It has been a word often tossed around in the Carolina Hurricanes dressing room during the last week as the team searches for answers on how to break what is now a five-game losing skid.
As oxymoronic as it may sound – steadfastly pressing forward in spite of recent results – persistence is important, especially in the face of adversity.
“It’s not necessarily the program that has the problem. It’s the execution. We’ve got to commit to this thing,” defenseman Jay Harrison said. “It’s patience, it’s confidence in the system and it’s execution. That will alleviate much of the bleeding, and we can snap out of this as quickly as it happened, that’s for sure.”
Ultimately, breaking a slump reverts back to one crucial component.
“Working,” Harrison said. “That’s the key.”
So, after a scheduled day away from the rink on Sunday, that’s what the Hurricanes did on Monday: got back to work.
“We’re putting all our focus into tomorrow night. There are ups and downs and good and bad,” head coach Kirk Muller said. “We’ll call a spade a spade when we play well or not, and I thought we played a really good hockey game [on Saturday]. If we play that way consistently, I think we’re in good shape.”
On Saturday, the Canes came out with what might have been their best first period all season, continually rolling four lines and generating offensive pressure in the Rangers’ own zone. But nearly halfway through the period, what looked to be an innocent rush up the ice turned into a 1-0 lead for New York.
“It’s going to take a concerted effort night in and night out to generate a win,” Harrison said. “It’s a difficult league, and sometimes you do play well enough that you think you should win, and you don’t. That’s how tight the league is.”
It’s easy to look at that period, that game or any of the games in the team’s losing streak and want to alter something, somewhere. That’s where persistence is vital.
“It’s easy to try to … over-coach or over-try as a player, looking at all different scenarios. As a player, all of sudden you don’t score and you want to change your stick and the length of your stick and the curve, and then you’re right back to the stick you started with before the scoring slump. I think everyone gets into that trap sometimes. I think we have to look at what works well for us when we’re at our best,” Muller said. “It’s just a matter of no one trying to do any extra. Just going out and doing everything really well and doing your job.
Really, the bottom line is to get out of this, we have to do it together.”
Maybe a reversal of fortune comes from a simple bounce. Think the broken breakout in Toronto on Oct. 17 that wound up in a near 200-foot goal for Ron Hainsey – the game-deciding tally in a 3-2 Canes victory.
But those can’t be counted on; they must be earned.
“You can’t wait for bounces,” Harrison said. “Bounces are bounces because they’re unexpected and unanticipated.”
Invoking a pop-culture reference to perhaps the best network television show in recent history, you make your own luck, as Hurley demonstrated in jump-starting a decades-old Volkswagen van as it barreled down a hill toward a collection of rocks.
“As Vince Lombardi said, luck is the residue of good planning,” Harrison said. “Bounces will happen when you deserve them and when you put yourself in an opportunity to get bounces. That all starts with hard work.”
Hard work, persistence and offense – the Canes have scored just five goals in their last five games – is what the team will need as a five-game homestand approaches, an ideal time to snap a skid, no doubt.
“Home is a place where you need to execute and you need to be good. Your home record is very indicative of where you are in this league, and it’s something that we’ve consciously identified as an area that needs improvement,” Harrison said. “We want to take pride in the way we play at home.”
Even though the Hurricanes haven’t ticked the win column in over two weeks, you wouldn’t know it from walking into the room. The team isn’t happy with its standing, but through persistence, the Canes are actively pursuing a remedy.
“We’re meeting the challenge head on. We’re not waiting for things to happen. We want to go out and make them happen as soon as possible,” Harrison said. “Everybody is really excited to get out there and get at it, and that’s a good thing when you’re going through a bit of trouble. Nobody is dreading anything. Nobody is upset coming to the rink. Nobody is down in the dump. We’re excited to get back out there and get this thing turned around.”
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