By Frank Seravalli

RALEIGH, N.C. — After the barbecues cooled and the road hockey sticks were put down outside, the brooms came out at the Stanley Cup playoff party that’s unlike any other.

“Sweep! Sweep! Sweep!” the chants rang in unison from the 300 level at PNC Arena.

The largest crowd ever to see an NHL game in Raleigh was salivating for another Storm Surge, the movement that made these Carolina Hurricanes the darling of the dance.

But after the Hurricanes knocked off the New York Islanders in four straight with a 5-2 win on Thursday night, they simply lined up on their blueline and saluted the hometown faithful with their sticks and skated off.

What a Bunch of Jerks.

Suddenly, it’s not too hard to imagine the ultimate Stanley Cup trophy presentation, commissioner Gary Bettman swept up in the Surge. How delicious.

“Ahhh,” Hurricanes president and GM Don Waddell said at the thought. “Another round to go here. We’ll see where it goes.”

This is the run no one saw coming, but maybe we should have. The Hurricanes don’t always make the playoffs – but when they do, they go deep. Carolina has advanced to the Eastern Conference final in its each of its four playoff appearances since 2002. Only the Blackhawks, Penguins, Lightning and Ducks have made the Final Four more in those 17 years.

“Our goal isn’t to be one of the four teams remaining, it’s to be the best team,” coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “I don’t think too many people expected us to be here, but we did. I know that’s easy to say now, but it’s the truth.”

The first sweep in the 39-year history of the Hurricanes / Whalers franchise ended the Islanders’ surprising season with the ultra-rare eight-game playoff. The Isles became the first team to sweep and then be swept since 1993.

Carolina now awaits the winner of the Bruins and Blue Jackets. If Columbus prevails, the No. 7 seed Canes will have home ice in the first Eastern Conference final, where they have outscored opponents 22-7 in these playoffs.

Imagine that.

“Now we can watch the other guys hopefully beat up on each other as much as they can,” captain said.

Regardless of the opponent, the Canes are all but guaranteed to open as underdogs yet again. To bet against them, after all that they’ve been through, would be to do so at your own peril.

Because that would mean betting against the two biggest Jerks, Brind’Amour and Williams.

“The culture that we have in this locker room is unlike anything I’ve ever seen before,” Waddell said. “They want to win together. It starts with Roddy at the top. It starts with our captain. deserves all the credit. But one person can’t create it, either.”

There are a lot of buzzwords for these Jerks, but none bigger than these five: Care. Compete. Culture. Consistency. Championship.

The team motto is etched into the floor marking the threshold of their team weight room, steps off their dressing room – the symbolism not lost because it’s no doubt a sanctuary for Brind’Amour.

Culture is maybe the most overused word in pro sports, thrown around so freely. But to the Hurricanes, it meant something. They had to change theirs after missing the playoffs nine years in a row.

“That was the first thing we talked about,” Brind’Amour said. “We wanted to raise the bar around here. Part of the change in my opinion was changing the way we looked at ourselves and where we wanted to be.

“It’s not good enough to make the playoffs. Who cares? That’s not the goal.”

Brind’Amour said it. Williams put it into action, according to alternate captain .

“Right away,” Faulk said. “It’s work your bag off and if things don’t go your way, then it is what it is. Guys aren’t going to be punished for working hard and not succeeding. There were maybe a handful of games all year, not even, where we didn’t show up. That’s it.”

The fingerprints of Williams and Brind’Amour are all over all that’s happened in between – from 13th place in January to the current six-game postseason winning streak. Williams, who collected his 100th career playoff point in Game 4, has won three Stanley Cups and a Conn Smythe Trophy. But the 37-year-old admitted this time through is a little extra gratifying.​

“It is, because the journey we’ve been on, it’s been quite a change around here the past few months,” Williams said. “Everyone is believing in each other.”

So bet against the Canes.

They’ve slayed the defending Cup champs. They trailed 2-0 in that series and by two goals in two of the games they came back to win. They lost their 19-year-old star and then lost their starting netminder . Waiver wire pickup , another greybeard at 35, came off the bench with a .945 save percentage over the first three playoff wins of his career.


Now, with ample rest, Mrazek is expected to be ready to retake the net. should also be available for Game 1. The Hurricanes will be as healthy as a playoff team could expect to be at this point in the grind.

“It doesn’t matter what seems to get thrown at us, injuries, things not going your way,” Brind’Amour said. “They just come to work. They earn everything they’re getting. It’s not always going to be pretty, but it’s not going to be from a lack of commitment or digging in.”

Care. Compete. Culture. Consistency. Championship.

These Jerks have four out of five. They’re halfway to the last one.

“I said at the start of the season we’re not making a ceiling for ourselves,” Williams said. “We’re not tapping out at making the playoffs or winning a round – or two rounds. We’re going to see how good we can be.”