In all honesty, who would have ever guessed the Carolina Hurricanes, with four rookie skaters, a rookie head coach, and a beyond questionable goaltending situation, would be atop the NHL standings after four games?
There is not a soul anywhere that saw this coming. That is not to say it couldn’t have ever happened, but the odds were so slim that it makes what the Hurricanes are doing that much more impressive.
Last night was yet again not a ‘pretty’ win, but they got the job done in the end. While the Vancouver Canucks are not exactly Stanley Cup contenders, they put up a good fight and finding a way to come away with a victory showed us once again the perseverance and determination this team has.
What defines a team’s top line? Is it point production? Fear instilled into the other team? Work ethic? Maybe it is some combination of all of that. One thing is for certain with this Hurricanes team, and that is they do not have a defined top line. But that’s actually perfect for this team and their makeup.
At any given moment in these first four games the lines have all been dominate. For example last night we saw both the Justin Williams-Jordan Staal-Warren Foegele line and the Sebastian Aho-Teuvo Teravainen-Micheal Ferland line absolutely shred through the defense. For years the Hurricanes have never had a true top line, instead throwing together odd combos that saw their top goal scorer on the third line and guys who should arguably be in the AHL on the “first” line. It never worked. But now the team has balance and it is working.
While the Canes may have gotten a few lucky bounces last night, smart positioning and winning puck battles helped create those scenarios. Jordan Staal got the first goal and it came from his line mate Foegele making a timely shift change. Jordan Martinook comes speeding off the bench and creates net front traffic.
Jordan Staal, less than a minute in. He shot that puck from quite a distance, but it went in. Great job by Martinook to go to the net. 1-0. pic.twitter.com/Em68OE2ZAV— Brett Finger (@brett_finger) October 9, 2018
So one of your top lines gets the team on the board. The other guys can’t settle with that right? Enter Sepe and Turbo who got the assists on Brett Pesce’s long range goal.
Yet assists just aren't enough especially for a competitive guy like Aho. He had to go get his own goal. A beautiful setup from Ferland and the Canes other top line now has created two goals.
Sebastian Aho keeps it going. He's hot. And so is his line. Michael Ferland with the one-touch pass and it's 3-1 Canes in the first period. pic.twitter.com/wk3wgDWtev— Brett Finger (@brett_finger) October 9, 2018
At this point the “fourth” line has seen enough and they want to get in on the scoring. Andrei Svechnikov sees his opportunity to join the fun and shoves his name on to the goal sheet.
Andrei Svechnikov's second NHL goal. And his second in less than three periods. 4-2 Hurricanes. pic.twitter.com/ITLCzVplKt— Brett Finger (@brett_finger) October 10, 2018
But guys, the Williams-Staal-Foegele line can’t be content with letting the other guys score more than them. That determination to never be happy with what you have has kicked in and Foegle has to get things even for his line.
Warren FoeGOALS strikes again. 5-3 Hurricanes in the third period. pic.twitter.com/otrkTcrdCC— Brett Finger (@brett_finger) October 10, 2018
It’s simply amazing the balance that this lineup is showing right now. Each line is dangerous in it’s own way which is perfect. You have pure offensive talent in Aho’s line along with toughness. Grit and leadership plus a young star in the making on Staal’s line. Elite speed on the Necas line. Then the second overall pick on the proverbial “fourth line”.
Is it great to have a line featuring multiple guys who could be a league MVP? Sure it is. But having scoring balance and depth has haunted the Hurricanes for multiple seasons so seeing they do not need a “first” line in order to win games is extremely encouraging.
The Forgotten One
Going in to training camp all eyes were on prospects Martin Necas and Andrei Svechnikov. Pegged to be elite rookies, many expected them to come in and be the cream of the crop when it comes to prospects who make the team. While they wooed and wowed there was one guy in the back who kept his head down and outplayed them and outworked them day in and day out.
Warren Foegele has been the biggest surprise, not only on the Hurricanes but in the entire NHL so far. But we really shouldn’t be so surprised considering how well he played in Charlotte last year and then his superior play during his brief call up. Foegele may not have the raw talent that other guys have but his work ethic alone will keep him in this league for a long time. There’s a reason Rod Brind’Amour and others have said he’s everything they want in a Hurricane.
Paired with Williams and Staal, he is surrounded with two guys who know what it takes to play in the NHL for a long time. Very much like Erik Cole took Jeff Skinner under his wing during his rookie season, it is easy to see Williams and Staal looking after Foegele. Meanwhile he is energizing those two to play at an extremely high level that this team needs from them.
The best thing about Foegele is his ability to jump in and help a NHL penalty kill yet still have the determination to create plays.
Warren Foegele, on the penalty kill. He doesn't have an "off" button. pic.twitter.com/7Hx4kVyUdO— Brett Finger (@brett_finger) October 10, 2018
He never gives up and competes to the highest level on every shift. This kid gets it. Is he a perfect player? Not even close. He’s taken a few penalties he’d like to have back but you can see he will learn from those and be better because of that.
Playing hockey for every person in the NHL is a job. They get paid a lot of money to go out there and play a game. Nowhere does it say they have to have fun or enjoy what they do. There surely are plenty of players who don’t have fun playing this game.
You can easily look back at numerous moments over the past nine seasons and see Hurricanes players not having fun out there. They go through the motions and collect a paycheck. That was an atmosphere Tom Dundon and Brind’Amour set out to change—and, boy, have they changed it.
It helps that the team has a true leadership core this season, captained by a guy who also ‘gets it’ when it comes to being a NHL pro. Justin Williams has a family and has won the Stanley Cup three times. Yet every game he’s out there enjoying himself. It’s extremely contagious as the entire team has bought in to this. They all are having fun.
Look no further than this game winning celebration they are doing. Micheal Ferland took point after last nights win and guys like Foegele jumped nearly a third of the way up the glass.
In all seriousness, the culture has changed and for now, it appears to be working. Who knows if it will hold up for the entire season, but for now the Carolina Hurricanes are having fun and because of that they are producing points at a pace we’ve never seen before.
Moral of the Story
These first four games have been very fun to watch. The energy on the ice is clearly different and the results are showing it. Last night was not pretty; in fact, at some times it was quite ugly. Bad bounces and players out of position cost made it a closer game than it should’ve been. But the Canes found a way and got the win.
Will this intensity and determination hold up in the long run? We will soon find out. Up next is a true test of what this team can be. With dates against Minnesota, Winnipeg, and Tampa, all on the road. If they can manage to hold their own in those games, then we may have to really start talking about this team.
Until then, let’s just enjoy what we currently have: