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About Last Night: The Best Defense is A Good Offense, Or Something

The enigmatic Canes offense showed up in force in Thursday’s win.

NHL: Carolina Hurricanes at Toronto Maple Leafs Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

They tried to “Canes” that one, they really did.

The Carolina Hurricanes saw their 3-1 lead evaporate in the second period, but found the back of the net three more times after the Toronto Maple Leafs’ tying goal. It was the kind of consistent performance the Canes have lacked lately; they scored early and often to get ahead of the high-scoring pace the Leafs typically like to play.

Scott Darling stopping 31 shots against the League’s highest-scoring offense doesn’t hurt, either.

Start on Time, Convert Your Chances

After slow starts in the past two games doomed the Hurricanes from the get-go, the team came out with a greater sense of urgency, potting two goals and firing 10 shots on Frederik Anderson before the game was even seven minutes old. Both goals came within 30 seconds of each other inside of three minutes into the period.

Carolina thrives on fast starts (shocking take, I know). Sure, defending a lead is like rocket science to them, but they play their best hockey when they are comfortable...which is often with a goal or two on the board.

The positive effect is compounded against a team like Toronto; with all the Leafs’ weapons, any kind of head start is a welcome benefit. The trick now is to keep this kind of effort consistent. Six goals is hardly a fair expectation, but a steady push from the drop of the puck? Doesn’t seem like too much to ask.

Most importantly, Carolina wasn’t wasteful. The Canes squandered power-play chances at the start of each period on Tuesday night, ultimately costing them in what was a close game. Last night was a different story; instead of seeing chance after chance left wanting in favor of “next time,” they made their moves with confidence and buried six goals. Getting this team to continue taking the step from good chances to converted chances will go a long way towards a successful season.

Another promising facet of last night was the players who scored. Teuvo Teravainen continued what has been a solid start with a first-period goal in a three-point performance. Brock McGinn stepped up with a third period goal. Victor Rask (finally) got off the schneid with a tally and assist of his own. Elias Lindholm found himself on the scoresheet, deflecting a Sebastian Aho shot. And Josh Jooris potted his first two goals as a Hurricane.

On a night where many of the regular stars didn’t steal the show, it was several depth players who starred. The Hurricanes offense has been, and will be, scoring by committee.

Of course guys like Skinner and Aho (and from the looks of it, Teravainen too) will lead it, but without the third and fourth lines pitching in offense when possible, defending the Hurricanes will be too simple a task for opponents.

TAY-voh tayr-uh-VIYN-in

Speaking of Teravainen, his five points in eight games mark a strong start for the young Finn. And it’s not as if he’s just camped out in front with pucks bouncing off of him; rather, he’s in the “dirty areas,” digging for loose pucks and making plays happen.

First on his goal...

...he goes to the front of the net, finds the loose puck, and wastes no time firing it home. A less-confident player would wait on the fringes to see if the puck squirts out.

Then on Victor Rask’s goal...’s Teravainen supporting McGinn in the corner, forcing the turnover, and feeding Rask with a sneaky backhand dish.

It’s simple plays like these that are the difference between “almost” and “nailed it.” Coaches love to talk about “compete level” without actually defining it, but it’s safe to say Teravainen’s is high.

The 23-year-old was pegged by many as poised for a breakout year; with more plays like these and more points on the scoresheet for #86, we may be seeing the beginning of just that.

Call and Response

A team with the offensive capacity of Toronto will never be out of a game in the first period. When complacency once again bit Carolina in the rear as they allowed the Leafs to come back from a 3-1 deficit, it would not have been a shock to see them give up another goal or two on top of that.

But they didn’t. Even when Auston Matthews did Auston Matthews things in the first period to cut the Canes’ lead to 2-1, they tacked on another to earn the aforementioned 3-1 lead. And when that went away, they tacked on three more for good measure.

Rask’s go-ahead goal showed an example of real change in this team from that of years past. To give up a 3-1 lead before the game was halfway done could have broken them. And sure, there will certainly be games where it will break them. But it didn’t last night, which means they know how to fight back. They may not know how to play with a lead, but they can fight back.

We saw a similar affair in Edmonton. The Canes shot themselves in the foot, but sutured the wound themselves. It’s not a great way to play and should not become a habit, but they will need to respond in essentially every game. And the games that force this young team to regroup multiple times and continue to press offensively will help produce the wins they have failed to come up with in the past. They have learned how to quickly and effectively respond, they just need to do it consistently.

Next up is a home date with the St. Louis Blues tonight. The Canes will look to build consistency as their schedule finally begins to reach a normal pace.