Did anyone bet on four goals in ten minutes? Anyone?
One of the differences I saw was a focus on shooting for tips and deflections, not pucks on net.
Carolina has long had a tendency to throw pucks at the goalie, hoping for a rebound or a misplay. Outcome: not much positive, maybe a goal a game.
This time, the Hurricanes, led by Noah Hanifin, went up against Pekka Rinne, who came in tied for third in the league for wins. Their gameplan wasn’t simply hoping he faltered, but rather giving him no chance, throwing pucks off of sticks, skates, bodies and...well, whatever it was that Victor Rask did.
(Should we start practicing wobbling pucks rather than shots on the goalie?)
There was no better example of this approach than Hanifin’s redirect off the skate of Roman Josi. Hanifin sees Josi and Rask tangled up, barreling to the net from the right side. He squares up and approaches the shot like a slapshot on goal, but slows up and changes his follow-through to bank the shot in.
Now that’s what I call smart hockey!
Then, there was the great performance by Cam Ward, who stopped 28 of 29 shots, including a handful of times I thought the puck would find a way to slip through.
Cam Ward, #30, is undefeated since his 300th win, which is 3 straight (Is that a sign?). He’s playing quite literally just as well as Scott Darling, seeing as both are tied as of yesterday at a 2.87 GAA, though Ward is a tick higher in save percentage (.911 to .897). Do we have the case of the two-headed starter on our hands?
I don’t know. Flip the script on the starters — put in Darling instead and have him reap the benefits of a four-goal lead out of the gates — and the whole narrative gets mixed up (“Darling mounts strong rebound” versus “Could Darling lose his job?”).
And while it isn’t necessarily something to be celebrated that the Canes didn’t blow a four-goal lead, it’s worth noting that last night was just the third time all season that the Canes did not allow a goal in the final two periods — and the second time in a week, following the win over Columbus last Saturday. It’s a welcome change for a team that had made a habit of coming apart at the seams at the first sign of adversity this season.
Ultimately, the night was more about the skater side of the puck versus the netminder, but both were high points and raise question about potential new strategies heading into the long homestand and the rest of the season.