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About Last Night: Is This Real?

We’re getting reports that Caniacs are feeling an odd sensation after last night’s win: confidence.

Jamie Kellner

The Carolina Hurricanes are one game from .500 - like, actual .500, not the Disneyfied NHL “.500” - after defeating Pittsburgh 2-1 at PNC Arena on Friday night. Much of what we’ve discussed in recent posts contributed to that win: third-period defense with tight leads, second-period goal production, outstanding goaltending and crashing the crease offensively.

The question now is how do the Canes, and we Caniacs as well, handle this newfound confidence?

And when do we mention “the streak?” Or do we ever, lest we curse it?

Well, to put it in less jinxing terms, I can say that the Canes are now 7-1-0 in the last eight games. These haven’t been cupcake matches either — Golden Knights, Blue Jackets, Predators, the defending Stanley Cup champions — and this all comes around a time in which we just narrowly avoided an existential crisis from the 8-1 beatdown laid on the Hurricanes by Toronto.

I want to reiterate this clearly: the Canes were beaten by Toronto 8-1 last week, yet somehow, we’re sitting here saying, “Man, our defense looks superb and the offense is finding the net. Oh, and most of all, our goaltending could hardly be better!”

This game was really the pinnacle of everything we’ve been asking for from our players. We want them to compete with and beat the best teams. We want them to look like they care on the ice. We want a reason to come to the rink and combat the obnoxious black and gold jerseys from Cary Pittsburgh, of which there were no shortage at all last night.

Most of all, I can’t point to any one facet of last night’s game and say, “This thing, this made the greatest difference.” Everything just looked polished, fast and aggressive.

I guess one specific thing that’s pretty impressive that the Canes, and specifically Jaccob Slavin, held Sidney Crosby to one shot on goal. But before you freak out, he’s been held to one or zero shots in 10 games this season. Against the Canes, though, that’s not so common: he rattled off 13 shots in four games against Carolina last season, including two goals. It was even worse in 2015-2016: 14 shots, four goals in four games.

Crosby’s bad night is just one illustration of the way the Hurricanes limited shots on the night overall. There was only one team in the NHL that has outshot the Canes on average coming into last night’s game: yep, the Pittsburgh Penguins. For the most part, they shut down the Pens’ ability to put pucks on net with just 14 shots in the first two periods. Sure, they had 15 in the third period, but four of them came within seven seconds of each other. Controlling the sharpshooting Penguins early was definitely a big key to the win, and something many strong teams haven’t done this season.

Three plays stand out, two of which were against Evgeni Malkin who has long been Kryptonite to Cam Ward. First, this save on a full-speed tip chance that looked way less impressive on first viewing than it truly was:

Then, Brett Pesce saving a sure Jake Guentzel goal that would have almost certainly tied the game:

And finally, this Slavin poke check on Malkin that defies description:

Three plays, three defensive stops, three different players. The phrase ”total team effort” gets thrown around a lot, but last night was exactly that.

Beating an elite Metropolitan opponent like Pittsburgh early in the season will hopefully remind the Hurricanes that they have the talent and skill to hang with best of the best, those teams that should (and have) give(n) the Canes fits.

Coming up in the next few games:

The Blues, in theory, should beat the Canes.

The Capitals, in theory, should beat the Canes.

The Lightning, in theory, should beat the Canes.

And the Penguins, in theory, probably should have beaten the Canes.

But they didn’t, not in the box score nor in almost any facet of last night’s game. And why should anyone else?