The Carolina Hurricanes are singing a familiar song. For a while, they were having a very good time. They were enjoying an Oktoberfest-like start to the season.
Looking at the standings every morning and seeing them perched atop the Metropolitan Division was beginning to be a habit that their fans were getting used to for a change. Even hope for a return to the playoffs was beginning to take root.
The Hurricanes might actually make the playoffs this year if they continue this great point streak. I would trade though either Mrazek or Darling in order to keep McElhinney. You got a keeper in him #takewarning
— Chase Beardsley (@str8_2_the_bank) October 8, 2018
Then things reverted back to their normal state. Prior to Thursday night’s 4-3 win over the Chicago Blackhawks, the Hurricanes were back where they are usually found — near the cellar of the Metropolitan Division. Finally, though, their long losing streak has come to an end and a flicker of hope is still glowing.
Hurricanes Know the Melody Well
When it comes to frustration, the Hurricanes and their fans know the melody of that tune very well. Opinions and speculations are constantly changing when it comes to their performance and their future. Obviously, it is not good to form those based on one game, but that is the nature of sports fandom.
For example, a young goaltender is glossed the “next Patrick Roy” after one night of outlandish goalie play but “needs to be sent down” after his next outing where he whiffs on three goals. The same type of hot then cold evaluation of the Hurricanes has been a staple among the fans for the past 5-10 years.
What was a fresh, exciting Hurricanes squad a short time ago most recently has been a frustrating rerun. The rampant speculations about making a return to the playoffs have been replaced with negativity and the familiar melody of hopelessness.
In an odd way, a favorite meme of Hurricanes television play-by-play announcer John Forslund describes this perfectly: “That’s hockey baby.” It is simply the nature of the sport that teams are going to go through good times and bad. Sadly though, the Hurricanes have spent a long time in the desert of negativity. That makes hope easily latched onto because it has been so elusive for this team and its fans.
What are the Hurricanes Singing Now?
Sometimes one has to listen to a couple of lines to recognize a favorite old song. In like manner, it is not always easy to figure out where a team is based on one game. Sure, the Hurricanes beat the Blackhawks in their building. But they beat a team whose coach, Joel Quenneville had just been fired a few days before. Quenneville is the second-winningest coach in NHL history and brought the Blackhawks their first Stanley Cup in 49 years in 2010, and two more 2013 and 2015.
Can anything be written in ink because the Hurricanes beat the Blackhawks in that particular situation? Names like Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane are certainly not easily dismissed. The Blackhawks should on paper be taken seriously. Unfortunately, they are not the team that they have been. Yes, the Hurricanes won, but is there a genuine song of optimism to sing after Thursday night’s win? Probably not.
The Goaltender Blues
Even in victory, the team’s areas that need work pop out loudly. Primarily goaltending is still a hold your breath, close your eyes and hope for the best exercise when an opponent has any type of rush toward the Hurricane zone. The “we need a strong goaltender” song has been sung for several years, and at times seems like a broken record.
Scott Darling got his first win of the season which was delayed for him by an early hamstring injury. He did keep his composure when the Blackhawks started coming back, which is a big step forward from last season.
35 saves, a .921 save percentage and a win 💪 pic.twitter.com/2ipHwB7s7H
— Carolina Hurricanes (@Canes) November 9, 2018
However, Darling did not look ready to take this team and put them on his back for long stretches of the season. It will likely be the Hurricanes’ goalie trio of Darling, Petr Mrázek who is currently sidelined with a lower-body injury, and Curtis McElhinney for the foreseeable future.
As a side note, the Hurricanes will welcome the Blackhawks onto their home ice Monday, Nov. 12. It is likely that former Hurricanes goaltender Cam Ward will be in goal for the Blackhawks. That will be worth the price of admission in and of itself.
The fans of the Hurricanes want to sing, “We are the Champions!” Unless they can put together more than one win per six games played, or three in eight, their opponents will be sending them home with the serenade of “Hey, Hey, Goodbye” at season’s end. Hearing that got about a decade ago.
Mark lives in the Raleigh, NC area and covers the Carolina Hurricanes.