I've dubbed it "The Trifecta." It's never happened before - all 3 Carolina pro sports teams making the playoffs in the same season. There's an outside chance it could happen this year, and the prospect has me pumped with anticipation. The Carolina Panthers already did their part, smashing through the regular season with a 12-4 record, winning the NFC South division, and heading into the playoffs (unfortunately with very forgettable results). Next on tap, the Carolina Hurricanes, who at present are arguably the hottest team in the entire NHL coming off a 10-1-2 March. After beginning the month as an inconsistent team with fringe playoff hopes, the renaissance of goalie Cam Ward and the reaquisition of forward Erik Cole (who was just traded away to Edmonton last summer) has them sitting smack dab in the middle of the Eastern Conference race as the team that nobody wants to play in the first round. After last season's final week collapse that left the Canes a point out of the playoffs I don't want to assume anything right now, but they look like a pretty sure bet for postseason play this year. Then you've got the Charlotte Bobcats, a bit of a long shot for the NBA playoffs right now but all the more exciting because nobody ever expected them to even be where they are now. With new coach (but Hall-of-Famer) Larry Brown at the helm, the team struggled out of the gate to adjust to his demanding system and style of play. However, a midseason makeover (and an extreme one at that) of the roster has them playing great basketball right now, culminating in a win over the Lakers Tuesday night. A double-overtime heartbreaking loss to defending-champ Boston last night hurt, and it's likely that the early season hole they dug is just a hair too deep for their late surge to overcome, but they're only a game and a half out of the final spot with 7 to go, so anything's possible. At any rate, expectations should be high next year with the current roster coming into training camp rather than learning to play together on the fly. Will the Cats sneak past Chicago or Detroit and into the playoffs? Will the Canes repeat their magical 2006 Stanley Cup run? Will I ever get over that Arizona playoff game? I don't know, but it's sure a great time to be a Carolina sports fan.
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