The only thing better for Caniacs than those Cyber Monday deals that allow us to afford the new jerseys is a 4-3 win at home before a long road trip in December. It took a shootout, but the Hurricanes made strides in areas that had given them headaches in the last two games.
The first noticeable difference: the ability to perform strongly in the second period. For the most part, the Hurricanes limited good scoring opportunities, held the offensive zone and the TSA line put itself in good positions to score. The lone goal would come from an interference penalty on Justin Williams, but at full strength, Carolina delivered in the second period.
Compare that to Friday’s game versus the Leafs, when Toronto scored four times in the second period, and it’s easy to see why a 1-1 second period is a highlight.
Two healthy scratches from the last week were also difference makers in today’s game, as Victor Rask had a two-point performance (1 G, 1 A) and Josh Jooris, who was scratched against the Leafs, scored the game opener on a partial breakaway. The Rask points were particularly inspiring, especially since the goal came from being a strong presence and the net, something we’ve needed to see more out of him.
Speaking of Jooris, I’m willing to say I’d put our fourth line up against almost any other fourth line in the league the way they played against the Preds. Joakim Nordstrom put the body on when necessary, Kruger’s skating and passing looked decent and Jooris showed a skillful touch on his five-hole goal through a drifting Jusse Saros. The line was very disciplined, not allowing a single goal while forfeiting only one giveaway of Carolina’s 21 (!) for the game.
(Ain’t nothing half-off at Nordstrom’s, I’d say.)
Noah Hanifin had a big game defensively, as he rebounded from getting juked out by Viktor Arvidsson to allow the first Preds goal. Many of his highlights, like those of many defensemen who don’t score, don’t actually exist, but he stopped a lot of would-be scoring chances around the net.
And just when I was ready to crucify Sebastian Aho for whiffing on an easy rebound, he came through to provide a shootout goal to set up Teuvo Teravainen for the winner.
Big picture, the ability to match up well with the defending Western Conference champions, a team that is feeling itself as of late. The Predators entered the game on a 9-1-0 hot streak, and say what you will about facing Saros over Pekka Rinne, in terms of tempo, puck possession and shot creation, my eye test said that the Canes were matching up pretty well with such a strong foe.
Now the Hurricanes would tell you they should’ve closed out that game and not gone to overtime (another bag of worms we’ve discussed for years), but winning is winning, and this win is a big confidence boost before facing eight of the next nine opponents on the road, including the defensively sound Blue Jackets tomorrow.