After 13 days on the road, where they put together a record of 2-2-2, the Carolina Hurricanes were glad to be home in Raleigh. Though the “home stand” was only for one night – they hit the road for a game against the Toronto Maple Leafs this Tuesday, and against the Nashville Predators two days later on Thursday – the Hurricanes were happy to be in familiar surroundings against their Metropolitan Division opponent, Columbus Blue Jackets.
So happy, in fact, that they beat the visiting Blue Jackets 2-1 in regulation. It was a gutsy performance by the team that had just played an overtime game the previous night against the Buffalo Sabres, and that had not been home for over two weeks. It also marked the third win in a row for the road-weary ‘Canes.
— Carolina Hurricanes (@Canes) December 17, 2017
Interestingly enough, the game Saturday night was the last in the season-series with the Blue Jackets for the Hurricanes. It is a series that the ‘Canes owned from a points perspective, going 2-0-2 and getting six of the possible eight points from the four games. For a team that is sitting at the bottom of their division, the Hurricanes have competed well against the team that has sat at or near the top for most of the season. Go figure.
Did Scott Darling Turn a Corner?
Hurricanes’ starting goalie, Scott Darling had his best game of the season against the Blue Jackets. It was reminiscent of his second outing of the year which was also against the Blue Jackets. The ‘Canes lost that battle 2-1 in overtime, but it was a war between what were two titanic goalies on that night. Blue Jackets stalwart, Sergei Bobrovsky got the win, and Darling got a baptism of fire.
Saturday night, the two titans squared off once again. Bobrovsky, having another typically good season, his team finding success atop the Metropolitan Division. Darling, having struggled mightily to find his groove as a starter, and feeling the push of a resurgent Cam Ward. This time, they both played well again, but it was Darling who emerged victorious, saving 35 of 36 shots and earning the game’s first star.
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) December 17, 2017
Success for the Hurricanes will depend largely on their goaltending, as it does for every team. If Saturday night was a coming out for Darling, who used his glove with confidence for the first time this season, and told me after the game he’s “been working hard,” then there is hope for this team even for this season. Folks are saying he’s feeling Ward pushing him. He should, and hopefully he will keep pressing forward and play consistently like he did Saturday night.
Yes, It’s Looked Bad, But the Hurricanes Are Still Fighting
Here during the winding down of 2017, the Hurricanes have at times looked simply awful. There have been calls for the firing of head coach, Bill Peters and some already greatly lamenting another lost season. But, the truth is that they are still in the hunt for a spot in the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Admittedly placing the words, “Stanley Cup” and “Hurricanes” in close proximity is somewhat tilted toward lunacy at this point. But, the fact is that the team stands only four points out of the wild card spot after Saturday night’s win over the Blue Jackets. Sitting in last place in the Division, but within striking distance of a playoff spot is a weird juxtaposition. But, that’s hockey at times, which means that the Hurricanes’ fans would do well to support their team as much as possible, giving them the encouragement and energy and positive vibes they need, especially when they play at home.
The season is not over yet, and there is still a lot of hockey to be played. There are 50 games remaining for the Hurricanes, and anything can happen. A streak of 8-2 over 10 games for example, could alter the Hurricanes’ playoff landscape dramatically.
While they have not looked capable of putting winning streaks together for much of the season, they have won their last three games. And, there is way too much talent on this team for them to stay stagnant. Sebastian Aho, Teuvo Teräväinen, Jeff Skinner and others are full of raw NHL scoring talent. Look out if it ever gets unleashed for any length of time and in unison.
It’s a Great Time to be a Hurricanes Fan
Much of the Hurricanes roster is still very young and very early in their NHL careers. Might there be a future Mark Messier-type lurking beneath the surface, waiting to emerge and play hockey at a level heretofore unseen by the Hurricanes? No one knows what the future holds for any individual player, but it would be totally bizarre for one of “young guns” to not bust out at some point and make an indelible mark on the NHL. The talent is just that real. Maybe not Messier-type talent, but talent that will leave its own legacy.
That it what makes covering the Hurricanes exciting. The potential for an explosion of success founded on raw talent and adherence to sound coaching principles. With new ownership on the horizon, there is not a better time to be a fan of the Hurricanes. Could there be more frustration? Absolutely. But, there could also be enduring success. That’s why we watch.
Mark lives in the Raleigh, NC area and covers the Carolina Hurricanes.