Gold: Hurricanes are a reflection of their head coach
There are times when it’s hard to put everything into words. So many things racing through your head, so much credit to give, so many people to praise, that it all really runs together.
The Carolina Hurricanes are headed back to the Eastern Conference Finals.
Wait, that’s kind of inaccurate. You can’t go “back” to a place you haven’t been for a decade — not in a sports parlance, anyway. The Canes, absent from the postseason for ten years, long since removed from NHL relevance, have reached the sport’s final four after deleting the Islanders from the Stanley Cup Playoffs with the franchise’s first ever four-game sweep.
The Canes didn’t win more than five consecutive games at any point during the season, until Friday night, when they won their sixth in a row in the playoffs. Carolina was 0-for-enternity on the power play this series — and most of the previous one — but got a gift power play goal to tie the game early in the first after the Islanders jumped out to a 1-0 lead. Curtis McElhinney became the greatest relief pitcher since Kevin Weekes, winning the final three games of the series and giving his team a boost after Petr Mrazek became a Game 2 casualty.
Somewhere along the line, the Hurricanes became the opportunistic team. Somewhere, they became the team that turned a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 victory with “48 seconds” of great hockey. Somewhere, somehow, Sebastian Aho, who hasn’t been a dynamic offensive force in more than a month, turned two games around with incredible DEFENSIVE plays behind the Islanders goal.
Aho to Williams gave the Canes the lead for good in Game 3. Aho to Foegele to Teravainen was the death blow to the Islanders for the series.
This Hurricanes team rallied around a fallen 19-year-old kid with a movie star smile and made the big, bad defending champs pay. And when Andrei Svechnikov scored, late in the third period, I lost the hearing in my right ear. This team drew inspiration from a hobbled Jordan Martinook, who refused to stay sidelined in spite of heaven knows what kind of a right leg injury.
Jordan Staal came back from a devastating concussion that cost him almost half a season and reminded everyone why he’s so damn good. He went on a big goal binge from Washington to Brooklyn and carried his team back to Raleigh. Warren Foegele is, I mean, what in the world…?
Remember when I said there were too many thoughts and not enough words?
Jaccob Slavin. Superstar. Flat bleeping out.
Justin Williams. Captain clutch. Game 3 game-winner. Game 4 nail in the coffin. How on earth was Bill Peters so damn stupid and selfish to not name him captain a year ago? Calgary should fire Peters yesterday for that moronic decision.
I wish every single Hurricanes fan could have seen what I saw after the game, after the press conference, as we talked casually among the high fives and hugs of friends and family. The joy in his eyes is so obvious. Brind’Amour IS the Carolina Hurricanes. The most important person in Canes history. He’ll hate that I wrote that. Rod will hate it with every fiber of his being.
He wants no credit for what we’re watching. He downplays every single aspect of his role in all of it. Williams commands the room. Martinook is the glue. Staal is the horsepower. According to Rod, none of this is about him.
But, all of it is. Every single bit of it has Rod Brind’Amour’s fingerprints. Carolina’s rookie head coach turned a team that hadn’t won in ten years into two dozen hard-working, resilient, never-say-die players that care — deeply — about one another and will do anything for the guy sitting next to them in the room.
Rod Brind’Amour turned the Carolina Hurricanes into a team FULL of Rod Brind’Amours. And a team like that ALWAYS has a chance.