The “Bunch of Jerks” are going to the playoffs.
The Carolina Hurricanes clinched their berth Thursday thanks in part to a 3-1 victory over the New Jersey Devils. This marks the first time since 2009 they’ll enter the post-season and it couldn’t have come at a better time for the franchise.
“It’s exciting, everyone can see all the emotion out of the group and in here right now, there’s still a bit of a vibe,” said defenceman Justin Faulk. “It’s great, and we’re not happy yet, right? We’re excited, we’re obviously happy, but we’re not done and that’s not enough just to get into the playoffs, and we know that, and that’s been our mindset the whole year.”
Faulk, the longest-tenured Hurricane, is in his eighth season and has to be looking forward to the rewards to come.
The Hurricanes have now snapped the NHL’s longest-active playoff drought, leaving the Buffalo Sabres standing alone as the only team to have missed the post-season eight times in a row.
Carolina got a bit of help from the Washington Capitals, who overpowered the Montreal Canadiens Thursday and didn’t do the Habs any favours.
For the Hurricanes, this is just the second time they’ve been in the playoffs.
The first time, they won the Stanley Cup. Head coach Rod Brind’Amour was the captain, while Justin Williams was a 30-plus goal scorer. Brind’Amour named his former teammate captain of this version of Carolina in September of 2018, after Williams re-joined the squad as a free agent.
“The goal was to get relevant. That’s the first thing,” said Brind’Amour. “I felt like we’d kind of fallen off the map, and obviously, we’re not done. This isn’t the final thing. We want to be the best team. But there’s a step that has to be taken, and it’s a huge step to make the playoffs. Can’t say enough about the group. Just can’t.”
The Hurricanes now have 97 points, which would position them against the Capitals if the post-season started today. Carolina has two games to go this season. They’ll host the New Jersey Devils Thursday and head to Philadelphia to tangle with the Flyers on Saturday.
The triumph over New Jersey put the Hurricanes decisively in the first wild card spot in the Eastern Conference, which aligns the Habs and Columbus Blue Jackets in a last-minute tangle for the second spot. The Canadiens are up against the wall, with just a game remaining against Toronto on Saturday. The Blue Jackets have two games to go, both against non-playoff teams.
(Photo credit: Getty Images)