With wins by the New York Islanders and the Tampa Bay Lightning on Friday, the Canes came into Saturday in a must-win scenario. Despite questionable officiating and a rough second period, the Canes were able to leave Newark with two points, keeping them in the thick of the playoff race, five points out of the second wild card spot.
The Canes now have a season high 10-game point streak and a 7-0-3 record in that span. They are one of the hottest teams in the league and have at least one game in hand over the Lightning, Bruins, and Maple Leafs who all sit ahead of them in the standings. The Canes are finally playing to their potential, and it’s insane what this team can do when they have even replacement level goaltending. In their last ten games, the Canes’ .940 even strength save percentage ranks tenth in the league, but they have been able to string 10 good performances together.
The Canes knew their backs were up against the wall and they played like it. Even on the first shift of the game they came out strong and brought the pressure. Everyone was using the body and they had a high pressure forecheck. When the Canes play this way it’s so much fun to watch. Phil Di Giuseppe, Brock McGinn, and even both Jeff Skinner and Sebastian Aho were using their shoulders to extend possessions and keep plays alive.
Canes Had Plenty Excuses to Fail
Saturday night showed the mental toughness of this team. There were plenty of opportunities for the Canes to quit or completely lose momentum but they stayed strong. After each of their first two goals, the Canes took penalties but were able to kill off the subsequent penalty off.
On top of these penalties, the Canes fought through some questionable officiating throughout the game, which could have also knocked them off their game. In the first, there were penalties on both teams as the Devils had too many men, but Justin Faulk was also called for a slash. Faulk didn’t get up around the hands, and on top of that with the Devils possessing the puck with too many men it should have been called dead immediately.
In the second period, there was a missed high stick, as Jeff Skinner caught a stick to his visor. Continuing on the theme in the third period Sebastian Aho was whistled for a hook despite his stick not making contact with a player and immediately following there was a noncall on a dangerous slew foot on Kyle Palmieri on Elias Lindholm. The Canes fought through all of these situations where they could have lost their heads to earn the win.
Streaks Stay Alive
What was great to see is that both Lindholm and Skinner kept their streaks alive. Lindholm’s point streak is now at ten games after he found Aho in the slot from behind the net for the Canes’ first goal. In the third Skinner scored on a breakaway to now have seven goals in his last five games. With his goal last night Skinner has now reached the 30-goal mark for the third time in his career, and is only three goals behind his personal best with nine games remaining.
Aho, meanwhile, extended his own point streak to six games with two goals. He now sits at 23 goals, his career best in any league and tied for third among NHL rookies - trailing only two guys you may have heard of, Patrik Laine and Auston Matthews, who have 34 apiece. His 46 points rank sixth among first year players as well. Aho’s second goal of the game is one of the most impressive goals I can remember from a Carolina Hurricane. Aho fought off four Devils players and beat Corey Schneider short side to extend the Canes’ lead.
Canes Still Alive
With nine games left the Canes are five points out of the playoffs. The Canes did not get any favors from the scoreboard last night and will need to keep up the pressure in their upcoming home set with the Detroit Red Wings. Both games should be easily winnable as the Red Wings are in second to last place in the East, in front of only the Devils.
With that being said the Hurricanes have struggled against the bottom teams this year getting swept by the last-place Colorado Avalanche and splitting their two-game series against second to last place Arizona Coyotes. No matter the outcome of these last nine games, at least the Carolina Hurricanes are sending us off with great play and something to look forward to next season.