Many have questioned the Carolina Hurricanes over the past few weeks and with good reason. The team had struggled (and that’s being nice) to score and produce offensive opportunities during their last two games.
That surely wasn’t the case last night.
The team we saw play last night looked quick, crisp, and determined. Yet as good as the win was it leaves you scratching your head wondering what happened between opening night and last night? While that is a story for another day, all we can do right now is dive in to the exciting events from last night.
Will the real Hurricanes offense please stand up?
The offense last night started very early and kept on throughout the entire game. Teuvo Teravainen opened the scoring just 20 seconds in to the matchup. Then 4:33 later he stuck again, this time on the powerplay, to extend the lead to 2-0, the two fastest goals by one player to start a game since Geoff Sanderson in 1996 with the Whalers.
You read that right folks, two goals and one of them was a powerplay goal!
But it gets better, Elias Lindholm knocked one past Laurent Brossoit later in the period to give the Canes a 3-0 lead going in to the first intermission. Crazy!
Jordan Staal led the offensive output with a tremendous 4 point night. He took over the game and his breakaway goal in 3rd period was a perfect example of that. A night like last night makes you want to believe Staal is worthy of wearing a C and he can actually put up really good offensive numbers this season. He was challenged with facing off against Connor McDavid but with the help of guys like Marcus Kruger, Staal can be free to not take on all the pressure of shutting down a top line and therefore create more offense. One can only hope we see more of this going forward.
Speaking of Staal, he set up a highlight reel goal by Jaccob Slavin late in the 3rd to seal the game. Watch how Jordan draws the attention of all three defenders yet still manages to get the puck over to Slavin who buried the final tally of the game on a goal worthy of quite a few replays.
On Slavin, is there anything this guy can’t do?? Every Hurricanes fan should be extremely thankful we have this guy because he is going to be so fun to watch for a very long time. But Brian made a good point last night, poor Slavin still won’t get the attention he deserves this year.
Snark aside, I can’t wait for, say, Duncan Keith to be a Norris finalist and Slavin to finish, like, ninth. You know it’s happening.— Brian LeBlanc (@bdleblanc) October 18, 2017
Cam Ward entered this season facing a challenge unlike anything he had encountered in over a decade: knowing he would�would be the backup goaltender. To the dismay of many fans, Ward was kept around for the last year of his contract to play behind Scott Darling. Everyone wondered how Ward would do in this role since historically Ward has been overworked and accustomed to playing nightly. Well, in his first appearance this year, Ward did pretty darned good in his hometown.
Now granted, he did allow three goals and the Oilers hung around until late, but would it really be a Cam Ward performance if that didn’t happen? Ward faced 51 shots and made 48 saves against one of the league’s most potent offenses. Ward had not made that many saves since 2008 so even his detractors would have to say he did a good job.
Now, one good start doesn’t have him sliding ahead of Darling by any means, but it is very reassuring to see Ward be able to come in after not playing and do a good enough job to win. That quality will be key in keeping the team in the playoff race as we go and to getting Darling much needed rest.
While the offensive struggles for the Hurricanes have been obvious, the special teams play by the team had been concerning too. The power play coming in to last night was a meager 2 for 12 on the season. But with some excellent play by Staal, Teravainen, and Elias Lindholm, the Hurricanes doubled their power play output on the year. Going 2 for 5 on the man advantage against a top caliber team is an exciting thing to see for sure.
On the flip side, the penalty kill could have been better. They gave up 2 goals on 7 attempts, but more importantly those goals came as the Oilers were mounting a comeback. Jaccob Slavin and Brett Pesce did a very good job of shutting down McDavid and company during 5 on 5 play but we would like to see the penalty kill step up a little more. (Then again, it is the Oilers.)
Getting the power play to continue to play as they did last night will be very important as the season grinds on. Both Jeff Skinner and Sebastian Aho were held off the scoresheet last night, and while it is great that the team found a way to win without them, the Canes need to get Aho and Skinner going, along with the supporting cast that won the game against the Oilers. Once all of these pieces come together it should improve not only the power play but the entire offense as well.
Moral of the Story
The Hurricanes needed to come out and perform well against a top team in the NHL. After two forgettable games over the past week, being able to forget them and move own was impressive. While not ideal to have Aho and Skinner held scoreless, seeing Jordan Staal and company step up is great to see.
There is no doubt that the Canes have a
good great defense, but the team needs to continue to get good offense and good-enough goaltending. If all of these pieces come together along with quality special teams play, the Hurricanes can show the league they can play, and defeat, anyone.
Next up, Calgary on Thursday night.