What a comeback. What a finish. Resilience. Determination. These are just a few words we can use to describe the Hurricanes’ defeat of the Columbus Blue Jackets last night. The leadership of the team stepped up huge and the team earned the win in overtime. The 2016-2017 Carolina Hurricanes now hold the record for most consecutive games with a point, at 13 games and a record of 9-0-4. So let’s dissect the thrilling win that occurred last night.
Jeff’s gonna Jeff
What more can be said about Jeff Skinner that hasn’t already been said? This guy night in and night out shows why he should be the next captain of the Hurricanes. No player has showed more desire to win and given more production on the ice since the early days of Eric Staal.
While Skinner did have a minor setback to the old Jeff when he took an unneeded slashing penalty during the first period, he made up for it by scoring and setting up the game winner. He left the game late in the first period after taking a shot off the foot and when we saw him hobble down the tunnel everyone in the building had their heart stopped. But he came back, and came back with a fire. While it is hard to tell if the puck goes off Victor Rask on the tying goal, it doesn’t go in either way without Skinner getting the puck to the net.
While many people will make the argument that Skinner should not be named the next captain, the reasons to name him seem to outweigh. He may very well set a new career high for goals scored this year and has been the backbone of the team. It’s great to see that he’s performing well and, most importantly, staying (mostly) healthy.
Noah $*%&$@* Hanifin
What can possibly be better than scoring your first ever overtime goal in a must win scenario against one of the best teams in the NHL? That’s exactly what Noah Hanifin did last night and one must believe they bought him a round of nice, cold milk after the game to celebrate. Check out the beautiful play Skinner makes to get the puck back to Hanifin in overtime:
As you can tell, he was understandably a bit excited about it. So were the rest of the guys:
Since Ron Hainsey was shipped up to the Penguins, Hanifin has seen an increase in minutes, and more importantly an opportunity to play with a real NHL defenseman. No offense to Ryan Murphy, Matt Tennyson, and Klas Dahlbeck, but Hanifin was a top 5 draft pick and was being held back by playing on the third pairing. How Bill Peters and Steve Smith had not figured that out is mystical; but nevertheless, with Hainsey gone, Hanifin has been playing with Justin Faulk and they have been...uh, Faulking good.
Cam’s gonna Cam?
That headline would usually be the start of our typical paragraph grilling Cam Ward on his play. But at one point this season Ward was the main reason the Hurricanes were winning games, way back in November.
Many nights over the past 11 years Cam Ward has been the main reason the Hurricanes have won a game. He has also had many rough patches over those seasons. But when needed these past two games he has had the answer. Cam wants to see the playoffs likely more than any other person on this team and he is doing what needs to be done to get the team there.
With Eddie Lack hopefully returning to practice this weekend, Ward will likely be relied on through at least the next two games if not more. Last night Ward stopped all but one shot in route to his first star performance. The one goal he did give up to none other than Jack Johnson was a bit of a soft goal but hey, Cam is gonna Cam! This felt like an appropriate tweet from our friend Cory Lavalette:
*Looks around* Is this playoff Cam?— Cory Lavalette (@corylav) March 31, 2017
Ward must find a way to remain the warden of the Hurricanes’ net. Allowing zero or one goal is a perfect way to do that. Fun fact, the Hurricanes are now 14-0-0 when allowing just one goal this year - so there is your standard to meet, Wardo. No pressure.
Moral of the Story
Another must win game and another win. Carolina has done everything right over this record setting 13-game point streak and it has them sniffing the playoffs. Both Boston and Tampa won last night as well so the Canes aren’t getting any favors in that department currently.
Last night we saw the leadership of Skinner and Ward step up and win the game for the team. In order to be the best you have to beat the best and that’s what the Hurricanes are doing right now. Can this streak continue? Who knows. But one thing is for sure, the Canes are doing everything they can to win and get points, which is all you can ask of a team. Fighting to come back and then prevailing in overtime — where the team has struggled mightily — is something to be proud of, by both the team and the fans.
Going down the final stretch the team needs more Skinner, more Ward, more Hanifin, and most importantly more fans. There is absolutely no excuse why PNC Arena should not be at capacity on Saturday night. We’ve seen what half a building of raging Caniacs can do; imagine a full 18,000! This team is playing its heart out and they deserve to get support in return.