For this game, I will skip my usual detailed game recap and notes because writing about that would completely miss the point.
A special night in Hurricanes history
Ten years to the day since the Carolina Hurricanes last clinched a playoff berth in 2009, the team punched its ticket to the 2019 playoffs on Thursday night at PNC Arena.
The game will instantly take its rightful place among the greatest games in Carolina Hurricanes history and hopefully be the first of many for this new era in Hurricanes hockey. The energy in the building and the sheer jubilation as the clock wound down with the Hurricanes winning and the Canadiens losing was truly something special to experience.
More than anything, this game is a just and well-deserved reward for a hockey community that deserves it.
Justin Faulk has worn a Hurricanes uniform for eight years, has hockey scars to show for it and will finally play in his first NHL playoff game. Jordan Staal arrived here to live a dream playing winning hockey with his brother. That dream never materialized, and Eric Staal has since departed. But looking forward not backward, Jordan Staal will play his first playoff game since joining the Hurricanes. The group of young guns including Jaccob Slavin, Brett Pesce, Sebastian Aho, Andrei Svechnikov, Warren Foegele, Brock McGinn, Saku Maenalanen and Lucas Wallmark will all see their first NHL playoff action. I am incredibly for the players and staff who have worked so hard for this achievement.
The fan base is also so deserving. Whether fans have been commiserating with this team for only the past couple years, the full decade of playoff drought or even longer, Thursday’s joy is so much deserved and long overdue. I am especially happy for the generation of fans who have yet to experience playoff hockey. I was originally hooked on Hurricanes hockey by the tense fun of the playoffs and am thrilled that fans we will be growing our fan base in the coming weeks.
Allow me to divert a bit from my usual coverage to share a short story on a personal level. I have had ridden the ups and downs like any other fan but have always found a way to enjoy Canes hockey even during lean times. But a couple years ago in late March, one of my younger sons asked me if the Hurricanes ever made the playoffs or if they ever would. That crushed me and made my heart sink. He would have been about 11 at the time, and he had actually been to all of the playoff games in 2009 but was too young to remember. Since then, each and every time I have had to let go of another Hurricanes season, it hurt me to see another year pass without my sons seeing playoff hockey in Raleigh. So on Thursday night, by far my greatest joy was watching my sons rejoice about the Hurricanes making the playoffs. My second greatest joy was watching the players react and start hugging each other when the Capitals/Canadiens score went up on the scoreboard.
Certainly, each and every Caniac has his or her own story or initial feelings from the Hurricanes clinching a playoff spot tonight. What is so incredibly cool about these moments is how they can be shared with the rest of the fan base but at the same time be such incredible personal experiences that are unlike anyone else. Thursday night forever in all of our memories as a shared, common experience for all Caniacs but in a way that is completely unique and personal.
Very brief recap
As for the game itself, I will be brief…
–Warren Foegele rose up with a huge goal for the second time during the stretch run.
–The team in total again maxed out compete level just like it did on Tuesday.
–Maybe fittingly, Justin Faulk scored a huge goal that put the Hurricanes ahead and turned out to be the game-winner.
–The top line made its mark in the third period when Nino Niederreiter scored off the rush.
–Petr Mrazek was great yet again.
The Hurricanes close out the regular season on Saturday in Philadelphia. With a playoff spot clinched, the pressure is off, but the game could still have implications in terms of seeding.
Rest up Caniacs and get your voices back. Playoff hockey should return to Raleigh probably either on Monday, April 15 or Tuesday, April 16.