Hurricanes establish playoff pattern
The Stanley Cup playoffs continue tonight for the Carolina Hurricanes, which means they're on the road and could be 4-1 losers to the Penguins in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference final.
And if their other playoff patterns hold up, the Hurricanes will win Game 2 at Mellon Arena, Jussi "The Finnisher" Jokinen will have at least one dramatic game-winner in the series, Cam Ward will have at least one shutout, and an unlikely hero will win an overtime game somewhere along the way.
And, finally, the Hurricanes will finish it off with a thrilling victory in Game 7 — on the road, of course.
"We do make it interesting," winger Ray Whitney said of the Hurricanes.
Not to mention hard on themselves.
In the last month of the regular season, the Hurricanes kept insisting it didn't matter if they finished fourth in the Eastern Conference and secured the home-ice edge for the first round of the playoffs. The goal, simply stated, was to make the playoffs and go from there.
"Once you're in, anything can happen," Canes coach Paul Maurice has said more than once.
So what happened• Finishing sixth, the Hurricanes are in the position of trying to win a Stanley Cup in the toughest imaginable fashion — not having home-ice advantage in any series.
"It's playoff hockey, and it's a fight," center Eric Staal said Sunday. "Obviously, we had a good second half of the season, but not good enough in the first half to get that home-ice advantage.
"I don't think it really matters whether we're in our building or theirs. We were a pretty good road team all year. We've shown we can win in tough buildings and tough situations. We're comfortable in our game plan and what we have to do."
So far, so good for Carolina. The Hurricanes opened playoff series against both New Jersey and Boston with 4-1 road losses, then fought back to win Game 2 each time. They won four of the last six games in each series, capped by Game 7 victories at the Devils' Prudential Center and the Bruins' TD Banknorth Garden.
"We need to be better — we know that," Staal said of the Game 1 losses. "We've talked about it and we've got to get to our game early. Have a little extra edge, have a little extra snarl."