Of course they had to do it that way. The Carolina Hurricanes’ first win was never going to be anything but a significantly harrowing experience, and they certainly delivered on that front. For a large chunk of this game, it felt like watching the same awful movie from the first two games all over again—the offense shows up early, gets a 3-0 lead, and then the team falls flat. But this time, there was an alternate ending. They finished strong and got the job done. Now exhale, and let’s talk about it.
New guys show their worth
When Ron Francis acquired players like Lee Stempniak, Viktor Stalberg, and Klas Dahlbeck in the offseason, most fans assumed they would play second fiddle to the more highly touted players like Teuvo Teravainen and Sebastian Aho. But all five of these players have shown their value early—Stempniak in particular. His play alongside Victor Rask and Jeff Skinner has been nothing short of outstanding, as the three currently lead the team in scoring with five points each. But quietly, the other new recruits have been productive in their own right. Teravainen has two goals of his own, Aho has picked up three assists, and Dahlbeck earned his first assist of the year with a gorgeous stretch pass to set up Stalberg’s first goal as a Cane.
Klas Dahlbeck also picks up his first #Canes point with the stretch pass to Stalberg. #Redvolution #CARvsCGY pic.twitter.com/y64tOdg1AC— Carolina Hurricanes (@NHLCanes) October 21, 2016
Not to be outdone, Stalberg was sure to finish with some flair.
[Goal GIF] @VStalberg gets his first goal with the #Canes! #Redvolution #CARvsCGY pic.twitter.com/DuNPhZs5ww— Carolina Hurricanes (@NHLCanes) October 21, 2016
Teravainen’s goal is also worth a watch—from Aho’s spin move at the blue line, to Hanifin’s quick decision to put it towards the net, to Teravainen’s determination to finish, the whole play is magnificent.
If the Hurricanes can keep the Rask/Skinner/Stempniak line going strong while getting secondary production from Teravainen, Aho, Stalberg, Lindholm, etc., the offensive woes of the past will be on their way to being a distant memory.
Consistent play style leads to success
Remember when, after the loss in Vancouver, Tripp Tracy brought up the fact that the Canes seem to be retreating into a defensive style of play which in turn led to increased opportunities of attack for their opponents? Guess what they did not do this time. The slight collapse may have led to blood pressure spikes all across the Carolinas all the same, but the Hurricanes responded by essentially not responding this time.
Rather than getting the lead, giving up a few goals and putting their focus on having their scorers concentrate on prevention, they gave up a couple of goals and kept trying to score. Their response was to not change their ways (which had worked very well for half the game). As the saying goes, “the best defense is a good offense.” Hopefully Bill Peters and company will learn from this experience and figure out that directing your best forwards towards the other team’s net instead of their own is a much better battle strategy.
Special teams play continues to impress
Yeah, it’s early. Probably too early to be impressed, but if we can’t be impressed now, when will we ever be? The Canes currently have the 4th ranked PK (93.8%) and the 5th ranked PP (31.3%) in the entire league. They killed eight minutes of penalties in the first period alone, and 12 minutes overall. The players are moving independently on the power play, which is something not previously seen. In seasons past, the units remained fairly stagnant and tried to pass around the other teams, which may work for a while but eventually the passing lanes will disappear. By moving around, both with and without the puck, the lanes remain open and plays like Skinner’s goal can exist.
[HIGHLIGHT] @JeffSkinner's power-play goal in the final minute put the #Canes up 4-2. #Redvolution #CARvsCGY pic.twitter.com/gyY0IqMauR— Carolina Hurricanes (@NHLCanes) October 21, 2016
Watch how Jordan Staal moves up in the high slot (without ever getting the puck) as Lindholm collects the puck in the corner. This draws Mark Giordano up high, leaving the other Flames defenseman alone to try to block the lane between Lindholm and Skinner, but a nifty saucer pass from 16 to 53 over a half-hearted pass block attempt gave the Canes the cushion they needed.
If that’s not enough evidence, watch Rask’s goal. His movement alone opens up passing and shooting lanes alike.
[HIGHLIGHT] @VictorRask wrists a PPG past Elliott. #Redvolution #CARvsCGY pic.twitter.com/inhOzh5s3a— Carolina Hurricanes (@NHLCanes) October 21, 2016
On both of his shots, he walks towards the middle to force the defender to move, as opposed to remaining in one place and allowing an easily blocked shot. He misses the first one, but makes no mistake on the second. The more movement the Canes can get on the power play, the higher that percentage and rank will be.
Moral of the Story
The Hurricanes can, and will, learn from this just as they clearly learned from the early season losses. The team has been doing so many things right in the early season, but this just happened to be the first game in which it all came together. With that in mind, it will be so important to keep these young players level-headed. Winning this game could bring them up too high, just as losing two 3 goal leads could have brought them down. The talent and desire of this team are obvious, but Peters’ focus must now be on their mentality.