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Behind the Bunch of Jerks’ rise to the Eastern Conference final

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Behind the Bunch of Jerks’ rise to the Eastern Conference final

By Frank Seravalli

RALEIGH, N.C. — After the barbecues cooled and the road hockey sticks were put down outside, the brooms came out at the Stanley Cup playoff party that’s unlike any other.

“Sweep! Sweep! Sweep!” the chants rang in unison from the 300 level at PNC Arena.

The largest crowd ever to see an NHL game in Raleigh was salivating for another Storm Surge, the movement that made these Carolina Hurricanes the darling of the dance.

But after the Hurricanes knocked off the New York Islanders in four straight with a 5-2 win on Thursday night, they simply lined up on their blueline and saluted the hometown faithful with their sticks and skated off.

What a Bunch of Jerks.

Suddenly, it’s not too hard to imagine the ultimate Stanley Cup trophy presentation, commissioner Gary Bettman swept up in the Surge. How delicious.

“Ahhh,” Hurricanes president and GM Don Waddell said at the thought. “Another round to go here. We’ll see where it goes.”

This is the run no one saw coming, but maybe we should have. The Hurricanes don’t always make the playoffs – but when they do, they go deep. Carolina has advanced to the Eastern Conference final in its each of its four playoff appearances since 2002. Only the Blackhawks, Penguins, Lightning and Ducks have made the Final Four more in those 17 years.

“Our goal isn’t to be one of the four teams remaining, it’s to be the best team,” coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “I don’t think too many people expected us to be here, but we did. I know that’s easy to say now, but it’s the truth.”

The first sweep in the 39-year history of the Hurricanes / Whalers franchise ended the Islanders’ surprising season with the ultra-rare eight-game playoff. The Isles became the first team to sweep and then be swept since 1993.

Carolina now awaits the winner of the Bruins and Blue Jackets. If Columbus prevails, the No. 7 seed Canes will have home ice in the first Eastern Conference final, where they have outscored opponents 22-7 in these playoffs.

Imagine that.

“Now we can watch the other guys hopefully beat up on each other as much as they can,” captain said.

Regardless of the opponent, the Canes are all but guaranteed to open as underdogs yet again. To bet against them, after all that they’ve been through, would be to do so at your own peril.

Because that would mean betting against the two biggest Jerks, Brind’Amour and Williams.

“The culture that we have in this locker room is unlike anything I’ve ever seen before,” Waddell said. “They want to win together. It starts with Roddy at the top. It starts with our captain. deserves all the credit. But one person can’t create it, either.”

There are a lot of buzzwords for these Jerks, but none bigger than these five: Care. Compete. Culture. Consistency. Championship.

The team motto is etched into the floor marking the threshold of their team weight room, steps off their dressing room – the symbolism not lost because it’s no doubt a sanctuary for Brind’Amour.

Culture is maybe the most overused word in pro sports, thrown around so freely. But to the Hurricanes, it meant something. They had to change theirs after missing the playoffs nine years in a row.

“That was the first thing we talked about,” Brind’Amour said. “We wanted to raise the bar around here. Part of the change in my opinion was changing the way we looked at ourselves and where we wanted to be. 

“It’s not good enough to make the playoffs. Who cares? That’s not the goal.”

Brind’Amour said it. Williams put it into action, according to alternate captain .

“Right away,” Faulk said. “It’s work your bag off and if things don’t go your way, then it is what it is. Guys aren’t going to be punished for working hard and not succeeding. There were maybe a handful of games all year, not even, where we didn’t show up. That’s it.”

The fingerprints of Williams and Brind’Amour are all over all that’s happened in between – from 13th place in January to the current six-game postseason winning streak. Williams, who collected his 100th career playoff point in Game 4, has won three Stanley Cups and a Conn Smythe Trophy. But the 37-year-old admitted this time through is a little extra gratifying.

“It is, because the journey we’ve been on, it’s been quite a change around here the past few months,” Williams said. “Everyone is believing in each other.”

So bet against the Canes.

They’ve slayed the defending Cup champs. They trailed 2-0 in that series and by two goals in two of the games they came back to win. They lost their 19-year-old star and then lost their starting netminder . Waiver wire pickup , another greybeard at 35, came off the bench with a .945 save percentage over the first three playoff wins of his career. 

Seriously.

Now, with ample rest, Mrazek is expected to be ready to retake the net. should also be available for Game 1. The Hurricanes will be as healthy as a playoff team could expect to be at this point in the grind.

“It doesn’t matter what seems to get thrown at us, injuries, things not going your way,” Brind’Amour said. “They just come to work. They earn everything they’re getting. It’s not always going to be pretty, but it’s not going to be from a lack of commitment or digging in.”

Care. Compete. Culture. Consistency. Championship.

These Jerks have four out of five. They’re halfway to the last one.

“I said at the start of the season we’re not making a ceiling for ourselves,” Williams said. “We’re not tapping out at making the playoffs or winning a round – or two rounds. We’re going to see how good we can be.”
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Nice article. It’s hard not to pull for them after watching the drive and hardwork they put in each game. 

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It is a very nice article. One thing the author did not mention that the playoffs participation picture became really visual for Hurricanes team this season as soon as Nino Niederreiter was traded from the Wild team to Carolina on January 17,2019 for Victor Rask. Author mentioned that the team was on 13th place of Eastern Conference at the mid of January then, but did not mentioned that the main contributor was a Nino's trade from Minnesota which initiated Carolina team's success.

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5 hours ago, Alexandron said:

It is a very nice article. One thing the author did not mention that the playoffs participation picture became really visual for Hurricanes team this season as soon as Nino Niederreiter was traded from the Wild team to Carolina on January 17,2019 for Victor Rask. Author mentioned that the team was on 13th place of Eastern Conference at the mid of January then, but did not mentioned that the main contributor was a Nino's trade from Minnesota which initiated Carolina team's success.

 

Fair enough that Nino DID help the team get to where it got, but I think the author did just fine.

One could also argue that it was a different environment and a total team effort and style of play that suited Nino as well that changed HIS season around from the murky, listless trajectory he was going with the Wild.

The Canes aren't where they are simply because of any ONE man (but you know, if I WERE to give the nod to just one guy, I'd go Justin Williams for his many contributions on and off the ice to the team, and especially in the playoffs)….but rather, the Canes, ALL YEAR LONG have played a complete 4-line, 3-pair defense, goalies-on-the-spot team game. Period.

On paper, they shouldn't have gotten into the playoffs, they shouldn't have beaten some of the teams they did once they got there, but when a team plays to their abilities (and in some cases OVER their abilities), and everyone "buys in", anything can happen.

I am glad Nino is seeing success and he certainly is a part of what Carolina is accomplishing, but he isn't any bigger than any other players or efforts on the whole.

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45 minutes ago, TropicalFruitGirl26 said:

 

Fair enough that Nino DID help the team get to where it got, but I think the author did just fine.

One could also argue that it was a different environment and a total team effort and style of play that suited Nino as well that changed HIS season around from the murky, listless trajectory he was going with the Wild.

The Canes aren't where they are simply because of any ONE man (but you know, if I WERE to give the nod to just one guy, I'd go Justin Williams for his many contributions on and off the ice to the team, and especially in the playoffs)….but rather, the Canes, ALL YEAR LONG have played a complete 4-line, 3-pair defense, goalies-on-the-spot team game. Period.

On paper, they shouldn't have gotten into the playoffs, they shouldn't have beaten some of the teams they did once they got there, but when a team plays to their abilities (and in some cases OVER their abilities), and everyone "buys in", anything can happen.

I am glad Nino is seeing success and he certainly is a part of what Carolina is accomplishing, but he isn't any bigger than any other players or efforts on the whole.

Of course, I agree with you. The author did just fine. I liked his article.🙂 And agree also, Nino certainly is a part of what Carolina is accomplishing. He isn't bigger but still is a valuable part of it (team's success). Since his trade to Hurricanes (Jan.17) he was able to make 30 points (14 goals;16 assists) in 36 games of the regular season. I am not sure if Rask was capable for that performance there. Definitely, he(Rask) was our disappointment for the Wild this season. Or maybe he(Rask) was a part that we missed playoffs this year?🤔

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3 hours ago, TropicalFruitGirl26 said:

 

Fair enough that Nino DID help the team get to where it got, but I think the author did just fine.

One could also argue that it was a different environment and a total team effort and style of play that suited Nino as well that changed HIS season around from the murky, listless trajectory he was going with the Wild.

The Canes aren't where they are simply because of any ONE man (but you know, if I WERE to give the nod to just one guy, I'd go Justin Williams for his many contributions on and off the ice to the team, and especially in the playoffs)….but rather, the Canes, ALL YEAR LONG have played a complete 4-line, 3-pair defense, goalies-on-the-spot team game. Period.

On paper, they shouldn't have gotten into the playoffs, they shouldn't have beaten some of the teams they did once they got there, but when a team plays to their abilities (and in some cases OVER their abilities), and everyone "buys in", anything can happen.

I am glad Nino is seeing success and he certainly is a part of what Carolina is accomplishing, but he isn't any bigger than any other players or efforts on the whole.

I’m glad you noted the “buying in” comment. It seems everyone on this team plays for something bigger than themselves and collectively their all on the same page. I would really like to see that in Minnesota because the Wild are 180 degrees away from that kind of locker room. I think Williams and Rod are both directly responsible, but I also think the new owner has given them the encouragement to make it happen. It all starts at the top. 

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      Behind the Bunch of Jerks’ rise to the Eastern Conference final
    • 2
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      Fair enough that Nino DID help the team get to where it got, but I think the author did just fine. One could also argue that it was a different environment and a total team effort and style of play that suited Nino as well that changed HIS season around from the murky, listless trajectory he was going with the Wild. The Canes aren't where they are simply because of any ONE man (but you know, if I WERE to give the nod to just one guy, I'd go Justin Williams for his many contributions on and
    • 1
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      Nice article. It’s hard not to pull for them after watching the drive and hardwork they put in each game. 
    • 1
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      It is a very nice article. One thing the author did not mention that the playoffs participation picture became really visual for Hurricanes team this season as soon as Nino Niederreiter was traded from the Wild team to Carolina on January 17,2019 for Victor Rask. Author mentioned that the team was on 13th place of Eastern Conference at the mid of January then, but did not mentioned that the main contributor was a Nino's trade from Minnesota which initiated Carolina team's success.
    • 1
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      Of course, I agree with you. The author did just fine. I liked his article.🙂 And agree also, Nino certainly is a part of what Carolina is accomplishing. He isn't bigger but still is a valuable part of it (team's success). Since his trade to Hurricanes (Jan.17) he was able to make 30 points (14 goals;16 assists) in 36 games of the regular season. I am not sure if Rask was capable for that performance there. Definitely, he(Rask) was our disappointment for the Wild this season. Or maybe he(Rask) wa
    • 1
      Post
      I’m glad you noted the “buying in” comment. It seems everyone on this team plays for something bigger than themselves and collectively their all on the same page. I would really like to see that in Minnesota because the Wild are 180 degrees away from that kind of locker room. I think Williams and Rod are both directly responsible, but I also think the new owner has given them the encouragement to make it happen. It all starts at the top. 
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