March 23, 2012; Columbus, OH, USA; Columbus Blue Jackets center Mark Letestu (17) and Carolina Hurricanes center Brandon Sutter (16) battle for the puck at Nationwide Arena. Mandatory Credit: Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

Joining The Eastern Conference Battle-Carolina Hurricanes

In this installment of the Eastern Conference Battle series, I’m going to take a look at the Carolina Hurricanes. A team not much older than the Blue Jackets, but who has seen somewhat more success considering two Finals appearances and one cup victory.

However, since the 2006 cup run, they’ve made the playoffs just once in 2009 in which they lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Canes have been as inconsistent as they come, and it has been costly.

Apr 21, 2013; Tampa, FL, USA; Carolina Hurricanes center Jiri Tlusty (19) is congratulated by center Eric Staal (12) after he scored a goal against the Tampa Bay Lightning during the first period at the Tampa Bay Times Forum. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

In terms of talent and skill, the Jackets and Canes are not far apart, if they are at all. I give the Hurricanes the slight edge in offense because of players like Eric Staal and Jordan Staal, as well as Jeff Skinner and Alexander Semin, but the Jackets have a somewhat stronger defensive core. The Hurricanes’ Tim Gleason and Justin Faulk are strong players, but Jack Johnson (who was a draft pick of the Canes, for the record) and James Wisniewski are just as skilled and are definitely more consistent.

And that’s the key. Consistency. Something the Hurricanes lack, and something CBJ can pounce on as a weakness.

Case in point: the lockout shortened 2013 season.

It’s late February. The Hurricanes currently have a 4 point lead in the division and appear to be rolling to another playoff appearance. Fast forward now to late March. The Hurricanes have lost 5 straight and have subsequently lost the division lead.

April 27, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Carolina Hurricanes goalie Justin Peters (35) lies on the ice as a shot by Pittsburgh Penguins left wing Jussi Jokinen (not pictured) goes into the net during the second period at the CONSOL Energy Center. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Canes appeared to be in control of the division at the season’s halfway point, but for whatever reason, in mid-March, the wheels fell off. The team was still intact, no trades were made, but the short lived success was gone.

Why? Well, no one can really say for sure. Naturally a team has ups and downs in a season, but up for the first half and down for the second is a rare case. The Hurricanes just hit a rough patch that went on for the rest of the season. There was no resilience shown, no fighting back. When they were down, they stayed down.

But the same is true for the other end of the spectrum. The Hurricanes are notorious for coasting with a lead.

So what does this mean for Columbus?

September 30, 2011; Raleigh, NC, USA; Carolina Hurricanes defensemen Bryan Allen (5) and Columbus Blue Jackets forward Jared Boll (40) are separated by a linesmen after fighting during the 2nd period at the RBC center. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

Well, it means all it takes to take down Carolina is a little determination. If the Jackets are down in a game, fight back and get a lead. The Hurricanes tend to get down on themselves easily, and if they lose a lead and give it up, they are certain to be even more discouraged.

In a similar way to Pittsburgh, the Hurricanes struggle to fight back. But the difference between them and the Pens is that the Canes don’t depend on intimidation. They will make their own luck given the right situation.

Columbus needs to watch out for the attack of the Hurricanes. They may not be a particularly determined team, but that’s not to say they will never fight back. If Columbus coasts with a lead, the Canes will take their high powered offense and make CBJ pay.

And in the beginnings of games, the Canes almost always look for a quick start. If they get a quick start, it can be discouraging for an opponent.

All in all, the key to defeating the Carolina Hurricanes is simply wanting it more. Yes, they are skilled, but they aren’t overwhelming. Besides, the Blue Jackets have guys that can skate with every player on that Carolina roster. Just because Carolina has a lead doesn’t mean they will keep it.

It all goes back to a lack of consistency. They have strong moments, but can’t keep them. If Columbus can pounce on a weak moment, they will find success.

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