Last night featured two teams headed in very different directions. The Winnipeg Jets (9-10-2) came in to Raleigh to face the Carolina Hurricanes (7-6-4) having lost 2 in a row and let their temper get the best of them. The pesky young Canes took advantage of their chances and scored multiple power play goals sending the Jets whimpering to the first flight out of RDU.
A multitude of positives have come out of this entire critical five-game home stand. From Cam Ward stopping rubber like he did in ’06, to Justin Faulk returning to his all-star play, but last night brought us a few new things that we can discuss.
Elias Lindholm Finally Scored
The one player on the Hurricanes roster who truly needed to score a goal was Elias Lindholm. The former top 5 draft pick has underperformed since being drafted, but many believed this could actually be the year he broke out. With the addition of Teuvo Teravainen and Sebastian Aho making his NHL debut, a lot of experts felt the three would come in and become a legitimate second scoring line for the Hurricanes. That has not been the case so far, but all three players have showed a lot of promise at times.
Lindholm has had the worst luck of any Canes player this season hitting multiple crossbars and being extremely close to scoring. When he scored a beautiful goal in the slot off a Ron Hainsey pass, you could spy Elias looking to the heavens as a huge weight had just been lifted off his shoulders.
If getting his first goal on the season could somehow jumpstart Lindholm, it could be great news for the Hurricanes. Victor Rask and Jeff Skinner have carried the offensive load so far this season and the Canes need to find more secondary scoring if they want to continue to climb in the standings. Lindholm could potentially provide that and help jump start Aho and Teravainen as well.
The puck had not even dropped yet at PNC Arena before the physicality and chirping began on the Jets’ side of the ice. Before the opening faceoff Blake Wheeler was seen barking and hacking at Jeff Skinner which was returned with many boos from the crowd and probably a few choice words from the hot mouthed Skinner.
As the game progressed, the Jets did their very best to get under the Canes skin but boys in black had none of it. Noah Hanifin, Lee Stempniak, and Brock McGinn all had very intense scrums with different Jets players. The Hurricanes did a fantastic job of letting Winnipeg lose their cool while maintaining their own. The Jets ended up taking 7 penalties and the Canes used those power plays to win the game.
While all of this was occurring on the ice, the Hurricanes Twitter account had quite a fun night posting many pun filled highlights at the Jets’ expense.
Many teams likely believe that the Canes can be bullied around because they are so young and do not have any enforcers. However, the team showed on Sunday that they will not be pushed around by bigger and more physical teams.
The only thing the Canes still need to do a better job of is stepping up when another team specifically targets Jeff Skinner. Being physical and getting into scrums after the whistle is a great start, but eventually someone needs to step up and become the guy who is not afraid to drop the gloves and defend the team that way.
Okay...one more just because these are quite funny:
Holy Hurricanes Batman!!! The Canes have a real winning streak going, are now above NHL .500, and home ice advantage may be a reality! These words haven’t been spoken nearly enough around Raleigh the past seven seasons. This homestand could have potentially ended the Hurricanes’ season in November, but now they have new life. While the attendance numbers certainly weren’t anything to write home about, the Caniacs who did show up over the past four games were treated to superb hockey.
Bill Peters and company lit a fire under the players after the loss to the Ducks. Since then the team has looked completely different and it shows on the ice. The power play has scored, the team has been disciplined, people not named Skinner or Rask have scored, and Cam Ward has gone back to being the best performing athlete named Cam in North Carolina. All of this has helped plant the seed for what could result in (gasp!) a playoff chase.
Everything the team has worked on lately was on display last night. When the team needed to put the game away in the third, they were able to. When they needed a power play goal, they got one. When they needed to be physical, they made a statement. The Canes team that showed itself against the Jets is the one that needs to keep reappearing moving forward.
Moral of the Story
A little over a week ago I sat here and ripped the Canes a new one because they were digging themselves a hole they would not be able to crawl out of. This was supposed to be a different year; this was supposed to be the year we saw the light of the playoffs at the end of the tunnel. Before this homestand many were beginning to lose hope—and now suddenly hope is back on the horizon. The Canes defeated teams that were far better than them on paper, shrugged off idiotic relocation rumors from biased Montreal media, and withstood a physical Jets team that tested their every button.
As the team heads up to Toronto to start a three-game road trip, they need to channel the positives they showed during the entire homestand and especially the ones they showed against the Jets. Elias Lindholm needs to use his overdue goal to jump-start his season and help his linemates as well. If all of this comes together and the team continues to give the effort they put forth these past four games, the Canes will continue to climb the standings.
People have been talking about the Canes for the wrong reasons the past few days. It’s time to change the conversation and start talking about their success again.