Carolina Hurricanes Learning to Overcome Adversity as Success Continues

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Carolina Hurricanes Learning to Overcome Adversity as Success Continues
Karl B DeBlaker/Associated Press

The Carolina Hurricanes allowed one of the ugliest goals ever seen and nearly blew a four-goal lead, but regrouped to defeat the Ottawa Senators 6-3 on Saturday afternoon at PNC Arena.

The sloppy, streaky matinee victory highlighted an unheralded ingredient in the Hurricanes' ongoing improvement—the ability to bounce back after a costly mistake.

The 'Canes, since rallying from 3-0 down to defeat Montreal on New Year's Eve, have won nine of their last 12 games to push back into the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff race.

Gregg Forwerck/Getty Images

They've walked away with two points in four of five road games, including critical victories in Washington, Long Island and Philadelphia. They've hit the five-goal milestone in three of the last seven home games. They've ridden Anton Khudobin to a 10-3 record and .927 save percentage in his first 13 appearances in the red and white.

Yet the 9-3-0 run has been anything but flawless.

Intertwined in Carolina's successful last four weeks are two postponed road games and a 144:46 scoreless streak, GM Jim Rutherford's scathing review of Alexander Semin and Tuomo Ruutu's period-long benching.

In fact, back-to-back shutouts at the hands of the Blue Jackets and Flames had seemed to derail all of the team's momentum two weekends ago, prompting a hefty round of trade rumors, via TSN.ca.

However, the oft-criticized Semin led to the 'Canes to an important win over Florida to restabilize the ship, then stretched his sudden hot streak to six goals in four games to jump-start another winning streak.

When one of the NHL's elite wins nine of 12, they often do so in consistently dominant fashion. When the Carolina Hurricanes do it, it's an exponentially rougher ride.

But, so far, they're making it work.

Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

Allowing three goals in a 3:05 span in an easily excited Verizon Center atmosphere? Not an issue. The 'Canes hold the Capitals scoreless for the final 37:26 of the game and win in overtime.

Conceding a third-period tying goal to the woeful Predators offense? Withstandable. Jeff Skinner trickles one through the five hole with 3:31 left to lift Carolina.

Letting in four goals in the game's first 20:24 to the visiting Lightning? A minor concern. The 'Canes fire 51 shots on goal and get three goals in the inevitable losing effort to regain offensive confidence, then start another winning streak.

Changing the routine to accommodate a controversially postponed game? Hardly a worry. The 'Canes silence a dug-out Philadelphia with Jiri Tlusty's game-winner with 6:10 to play.

Facing three different one-goal deficits at the hands of the NHL's worst team? No problem. The 'Canes rally back via two very Buffalo Sabres-esque, how-did-that-work goals and win 5-3. 

Watching a 4-0 rout fade into a 5-3 second-intermission edge after allowing a short-handed goal and this debacle? Only inspiration for a better defensive effort in the third. The 'Canes hold the Senators to seven shots and no goals in the final frame and win 6-3.

Gregg Forwerck/Getty Images

Carolina has grown tremendously from its "fragile" days of last spring, fighting through a plethora of adversity to reclaim its position on the postseason bubble. Much of that resiliency can be accredited to the Hurricanes' underrated leadership core, headlined by not only Eric and Jordan Staal and Justin Faulk, but also new 2013-14 additions like Khudobin, Manny Malhotra, Andrej Sekera, Ron Hainsey and Radek Dvorak.

With 18 out of 24 possible points in their last 12 contests, the Hurricanes have improved to 23-19-9. Their 55 points in 51 games—an average of 1.08 points per game—ranks exactly eighth in the East entering Sunday. They trail fourth-place Montreal by just 0.06 points per game.

Eastern Conference standings as of Jan. 25, 2014.

In other words, the 'Canes are in a playoff spot. At the moment.

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It must be considered that this team was in an even better position—third in the conference—with just 23 games remaining in 2012-13's lockout-shortened campaign, yet collapsed down the stretch and finished 13th.

It also must be considered that the 'Canes lead current 13th-place Washington by just 0.04 points per game, and the Eastern postseason race could hardly be volatile than it is today. With three higher-ranking teams (Columbus, Montreal and St. Louis) next up on the schedule, their current momentum could be derailed very quickly.

Nonetheless, the adversity of a challenging week ahead seems just another obstacle in a 2013-14 season laden with tribulations. 

Tribulations which, so far, the Hurricanes have overcome.

 

Mark Jones has been a Carolina Hurricanes featured columnist for Bleacher Report since 2009. Visit his profile to read more, or follow him on Twitter.

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