The Hurricanes aren't about to be daunted by anything when these Eastern Conference Finals begin, not by the Penguins, not one bit.
This is not a Carolina team that feels lucky to be here, this is a team that thinks it can beat the Penguins and then go full bore for its second Cup in four years. Not thinks, exactly. Something stronger: Believes.
The Hurricanes are not that very sure of themselves simply because they're coming off of a Game 7 on enemy ice in which, for long chunks, they had their way. The final score may have been Carolina 3, Boston 2, (
Carolina hung on, didn't buckle after Boston, the best team in the Eastern Conference after all, tied it up in the third. Then
But there's more stoking Carolina. How's this for a confidence-builder: The Hurricanes just faced off against the second-most dangerous power play in the East -- a Bruins' group that converted at a rate of 28 percent over the regular season -- and shut it down 25 of 27 times.
The Hurricanes also got a lift from one of the men they need the most: captain
This is a team that knows just what it is getting against the Penguins and doesn't mind it. Here's what Ward has to show for his last two games against Pittsburgh this season: two wins, and 65 saves on 68 shots. He stopped Malkin on a penalty shot last month, turned away Crosby on breakaway. Over the last four seasons Carolina has beaten Pittsburgh 10 times in 16 games.
The Hurricanes don't mind being the underdogs here, aren't bothered by not having home-ice advantage. That's the way they've been playing all spring long.
The Eastern Conference finals? A battle against the formidable Penguins? Said Staal: "It's going to be fun."