The Carolina Hurricanes are mere inches away from five wins in their first seven games.
But inches away isn't close enough.
The 2-2-3 'Canes now enter their infamous State Fair road trip with three consecutive losses—all three of which were tied at one point in the third period—riding on their conscience.
Thanks to the NHL's unusual rules, picking up one point in the standings on two of those nights is far from the worst-case scenario. But the Hurricanes are lacking satisfaction and the resulting confidence with a plethora of hostile, discouraging crowds next up on the schedule.
|State Fair Road Trip 2013 Schedule|
|Thurs, Oct. 17||Toronto Maple Leafs||7 p.m. EDT||SportsSouth|
|Sat, Oct. 19||New York Islanders||7 p.m. EDT||SportsSouth|
|Thurs, Oct. 24||Minnesota Wild||8 p.m. EDT||SportsSouth|
|Fri, Oct. 25||Colorado Avalanche||9 p.m. EDT||SportsSouth|
Finally out of the wrath of the Western Conference, the 'Canes travel to Toronto and Long Island over the weekend to face two teams playing fairly well out of the gate.
Their exodus from Western opponents ends shortly, though, as trips to Minnesota and Colorado close out the road trip next week.
Still, there's certainly reason to believe that the next four games could be very successful ones for Carolina.
This 2013 edition of the State Fair road trip is far less momentous than usual—in 2010-11, it amounted to a seven-game, three-country, season-opening adventure.
Moreover, the 'Canes have actually had more success in recent years against these four teams than arguably any others in the league. The Hurricanes are 7-3-1 and 7-2-2 over the past three seasons against the Maple Leafs and the Islanders, respectively, and have posted a 4-0-1 combined record in their last five meetings with the Wild and the Avalanche.
History's favorable predictions are meaningless, however, unless the 'Canes can turn them into tangible wins.
It's nearing the time for a concussed Tim Gleason, already missing for significantly longer than expected, to return to the lineup and boost Carolina's inexperienced, worn-down defense, according to the Charlotte News and Observer's Chip Alexander.
It's time for Jiri Tlusty (zero points), Jordan Staal (one point) and Patrick Dwyer (one point) to become meaningful box-score contributors again.
It's time for Eric Staal, a minus-six through seven games with a 44.3 faceoff percentage, to take hold of his leadership role and dominate in every way possible.
It's time for Cam Ward, stranded as he may be, to get his first, then his second and then his third win of the season after an 0-2-3 start.
And most of all, it's time for the Hurricanes to finally fight for and earn the confidence they've been perennially lacking for so long.
The 2013 State Fair road trip must be transformed into a turning point for the better.