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About Last Night: The Canes’ youth movement shines through

The Hurricanes walked away with something to smile about last night thanks to the youngsters.

NHL: New York Rangers at Carolina Hurricanes James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

Remember back in December and even the first of January when it felt like nobody could defeat the Hurricanes inside PNC Arena? No matter what occurred during the game the Canes found a way to scratch and claw back and would end up winning almost every game at home. Last night sure felt like we were back in December because the Hurricanes were determined to leave PNC Arena last night with a win and no Rangers player was going to stop them.

The entire game was paced by the shining stars of the future for the Hurricanes. From the oldest of the kids, Jeff Skinner, to the youngest in Sebastian Aho, you could see the visions Ron Francis has for this team going forward. Oh and on top of that we got to see a guy in his first NHL game get his first NHL goal too - and he played for the home team!

Let’s take a further look at what happened last night.

Talking Points

Skinner & Aho

Is there any doubt these are the two main offensive contributors for the Hurricanes? It’s hard not to reminisce to Jeff Skinner’s rookie season when watching Sebastian Aho play. Both guys played their hearts out last night and both were rewarded with goals - two for Aho. In a time where Caniacs are finding it very (very) hard to remain positive about this team, night in and night Aho never fails to amaze and show signs of hope for the future.

Take a look at these goals and just notice the pure passion and joy when both guys score. Their happiness streams from a desire to win and one cannot and should not ever question their desire to win. There are many guys on this team you can do that with, but not Skinner or Aho.

Aho is now tied with Shane Willis for the most goals in a rookie season by a Hurricanes player at 20 goals. He only trails Jeff Skinner, and if Aho had better line mates it’s not far-fetched to believe he would be on pace to surpass Skinner. Perhaps the organization should consider giving an ‘A’ to a guy who actually leads by example on the ice like Aho.

Special Teams

How many times has this been a sub-headline for good or bad? If we told you the Canes would give up three power play goals to the Rangers most all of you would say the Hurricanes would lose and lose badly. Very few of us would have thought the power play would be the savior.

But, in fact, that is what happened. The penalty kill sucked it up and the power play… well, Sebastian Aho and four other skaters came to their rescue. For most all of this season the Hurricanes’ penalty kill has topped the league but it has now fallen off and been very unreliable for the past month. Believe it or not losing Ron Hainsey seems to have taken its toll on the PK. Then again, giving Ryan Murphy and Klas Dahlbeck penalty kill minutes screams disaster waiting to happen.

Watch how much trouble the Hurricanes had in clearing the crease in front of Cam Ward when Mika Zibanejad knocked home his first of two power play goals.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, can somebody please send Jay McClement a memo that clearly states the objective of the game is to not pass the puck to the other team?

The Hurricanes can live and die by their special teams, but for the most part of this season it has been the penalty kill keeping the team afloat. Last night they delivered a complete 180 with the power play deciding to show up. At this point in the season the team is building momentum for next year and anything positive they can take away from a typically mediocre power play is a good thing.

Zykov who?

On February 29th, 2016 the Hurricanes dealt Kris Versteeg to the Los Angeles Kings in exchange for a 5th round pick and Valentin Zykov. At the time all we really knew about Zykov was he had good size and was a decent prospect. Fast forward a year and 10 days and Zykov is scoring his first NHL goal in his first ever NHL game.

Zykov, a former second round pick, is third this season on the Charlotte Checkers with 30 points. He has a big body at 6’1”, 225 lbs and he clearly aims to impress in his debut. Last night Zykov played alongside Jordan Staal and Sebastian Aho and he fit right in. On his first ever NHL goal he out muscled Marc Staal and Ryan McDonagh in front of the net and deposited the puck in to the net.

Remember that passion and desire I talked about above with Skinner and Aho? It was certainly present with Zykov last night. The real question now is what can he do going forward. It is the time of the year where the Canes are holding mid-season tryouts by calling up guys from Charlotte. Zykov had a great first game but he needs to replicate it going forward.

Moral of the Story

There are a number of fans out there that would like to see the Hurricanes lose every game going forward and tank to get the best odds at the draft lottery they can. While one has merit in that thinking, and honestly a top-three pick is what this organization needs, they also need to win some games like this to keep the morale up. If it was McClement, Stempniak and Dahlbeck scoring I would be a little aggravated about it. But in no way should anyone be upset that the youth movement stole this game for the Canes. If the youth movement is all we have to hold on to for hope, let’s at least root for them to succeed.

Last night the penalty kill did their best to give the Rangers the game, but the power play said NO. It was great for the home fans and the team to get a well-deserved win. As the team heads down the stretch, wins at home are needed to keep the fan base at least interested, and games like last night are as fun as they come. Now we’ll wait and see if they can repeat their performance against Toronto on Saturday night.