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Hurricanes Embrace Role of Underdog

Earlier this week, Greg Wyshynski of Puck Daddy published an interesting article asking why the Carolina Hurricanes never get any credit for winning from the mainstream media.  When they defeated New Jersey in round one, it was because they were lucky, Marty Brodeur had a bad day, and the Devils were off their game.  When they beat Boston in games two and three of this series, the reasons given were because the Bruins felt "fat and happy" for game two and simply played poorly for game three.  Apparently, the results had nothing to do with the way the Hurricanes played. 

One could go so far as to call the Canes, the "Rodney Dangerfields" of these playoffs, but the lack of respect is nothing new for this team, or the franchise. 

What does it mean when many in the media continue to mock the team by not calling it by it's proper name?  Even now, 11 years after the move from Hartford, the team is often referred to as the "Whaler-Canes" or the "Ex-Whalers".   Outsiders might ask, what's the big deal?  But when was the last time you heard the Phoenix Coyotes being called the "Ex-Jets" or the Colorado Avalanche being referred to as the "Nordique-Avs"?  Was Calgary ever chided for "stealing" the Atlanta franchise?

The Hurricanes were one of the hottest teams in the NHL during the last month or so of the season and compiled a record of 13-3-2 from March 1st to the end of the season.  During this stretch they set a franchise record with 12 consecutive wins at home and tied another record by winning nine games in a row.  There were a few murmurs around the league that no one wanted to face this team during the playoffs, yet when the series against New Jersey was announced, the Devils were favored.  

Then of course when the next series against Boston came about, the Canes were given so little chance to win that they might as well have not even bothered to show up.  But so far the underdogs are holding their own.

These 2009 playoffs could easily remind fans of the 2002 run, as the Hurricanes advanced through each and every round as heavy underdogs.  They were given very little chance to beat the Stanley Cup Champion Devils in round one, but eliminated them in six games.  In the next round against the Montreal Canadiens, they were supposed to fold under the intense pressure of playing at the Molson Centre.  Instead, the team also bested the Habs in six games. 

Next up came the Toronto Maple Leafs, a team decimated by injuries.  But the Original 6 team was still favored to put away the fluky team from the Southeast.  We all know how that ended up, another six game wrap for the Canes.

Of course the magic ended when they could not match up against the All Star team from Detroit, but Carolina still gave them a heck of a battle.

It was deemed that Carolina was just "lucky" that postseason because they won several games in overtime or on last minute, come from behind victories.  But after a slow start during which it was rumored that head coach Paul Maurice was close to being fired, the team went on a points streak late in the season with the help of some key acquisitions made before the trade deadline.  (Bret Hedican, Kevyn Adams, and Kevin Weekes).  

See any similarities to this season?

Even in 2006 when the team competed for the President's Trophy for most of the year, they had their doubters.  The club was favored against the Habs in round one, but the Devils had won 15 games in a row and looked unbeatable to several experts in round two.  After the Canes made quick work of them, many pundits picked the Sabres to win in the Eastern Conference Finals.  To this day a few folk still claim the Sabres would have won that series if they were healthy, totally disregarding the fact that the Hurricanes had the better record during the regular season.

Now as the Hurricanes lead this series 2-1, they are still the underdogs according to the oddsmakers.  And don't expect anything to change as the playoffs continue.  It's too difficult a concept to accept that the lowly Carolina Hurricanes might actually have a pretty darn good team with a successful system and a decent coaching staff.

Underdog or not, the team seems to embrace the role and has a history of success while being disrespected.  Perhaps it's for the best?