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FEATURE: de Haan Sees Parallels Between Blackhawks, 2018-19 Hurricanes

As Carolina visits United Center for only time this season, former Canes defenseman Calvin de Haan is in familiar territory

by Chris Kuc @ChrisKuc /

The rallying cry in dressing rooms of teams currently out of the postseason picture - including the Blackhawks - has been, "Well, just look at what the Blues did last season!"

Indeed, the example the Blues set last season when they climbed from the depths of last place in the league in January to hoisting the Stanley Cup in June is a good one, but it's also not likely to happen again for another generation.

For the Blackhawks, a better blueprint might be that of the 2018-19 Hurricanes, who are in town for their only regular-season appearance this season Tuesday night at the United Center.

The Hurricanes, who had a mix of veteran and young players looking for their identity early in the season after losing some games they thought they played well enough in to win - sound familiar? - were 9-8-3 after 20 games of the 2018-19 season after enduring losing skids of three and fives games during the early stretch.

Following the weekend, during which they swept the Predators and Sabres to run their winning streak to four, the Blackhawks stand at 9-7-4 after 20 games.

Calvin de Haan was a mainstay of the Hurricanes last season but now dons the Indian Head sweater after arriving to the Blackhawks along with Aleksi Saarela in a June 25 trade for Anton Forsberg and Gustav Forsling. The veteran defenseman sees similarities between the '18-19 Hurricanes and the current Blackhawks.

"It would be a good comparison," de Haan said. "(The Hurricanes) were at the bottom of the standings come around Christmastime and we had a great second half. There has been some parity in the league the past few years with stuff like that. Look at the Blues, obviously, with the turnaround that they had. You know it's not going to happen every season but it gives teams hope.

"We can try to carve a similar path as teams like that but midway through the year you obviously don't want to be at the bottom of the standings - that's not our goal," de Haan continued. "We're just going to keep playing our best and doing our best to try to win games."

Coach Jeremy Colliton, who over the last few weeks helped spark a Blackhawks turnaround by opening up the offense by moving their weak-side winger higher in the defensive zone, said early adversity such as what the '18-19 Hurricanes went through can be a benefit later in the season.

"Individually, everyone has a history they can draw on of going through adversity and it's difficult and you wonder when it's going to turn and typically the time it turns is when you think it's never going to turn," Colliton said. "But if you just stick with it then you get through it and then you're stronger for it. I think there are a lot of stories like that. That doesn't mean it's just going to happen. It's not like, 'Oh, you want to be at the bottom of the league so you're going to turn it around because that's the blueprint.' It's just a lot of the teams that in the end have the mental toughness and they've been through adversity together, that's a good formula to build it as long as you stick with it and don't stop playing."

So how did things eventually turn for the Hurricanes, who ended the regular season with a 46-29-7 record and then went on the upset the Capitals and Islanders in the postseason before eventually falling to the Bruins in the Eastern Conference finals?

"It was weird," de Haan said. "It was almost like (the Hurricanes) were starting to get some bounces and some pucks that were going in at the start of the year against us weren't going in in the second half. It just seems like the hockey gods were on our side a little bit. That's not to say we weren't playing good hockey, because we were.

"But we started to score some goals, get some saves and our penalty kill started to turn around," de Haan added. "It feels like a similar path that (the Blackhawks) are on. It sucks and it's frustrating at times but at the same time you know that we're playing good hockey right now. We just have to stick with it and keep grinding away."

Another key for the Blackhawks is that they are not letting the standings have an adverse effect on their collective psyche, de Haan said.

"No one is hitting the panic button in here," he said. "The time to kind of hit it is when the season is over and if you're not in the playoffs then you look back on everything. Up until that point it's fair game and anything can happen now."

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