Things are looking up in January for the Carolina Hurricanes. They are riding a five-game winning streak and just finished with a 6-1 flogging of the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday. Forward Jeff Skinner seems to be the hottest thing on skates these days, Jordan Staal is getting in on the act and Anton Khudobin is thumbing his nose at the haters.
Yet there is — and rightfully so — an underlying current of waiting for the other shoe to drop. Anyone who has experienced the thrill of gravity can attest to the fact that what goes up inevitably comes down. While Carolina may be killing it the first half of January, they’re eventually going to lose a game. This is just going to happen. The NHL is not the NFL where teams are known to go undefeated. Teams lose hockey games; the world keeps turning.
What is crucial is that the Hurricanes roll with these punches much better than they did after the last streak. After an epic run on the meat of the Eastern Conference, Carolina entered a skid so bad that GM and human train wreck Jim Rutherford had to hit the panic button and pretend he was a real GM. Scrambling to fix things, Rutherford went .500 on trades with one that made sense and another that was so stupid it made you dizzy. He effectively put the entire team on notice, and they seem to have responded.
It’s that first part that should worry the fanbase. After a great little run, the Hurricanes dropped a game or two and allowed the whole thing to come crumbling down. This is also frightening because Carolina has a track record that when they crash, they crash hard and in disastrous fashion. While they are handling themselves like the team they’re supposed to be, nothing is stopping them from going back to the first 45 minutes of “The Mighty Ducks.”
Rolling with the punches is going to be essential if the season is to be saved. It comes down to Kirk Muller‘s coaching talents, Eric Staal‘s leadership skills and the overall ability of the team to keep a short memory. Losing again is an inevitability, but there’s no reason for it to be a death sentence.