaten the Hurricanes has been Chicago, and even that was in shootouts.
As Carolina boards their flight to begin their four-game Western Conference road trip beginning with the Vancouver Canucks, they have the rare gift of swagger now. The players get to walk into Vancouver with heads held high and chests out, knowing they’re the team to beat. This type of confidence and morale is one of the most difficult things to deal with in an opponent. Carolina had spent much of the season hoping to come away from each game with some points. Now, they get to enter games daring opponents to come at them. How does Vancouver and the rest of the opponents on the road trip defend against this?
Carolina is currently on the roll of all rolls, and the only thing that can stop them is themselves. Carrying the San Jose win with them, along with being only a single point out of second place in the Metropolitan Division, will simply be fuel in the tank. This is a situation where stats sheets cannot encompass what’s going on in the locker room, on the bench, and in the hotel rooms. No matter where Carolina sits in power play rankings, goals for or against, shooting percentage, or any other column, it is the swagger they carry right now that makes them what they are.
While no winning streak lasts forever, the Hurricanes must capitalize on every single win in this streak and develop short memories when it actually does close out. Being the team to beat in the first half of December is the best foundation upon which to build a conference run.