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About Last Night: Neljä (Plus One)

Finns and Skins 2.0 combined for what turned out to be a memorable night for the Canes.

NHL: Dallas Stars at Carolina Hurricanes James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

Neljä means four in Finnish. Figured it would be good to start learning, now that our new Finnish overlords have decided to take control.

Thanks mostly to Sebastian Aho’s first goal of the year and Teuvo Teravainen’s first career hat trick, the Carolina Hurricanes deviated from their three-goal plateau habit to dazzle fans with a five-goal performance, with four coming in the final frame, to exorcise some demons and defeat the Dallas Stars 5-1 last night.

Jeff Skinner’s “I Want A Goal, Too” marker with 2.6 seconds to go might just be the one that puts him north of 40 in April, but the strong third period overall is particularly welcome after Saturday’s collapse against Chicago. And perhaps now the “three goals is all you need to win” mantra can be adjusted to “sure, three goals is often enough to win games, but that doesn’t mean you retreat into a shell for the last 20 minutes after you get a lead.”


TSA: Part Two

The line of Teravainen, Aho, and Jordan Staal showed flashes of true brilliance at times last season—actually, right around game 15 last year, when Aho broke out—but were broken up due to inconsistency and needs on other lines.

Bringing them back together went well. Like, a combined 11 points and two players with four each, “well.” Plus it made Aho yell at the ice, which is cool.

FOX Sports Carolinas

For the record, anything that would have gotten Aho off the schneid is alright in my book.

So is this line for real? Who knows. They tore up the Stars last night and have the right ingredients to be a point-production powerhouse, but it’s one game. Still, it’s a special combination.

Staal brings size and forechecking ability coupled with a healthy dose of skill, Aho provides the brains and excellent setup abilities with plenty of finishing potential as well, and Teravainen offers a wicked shot (when he actually uses it, which should be always) and a stellar sense of awareness on the ice.

You’ve got two natural scorers who can also thread the needle on passes with a guy that can get them the puck whenever they want it. Seems like a solid group for a team aching for a true offensive line.

This play in particular stands out.

Aho strips the puck and somehow(???) finds Staal, who one-touches to Teravainen, who is already prepared to shoot and score. Skill and chemistry on display; these three are excellent together.

Plus, with this trio firing on all cylinders, teams will have to respect their abilities. This gives players like Jeff Skinner, Elias Lindholm and Victor Rask room to work their own magic—provided they are properly utilized. Carolina’s biggest pitfall may be its lack of star power and scoring prowess, but don’t let that trick you into thinking they don’t have skilled players. They just need the right environment.

Closing Time

Carolina’s most obvious issue in the early season has been its inability to hold onto a lead. Every now and then, the Canes managed to close out a game, but it usually felt like too close of a call; like they didn’t need to make it that hard. Last night’s effort came from a what seemed a wholly different team.

Let’s jump to the second period. Alexander Radulov strikes on the power play to tie the game. Second period ends, 1-1. Not hard to imagine the Canes taking a silly penalty and giving up a game winner with, what, three minutes to go, right?

It’s obviously a bit of a different situation from Saturday’s game, in which they let slip a two-goal lead in the third period, so some deviance is expected, but the effort was completely changed. Four goals in the final 20 is a bit much to ask for in each game, but the mindset of needing to keep pressing and add one or two more goals is something that should never waver.

Here’s Teravainen’s second goal to make it 3-1.

They already have the lead here, but still press forward. Jaccob Slavin even throws an aerial stretch pass to a forward flying the zone! Sure it’s a risky play that they probably shouldn’t make a habit of, but it’s the principle of it; they’re still trying to score with the lead. Teravainen’s first though as he crosses the line? Find space and shoot.

That’s the mindset to have when playing with the lead. Defensive responsibility will obviously come first, but the second you start playing not to score goals is the second you start losing.

The Hurricanes defense is stout, yes, but a defensive shell does not suit them. Their defense is good because they are quick in transition and can move the puck up ice, not because they can sit back and block shots and passes for a whole period. When the Canes play to their strengths (speed through the neutral zone, shots on net, puck retrieval, etc) for a full 60 minutes, as they did in last night’s contest, they have success.

Powered Up

So...the OTHER glaring issue with this year’s squad: the power play. It’s been so bad that the multiple occurrences that saw them take a penalty to negate a man-advantage actually seemed like good ideas.

They went 1-for-4 last night; nothing to write home about. But the goal they scored sure was.

The clip is short, but it has so much that you want to see out of a power play unit. Players supporting the puck carrier, players moving without the puck, the shooter having his head up as he fires and-

Is that...a netfront presence??

It truly is a banner day.

Granted, being the man in front is difficult. You have to avoid getting hit, but stay as central as possible. Plus, you are technically supposed to be a passing option in the corner, so be ready to pop out at a moment’s notice. But it’s an important job, and one the Hurricanes have neglected.

It’s clear that they’ve worked on this, and that’s a good start. The next step is to be able to do it with different personnel and on a regular basis. But now they have an example, and, with time, the Canes PP units might just make something of themselves.

Quietly, the Hurricanes are now on a five-game point streak. Scott Darling hasn’t lost in regulation in his last six starts. Brock McGinn has gotten bored scoring regular goals, so now he’s trying to do it while flying.

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Don’t look now, but this team is almost as fun to watch as it is cripplingly disappointing at times. They’ll look to make it six games in Brooklyn on Thursday.