The Carolina Hurricanes pulled something off last night that is practically unknown to the organization: They won their home opener.
For the first time since 2008, the Canes got the victory in their first game on home ice. A complete game effort from the entire team was exactly what this team needed if they wanted to win, and it is exactly what Bill Peters got from his club, holding on down the stretch to seal the deal.
Jeff Freaking Skinner
Number 53 sure seemed rested and on a mission after being held out of the lineup versus Detroit. Skinner literally came as close to a hat trick as you can get without actually being credited with one. Thanks to Bryan Bickell’s loose fitting jersey, Jeff Skinner was unable to officially walk away with a trio of goals, but it appeared he would have scored that goal anyway had Bickell not been there.
In his first game with a letter on his jersey, Skinner proved to everyone in PNC Arena and those watching at home that he wants to be the face of the Hurricanes franchise. With Eric Staal out of the picture, many wondered who would become the face of the Canes. Without a doubt, Skinner has shown he wants to be the guy so far this season.
We can’t mention Skinner’s dominant play without pointing out how fantastic his entire line has been. Lee Stempniak had multiple chances throughout the game and Victor Rask tied three other players in franchise history with a seven-game point streak to start the season, trailing only his general manager, Ron Francis, who holds the record with 11.
The line of Skinner, Rask and Stempniak has combined for 24 points so far this season. If this line can continue to produce and Skinner continues to show desire to lead this team then the Canes will certainly be in the hunt come early April.
What the Faulk is going on with the defense?
The defense in this game was subpar to begin but finished very strong, with the exception of Klas Dahlbeck. Ron Hainsey pulled his usual ‘Let me help the other team score’ stunt in the first period when he decided to push a Rangers forward on to Cam Ward which directly led to New York’s first goal.
It was almost as if Hainsey just wanted to take a break on the ice so he decided to push his man down then lay on him like a comfy mattress. All of this occurred after Justin Faulk took a bad delay of game penalty behind his own net.
Zuccarello goal. Goaltender interference challenge unsuccessful pic.twitter.com/cxel3j3sfL— Stephanie (@myregularface) October 29, 2016
Then like a light switch had flipped (maybe a Bill Peters chew out?), the defense came out and shut the Rangers down for the 2nd and 3rd periods. Faulk looked like an Olympian. Hanifin, Pesce, and Slavin looked like they did last year, and even Hainsey managed to have a decent play here and there.
Dahlbeck didn’t get the memo, however, and was benched for the majority of the third period after a few too many errors, including one that led directly to Zuccarello’s second goal.
The Hurricanes’ defense was the team’s strength last season, but so far this season (outside of the second half of this game) it has looked very shaky at times. It is beginning to become time to question the decision to bring in Dahlbeck and Jakub Nakladal over allowing Roland McKeown or Haydn Fleury to play in Raleigh. They both seem out of place and steps behind the other guys, which so far isn’t really saying much.
There were a multitude of positives to take away from last night for the defense. Feeling confident in their ability to shut down a team in the third is a necessary component to the future success of the team. Hopefully this game gave the defense and the entire time the motivation to go out and play like we all know they can.
Complete effort pays off
When an entire team puts forth everything they have for a complete game, history tells us they should win the game. Unfortunately, the Hurricanes have had a very tough time understanding this concept up until last night. Better now than never, right?
Cam Ward and Jeff Skinner led the way to victory but without the entire team they boys in red wouldn’t have won. While Skinner did a lot of work on his own, without his linemates and some good passing from Brett Pesce and Noah Hanifin, he wouldn’t have been able to dominate the game the way he did.
The Canes have been crying out for a complete effort from their goaltenders, and they got just that from Cam Ward. Ward made numerous fantastic saves which allowed the Canes to stay in the game. After being visibly upset during the Detroit game, Ward was spotted trying out different gear at practice this week and putting in extra work. That paid off as he outplayed Lundqvist and put this game beyond the Rangers’ reach.
The desire to finish off a game in the third period was very evident. For the first time this year the team played to win instead of playing not to lose. Caniacs have plenty of memories of third period leads this season, just not many good memories. That changed last night.
Home ice advantage
Hats off — literally, for fans who tossed their free giveaway hats to the ice believing that Skinner had a hat trick — to the Canes staff for getting one of the biggest celebrities in North Carolina to come out and sound the siren for opening night.
NASCAR jokes aside, seeing Dale Earnhardt Jr. is a huge reason alone for many fans to go to the game. The Canes don’t usually get the big-time celebs that some teams in Charlotte do, but this is a major step in the right direction.
What an honor to sound the siren on opening night for the @NHLCanes! Thanks to the fans and organization for having us tonight.— Dale Earnhardt Jr. (@DaleJr) October 28, 2016
Hats off to the fans as well. 18,680 people showed up to PNC Arena Friday night and helped will the Canes to victory. Jeff Skinner said in his post-game interview that he could hear the fans screaming for him to shoot at the end of the second and that turned out quite well. He also said there was “great energy out there” when referring to the fans.
This team is young and exciting. Combine that with getting bigger names to come support the team and more unique promotional nights (Homegrown games), and the fan support will likely be better this season than in years past.
Having thousands of people screaming for (or against) you plays a mental game on you as a human being and can truly help influence a game. The Canes proved tonight why they count on their fans’ support.
PNC Arena must be a place for success for the Canes if they want to play into late April - or later. We saw last night that fan support can truly help and translate to wins. If the team wins, the Canes will see increasingly better attendance, but hopefully there won't be a major drop off in attendance as has become common in November.
Moral of the Story
When the Canes produce a full 60-minute effort, the home crowd goers home happy. It’s a simple formula that needs to be followed more often.
Everything about last night was great. Goaltending showed up, the top line continued to produce, and the defense stepped up following a rough first period to shut down the Rangers. The Canes played their hearts out and left no doubt they wanted to win that game.
The Canes need to channel the positives from this game and repeat them on a more consistent basis. Caniacs, get out to PNC on Sunday and help give the team the home ice advantage that they need. They earned those points last night, but tomorrow it is time to go get two more from Philly.