During the Carolina Hurricanes’ three game losing streak, there were noticeable trends holding the team back. The special teams were atrocious, the goaltenders were not outdueling their opposition in net, and the 5 on 5 play dropped off.
For a team that lacks the talent level of the elite clubs, the Hurricanes must outwork their opponents nightly in order to have a legitimate shot at winning. But they also need those three things mentioned above to come together and gel in order to get past the best of the best. Over the past three games they were unable to do that and things were on the border of going very awry very quickly. Thankfully the Canes got an opportunity to play a get-right game against the Detroit Red Wings and they saw all their bad fortunes from the previous match ups wash away, en route to a 3-1 victory thanks to a perfect storm of events.
Putting the power in Power Play
For multiple years the Hurricanes have not only struggled on their power play but at times they have been downright embarrassing, none moreso than the start to this season which saw them score just two goals with the man advantage through eight games, putting them dead last in the league. Rod Brind’Amour has been in charge of the power play unit since he took over as an assistant coach under Kirk Muller and year after year the unit has not been good. So when Brind’Amour, now the head coach, said the team had to work on their special teams it’s easy to understand some skepticism. The results had not shown, until last night.
The Canes finally broke through on the power play when Justin Faulk blasted a shot from the point that beat Jimmy Howard.
A power play goal!! Justin Faulk with a long-range missile that beats Jimmy Howard. Great pass by Justin Williams and a great job by Ferland and Zykov to make things difficult for Howard. 1-0 Canes. pic.twitter.com/ZLnSKvbYn9— Brett Finger (@brett_finger) October 23, 2018
The key to this play is Justin Williams drawing his defender down low and the using a nifty pass to get the puck back to Faulk. The lane was open and all Faulk had to do is fire away.
But the team was not happy with just one power play goal; they decided to go for two in a row when Micheal Ferland scored his team-leading sixth tally on the year.
Uh, alright. I guess they're scoring power play goals now? Micheal Ferland wires one home after some excellent passing. Aho's point streak is now at 9 games. Ferland has scored goals in 4 straight games. 2-0 Canes. pic.twitter.com/9taH6uPZ4D— Brett Finger (@brett_finger) October 23, 2018
It was yet another goal set up by beautiful passing. Sebastian Aho extended his point streak and Valentin Zykov found Ferland for the one timer. The quickness of Zykov’s pass is the key in this goal. He barely touches it yet gets it to Ferland with such force Howard had no time to react.
There is no secret that the team has had a powerless power play so far this year. But a there was a subtle change made by the coaching staff that may have been the key. Sebastian Aho and Justin Williams had been playing on opposite sides lately so they could be in position for one timers. However, a move was made to swap them and get the two back on their natural side and it seems to have paid off. If this team wants to remain in first place of the Metro, they will need their power play to start operating regularly like it did last night.
Stopping the opposing Power Play
Keeping with the theme of special teams, the flip side of penalty killing had been almost as equally bad for the Hurricanes. Yet, just as with the power play unit, the penalty kill rose to the occasion against Detroit. With a perfect 4 for 4 effort against one of the NHL’s better power play units so far, the Canes absolutely must feel good about their PK flying back to Raleigh.
The downfall for this unit has been giving up far too many grade A scoring chances so far and some very bad luck in their last game. But against Detroit they settled down and blocked shots when needed. Guys like Brock McGinn and Warren Foegele stood out last night as they gave it their all each chance. While this is becoming normal for Foegele, the team needs more of this from McGinn. He’s a physical presence who should be blocking shots left and right. Last night was by far his best game of the season and if he can get going it will truly help the penalty kill unit.
The goaltending for the Hurricanes this year has been good enough on most nights but still not stellar. During the losing streak you felt as if a key save here or there may have made a difference but it wasn’t there. Nobody expected Petr Mrazek or Curtis McElhinney to be a concrete wall, but if they can make timely saves and give their team a chance they that’s all the Hurricanes can ask.
Getting the start against the team that made him famous, Mrazek stopped all but one shot. Even on the one goal he gave up he could not have done anything more as it was a two on one where the pass got across. But he made quite a few very timely saves in the third period and got a well deserved win.
With Scott Darling set to be back with the Canes possibly by their game on Friday, the goaltending situation is about to get very interesting. The Canes will need quality starts from whomever is in net just as they got last night. The good news is, should Darling falter, it appears Justin Faulk is ready to suit up in net, just like we all expected.
UMMMMM... The puck somehow stayed out of the net!? Petr Mrazek and company just performed some kind of magic act to keep the score at 2-1. pic.twitter.com/xBtyYwms7R— Brett Finger (@brett_finger) October 23, 2018
Moral of the Story
It all came together last night for the Carolina Hurricanes and they looked like a team that can fight for a playoff spot this season. A nod goes out to the mental toughness from the guys for not letting the three game losing streak get to them and being able to come out and get the job done last night.
The special teams took a large stride forward against Detroit but if they come out flat against San Jose they will be right back in the loss column. It is extremely vital for the penalty kill and power play to get going and stay going. Two of the next three games are against what should be playoff teams, and if the Canes want to join them in late April they need to find a way to beat them. That will most certainly start or stop with the goaltending and special teams. If they play like they did last night they will have a fighting chance. If they don’t and they come out flat, well, we saw what that gets us over the last week.
They say always end on a good note and after last night’s win we truly should end on a good note. So, a final shout out to Jaccob Slavin who is showing everyone why he is definitely the most underrated defenseman in the NHL.