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About Last Night: Sometimes, Home Cooking Is All You Need

Getting back in the win column was of the utmost importance last night, and the Canes responded nicely with a big home victory.

NHL: Florida Panthers at Carolina Hurricanes James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

It’s hard to say the Carolina Hurricanes game last night against the Florida Panthers saved Bill Peters’ job, but in the minds of the Caniacs it may have. The two previous games against Colorado and the NHL’s worst team, the Arizona Coyotes, had many, even some national media, listing Peters as a candidate to get the axe. It was all within fair reason given the teams underachieving once again so far this season, but the Hurricanes managed to muster together Peters’ legendary three goals and defeated the Panthers 3-1 which may have taken some heat off the head coach.

For now.

So what exactly happened last night? We had some goals, some empty net flashbacks to 2006, a sucker punch, and yours truly riding around on the Olympia during intermission. But now we need to discuss it a little deeper and take a look at the good and bad from last night.

Talking Points

We Play For 3

Numerous times over the course of his tenure Bill Peters has preached about the race to three goals in the NHL. It’s been proven many times that the first team to get there generally wins the game. Therefore, he has pushed his team to go out nightly and get three goals. Unfortunately for the Canes, three goals have not exactly been the easiest thing to come by this year, or last year, or any year during Peters’ tenure. Needless to say he has caught some flak for the putrid offense as of late.

However, it has also been shown when the team plays to its ability and sticks to its system the Hurricanes can suffocate the opposing team to just one or two goals and find a way to make scoring 3 goals all you need to do to win. Example A was last night.

The Hurricanes came out firing in the first period and forced Roberto Luongo in his 500th career start to make some fine saves. After 20 minutes many Canes fans were saying here we go again. The team put up 20 shots on goal and had nothing to show for it, even with two power plays. But then things began to change.

From the second period on, the Hurricanes dominated possession and consistently kept the puck in the Panthers zone. Granted, the team still couldn’t find the back of the net except once time and failed to convert on multiple power plays once again, but you could feel momentum building for the Hurricanes.

Finally, the 3rd came along and it was all Carolina. From Derek Ryan showing off his best baseball skills (he was a third baseman in high school, if you’re tracking these things) to shutting down Florida’s offensive attack, the Canes put it all together. Justin Williams topped if off with his 2006 flashback empty netter getting the Canes to the ever elusive third goal.

Simply put the Canes showed up with good goaltending, shut down defense, and even found some offense. They managed to put all this together for a much-needed win that for now takes some pressure off Bill Peters’ shoulders.

Rookie Roland

Brian said it best last night, Mike Vellucci may want to start thinking about life without Roland McKeown.

The combination of Noah Hanifin and rookie Roland McKeown was pretty darn good last night. McKeown scored his first two NHL points with assist on both Brock McGinn’s opening goal and Ryan’s go-ahead goal in the third. This was good enough to earn him the first star of the game and a lifetime memory he will surely never forget.

While much of the buzz entering the season was on another rookie defenseman, Haydn Fleury, Roland McKeown quietly waited in the wings burning for an opportunity in Raleigh. Last season Bill Peters said McKeown had basically made the team out of camp but there just wasn’t enough roster space for him to stay up. This season, he did not have the strongest camp and was once again sent down to Charlotte. But something always felt to melike he had a leg up on Fleury and Trevor Carrick; it was just a matter of when he got his shot. So far he has surely made the most of it and last night was a prime example.

Only time will tell if he sticks with the Canes or if he will be sent back to Charlotte once Brett Pesce is ready to return. It’s hard to imagine how Peters and Ron Francis could justify keeping Klas Dahlbeck over McKeown at this point but yet doesn’t it feel like a total Canes move to do just that? Let’s hope that isn’t the case because so far the rookie looks ten times more comfortable and apt to the job than Dahlbeck does.

Putrid Power Play

It’s hard to talk about last night without beating the dead horse about the putrid power play the Hurricanes keep putting on the ice. Another game where the power play could have sealed the game quite early, one that had better looks than in the previous few games to be fair - and yet another game with zero power play goals. The Canes went 0 for 5 last night and have gone 2 for 28 dating back to the October 17th game against Edmonton. They rank 28th in the league at just over 13%.

By no means am I saying I am an expert on hockey, stats, or coaching, but it seems like a fair point to say the Hurricanes power play sucks and it’s one of the biggest reasons the team is doing so poorly. On the flip side, Florida had one powerplay chance and they converted it in to a goal. Had the Panthers found a way to win the game you would be hard pressed to blame it on anything other than the pathetic Hurricanes power play.

Now one may argue if Mark Pysyk and Joakim Nordstrom hadn’t received matching minor penalties instead of Pysyk actually getting a tougher penalty for a blatant sucker punch, maybe the Hurricanes convert on their 6th power play but let’s be real, it would’ve been very unlikely. (Side note, offsetting minors, really?!?)

So why is the PP so bad? Why did they go 0-5 once again last night? At what point does Ron Francis say enough is enough and place Rod Brind’Amour in to a front-office role? Enough people have tried to dissect this problem that there is not point it beating it any further. Maybe — this is just a stretch here — the Canes need to take a really long look at some film of the Dallas Stars, Tampa Bay Lightning, and Pittsburgh Penguins units. The Canes do not have the star power that these teams do obviously but there has to be something else that can be done because right now there is no excuse at how pitiful their powerplay is. It will only continue to cost them games unless something drastic is done soon.

Sealing the Deal

Let’s end on a high note. The Canes managed to hold on to a late game lead and actually put a game away last night. Watching Justin Williams skate down the ice and pocket the empty netter brought back many flash backs to 2006 and it felt so good. Blowing leads is natural for the Canes and nobody inside PNC Arena wanted to see the game go to overtime. The team found a way to bury their heads and go win the game instead of handing it away like in games past.

When you have a team that lives and dies by defense and holding other teams to one or two goals, you must know how to seal the deal. It has been a mighty struggle for the Hurricanes dating back far beyond just this season, but maybe seeing Willy recreate that glorious empty netter from Game 7 will inspire the Canes to go out and close out leads with more enthusiasm and desire. It could really help steal some games for the team and certainly keep everyone’s anger down about giving up a late tying goal just to lose in overtime soon after.

Moral of the Story

While it is great to look at the stats and say the Hurricanes are putting up nearly 50-60 shots a night, for the most part they haven’t been good shots. When people begged for more offense they didn’t expect to get it from Derek Ryan and Brock McGinn.

But none of that mattered last night. The Hurricanes found a way to get a win at PNC Arena in what felt like a must win game from the fans’ point of view, and for now uprighted the sinking ship.

How the team responds from this will tell a lot about the character of the team. It couldn’t have been a fun flight home from Arizona Saturday night but maybe something important changed on that flight. Their next 3 games are all against good hockey clubs who will likely be in the playoffs, so coming away with at least 4 points feels necessary and would go a long way toward showing whether this team can build on this win or fall apart when faced with a real challenge.