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About Last Night: To Be The Best…

The Canes dropped a big divisional match in the skills competition

NHL: Carolina Hurricanes at Columbus Blue Jackets Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports

The old adage goes: In order to be the best, you have to beat the best. While technically the Pittsburgh Penguins are the “best” if you will, the same rule can apply to teams that are ahead of you in the standings. Last night the Carolina Hurricanes had a chance to pull off another 4-point swing against the Columbus Blue Jackets yet they failed to convert on their chances and had to settle for one point.

Talking Points

Good Effort, Bad Results

Last week we saw the Hurricanes lose a couple of games where you can legitimately question their compete effort and desire to win. Last night was not one of those times. While the team did not get off to the start they had wanted against a team who did not get home until 3am the night before, they stuck with their game plan and clawed back in to it forcing overtime against a team above them in the standings.

Speaking of the start, Jaccob Slavin has shown sparks of excellence but he has also shown a few downfalls as well, with what we will call average play. Everyone worries about the sophomore slump in young players but there were never any signs of a slump during Slavin’s second season. However, it appears he is suffering a third-year setback. Taking a look at the first goal that Columbus scored by Josh Anderson where Slavin misplayed a pass near the crease allowing Anderson an easy tap in just 70 seconds in to the game.

While there is no need to truly worry yet it would be nice to see Slavin get back to his game from the past two years and not continue down the career path of Justin Faulk who seems to have become a liability in his own end.

The game went back and forth ultimately going to overtime. The Blue Jackets controlled play for most of overtime, but the Canes did muster good chances late in the extra frame. Ultimately it came down to the dreaded shootout and Bill Peters decided to go right back to the guys who won the shootout on Sunday against the Predators. This time neither Sebastian Aho nor Teuvo Teravainen scored while Scott Darling failed to get a stop sending Columbus home with two points while the Canes went back to the plane wondering how they keep making backup goalies look great.

Back to the original point.. Overall the compete effort was there last night. Jeff Skinner was creating chancing along with his line mate Derek Ryan and the TSA line continued to impress despite being broken up in the third period to spark the offense. The team got solid goaltending and did everything they needed to, but they fell just short of finishing the job. Much improved in this department over the past two games versus the previous two.


For every step Slavin and Faulk have taken backwards this year Noah Hanifin has taken forward. Arguably the best defenseman on this team so far this season, Hanifin has been dependable in his own end and shown signs of brilliance in the offensive zone. Seeing Slavin and Brett Pesce lock up big contracts over the summer had to be motivation for Hanifin but nobody quite expected this out of him after his sub-par season last year.

Last night Hanifin showed off his offensive skills when he got a good pass from Derek Ryan on a two-on-one which he pocketed past Joonsa Korpisalo for his fourth goal on the year. The play really started in the Canes end when Jeff Skinner bought time with his skating ability, then finding Ryan and Hanifin headed up ice for the odd man advantage. Hanifin and Skinner again nearly created magic in overtime as they produced a multitude of opportunities late in the segment coming up just shy of a game winner.

It remains unclear if young Hanifin has started adding spinach to his Wheaties or if he’s been drinking more milk (he’s still only 20 years old!), but whatever he has done this year has truly been impressive making #5 less Hanifin and more Hani-fine!

Brock the Rock

Brock McGinn has been another breakout performer this season producing points at much needed times so far. The former second round pick was never sought after as a pure goal scorer, but he always had a touch for finding points while being a superb defensive player and physical presence in front. While he hasn’t been delivering back breaking checks like he did in juniors he has been delivering big time goals and assists. He is tied for fourth on the team in goals with six and has been a pesky producer that defenses have had to worry about. Last night he received a good pass from Brett Pesce and was able to tie the game in the third period providing a big goal that ultimately led to the Canes getting one point in the standings.

If McGinn and Hanifin can both keep providing secondary offense it will help solidify this Hurricanes team that really needs more scoring throughout the lineup.

Climbing the standings

Circling back to the main point at the start of this story, the Hurricanes are simply not getting the job done against teams ahead of them in the standings when they need to. The Canes find themselves in an advantageous position having two or three games in hand on the teams they are directly chasing for a wild card spot or ahead of them in the metro division. Right now the team wild card spots are held by the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins, neither of which have the Canes have played yet. But against teams above them in the Eastern Conference the Canes have gone just 3-4-2. Simply not good enough.

We all know the metro division is the toughest in the NHL and the Hurricanes faced a daunting task of making the playoffs while playing within in. They have shown they can play with the Western Conference which is great, but now they need to shown that against the East. The Blue Jackets were playing in a back to back situation where they had to travel through customs, yet the Canes were unable to take advantage and win the game. This is just not going to get it done going forward.

On Friday the Canes will face off against another divisional foe in the New York Rangers. Last week the Rangers embarrassed the Canes and they are 3 points ahead of Carolina in the standings. How the team comes and plays in what feels like an early must win game will go a long way in telling how the rest of the season will unfold for the boys in black and red.

Moral of the Story

Simply put the Canes needed two points in regulation last night and they failed to get it. While they can be happy they got at least one point they have to start finding a way to win games (in regulation!) against teams above them in the standings. The emergence of young guys like Noah Hanifin and Brock McGinn is promising and helps put a bandage over the sub-par play of others.

Going forward the Canes face a near must win situation in New York on Friday. If they cannot find a way to defeat the teams ahead of them they will never climb the standings to a playoff spot. Only time will tell what happens but here’s to hoping it goes our way, for once.