RALEIGH, N.C. – The Carolina Hurricanes are playing their best hockey of the season.
A 4-1 road win over St. Louis on Thursday extended their current win streak to a season-high four games.
It seems the team is getting the results that head coach Bill Peters and his players expected and hoped for since assuming a spot in the lower echelon of the standings for much of the first half of the season.
Many games they lost were compounded by a lack of sufficient scoring to offset struggling, though evolving defensive play, coupled with low to average-quality goaltending.
A water mark, more like a flood level, was reached and all but engulfed the team and its entire season following a 5-1 loss to New Jersey in early December.
Everything looked to be headed down the river to wash away and the only way to attempt to salvage it was to hang on and survive the surge.
However, the proverbial flood gate opened, and all of a sudden, more positive results began to pour out – slowly at first, but now flowing along at what seems like taking an enjoyable kayak ride down the river of optimism.
When the tide was rising with the weights tied to their legs getting heavier, the comments from the coach and his players was monotone, but echoed that they were doing the right things – yet just not getting the results that they thought they deserved for their effort.
They were in survival mode early on and justifiably so.
As the imminent reality of dumping extra financial weight is now reaching its peak with the NHL trade deadline approaching on Feb. 29th, the intended and likely plan to make personnel moves, specifically in moving captain Eric Staal and goaltender Cam Ward, will be followed.
Or, will it?
If you read between the lines when listening to Staal’s comments following a 4-1 win over Columbus last week, or even Peters’ postgame comments following a 3-2 overtime win over Pittsburgh on Tuesday, you get the impression that there’s hope that the decision to make a major move could be averted.
“We’re tryin’ to climb the ladder here,” Staal said.
“We know what we need to do as a group and as a team. We feel like we’ve played good enough hockey to get the wins but they haven’t always been there. But, we know what we’ve gotta do – we’ve gotta string together a bunch.”
After another win at Columbus, the Hurricanes topped the Penguins and moved closer to a wildcard playoff spot which prompted Peters’ thoughts during his postgame presser.
“It’s a good group of people in that room,” Peters said.
“It’s very solid group. They believe – they wanna make a push here. They wanna’ stay together, keep the group together. They wanna make a push and we’ve got roughly six weeks, maybe five weeks, until the end of February. We’ve gotta prove that we’re in the hunt. It’s tough to make up ground now, but we’ve gotta continue to stay with it.”
Another win two days later against the Blues, and all of sudden it seems that a conundrum has presented itself with many questions emanating from it.
Is this recent success a false positive that will still have this team miss the playoffs by the smallest margin; an occurrence that has happened repeatedly over the last six seasons?
Or, is it the final turn of the corner that Carolina has been hoping to make over that time?
If so, then how can you break up a team that is contending for a playoff spot when it’s starting to hit its stride?
Will such pleas of common-sense talk convince executive vice president and general manager Ron Francis to hold off on making any kind of deal and letting the journey continue with the current group, or will it not matter?
Has that been part of the plan all along?
It appears like it.