As a player, Carolina Hurricanes head coach Kirk Muller has been here before.
Muller’s 1992-93 Montreal Canadiens team posted a 48-30-6 record, but they finished the regular season winning just two of their last seven games.
Entering the playoffs with momentum stalled, the Canadiens dropped the first two games of the opening round to the Quebec Nordiques. The team had slid into a rut at the worst possible time.
Back in Montreal for Game 3, the Habs pulled out what would be their first of 10 consecutive overtime victories in the 1993 postseason.
And all it took was a bounce.
Vincent Damphousse’s pivotal overtime winner slipped past Ron Hextall after redirecting off a Quebec defenseman’s skate.
Montreal would go on to lose just two games – in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the New York Islanders and in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals against the Los Angeles Kings – en route to capturing their 24th Stanley Cup in franchise history. In a 4-1 victory in the deciding Game 5, Muller potted the Cup-clinching goal.
Maybe all the Hurricanes need is a similar bounce.
In the Canes’ locker room on Friday, goaltender Dan Ellis took an eraser to the Eastern Conference standings white board that hangs at the front of the room. He left just four teams: Washington (38 points, 37 games played), New York Rangers (40 points, 37 games played), Winnipeg (38 points, 39 games played) and Carolina (34 points, 36 games played).
Scribbled at the top of the board: “Reality!”