The Hurricanes knew a test lay ahead of them with a four game stretch consisting of the Columbus Blue Jackets twice and the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals each once following their four game winning streak on home ice.
So far, things have gone just about as badly as they possibly could have. The ‘Canes fell 4-1 to Columbus on Tuesday, 7-1 to Pittsburgh on Friday, and 3-2 to Columbus last night in what was a much better effort than the previous two.
Despite dropping three straight games, it wouldn’t be accurate to say that there haven’t been any positives for the Hurricanes even in this difficult run.
Rookie forward Sebastian Aho has continued to stand out as one of the best players that this team has to offer.
Aho tallied the team’s lone goal on Tuesday night. It originally put the team in the lead, though that lead was quickly erased.
He also scored his first career power-play goal last night to spark the comeback that would tie the game at two before Columbus ultimately found the winner in the third period.
Aho scoring in an otherwise off night for the Hurricanes isn’t anything new. When the Hurricanes lost in Tampa Bay a few weeks ago, it was Aho who scored the only goal the ‘Canes had.
The Hurricanes played a decent game despite the loss that night, but Aho was the standout. With number 20 on the ice, Carolina controlled 63.9 percent of the expected goals at 5-on-5. With Aho off the ice, that number dipped to just 50 percent.
When the Hurricanes had their home point streak snapped at the hands of the Devils on January 3rd, it was more of the same. Aho was the only guy in red who found the back of the net on a spectacular effort that was similar to the one he made in his first career goal against Washington.
Aho’s ability to find ways to produce goals even when the rest of the team is out of sorts is impressive, and it speaks to his general scoring ability.
The rookie ranks fourth on the team in 5-on-5 points per 60 minutes and third on the team in 5-on-5 goals per 60 minutes.
Whether the team is up or down, he provides relatively consistent production that hasn’t been shown to be overly present from some of the team’s other primary scorers.
As Aho matures and develops as a player, the hope has to be that the team around him will join him in doing so.
At that point, ideally he’ll get some support from the scorers around him, and some of those losses where Aho is the lone scorer will turn into games where the ‘Canes can steal some points.
Regardless, it’s very encouraging to see a rookie forward who has the composure to stay on his game even when the rest of his team isn’t.
It’s just one of the many things that stands out about the player that the Hurricanes stole from the second round of the 2015 draft.