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About Last Night: What Took So Long?

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The Hurricanes excel in all three zones in Game 75, but why did it take 74 games to get here?

Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images

If you wanted a complete effort from the Carolina Hurricanes, look no further than last night’s 5-2 win over the Ottawa Senators. While the team they played was a bottom feeder this year, the Canes could beat just about anyone if their offense performs like it did.

Noah Hanifin’s return from a concussion didn’t come without flair. The young defenseman scored in the third period to break open what was a tight game with the Canes leading 2-1. After the Hanifin tally, Jeff Skinner added this beauty for his 23rd goal of the season:

Jordan Staal added another goal for good measure and Cam Ward had one of his best games of the season, swatting aside 34 of 36 shots. Ward’s recent stretch of games was peak “old Cam Ward,” as he posted a 1-3-0 record with an atrocious .818 save percentage. In last night’s game, Ward’s positioning was solid and he kept the game in front of him the whole night after holding off an Ottawa attack that peppered him with 12 shots in the first period. Performances like this make you wonder if he will remain in a backup role with the franchise next season.

Firing from all angles was a common theme last night. Phi Di Giuseppe rocketed a wrist shot from a tough angle wrist shot over the shoulder of Senators goalie Mike Condon to beat him for a goal. The line of Teuvo Teravainen, Sebastian Aho and Valentin Zykov kept that theme going when they barraged Condon with a flurry of shots in close. All three players drove the net and parked themselves in the crease, something that other lines can’t say they’ve done this year.

Net front presence was key to last night’s victory. Getting sticks in front and having players screen goalies helps you score more often than not and the Hurricanes seemed to realize that last night. Brock McGinn gave the Hurricanes the lead after he and Justin Williams screened Condon and kept their sticks low.

Defensive mishaps were kept to a minimum. On Ottawa’s second goal, scored by Thomas Chabot, there was frankly nothing the defense or Ward could do. Ward had to position himself in order to stop the initial shot from Mike Hoffman and Chabot came in from the weak side to put it home. Derek Ryan, who normally draws ire, didn’t pick up Chabot in time but even if he had, Chabot was in a great position to score.

But after this complete effort on all ends, fans and writers are stuck with the question: Why?

Why must they always do this? Is this team cursed? It seems we are stuck in a vicious cycle when it comes to Carolina Hurricanes hockey.

Remember when the Hurricanes played atrocious hockey then played really good hockey then really bad hockey only to end up playing good hockey again when they were out of the playoff picture? Yeah, me too.

And, while we’re on the topic, why was no one in a position to do something either able or willing to admit that Valentin Zykov could benefit a team that has had major issues scoring goals? Every multi-point game he posts is another log on the fire of questionable decision-making.

Not to mention Di Giuseppe actually demonstrating a bit of offensive competency when he gets the chance to do so.

This has been a consistent trend over the last nine playoff-less seasons. It’s shameful that this team possesses talent but can’t get that talent to produce a consistent effort to the best of their abilities over an 82-game season. Take one glimpse at a YouTube comment section and it seems as if we are stuck in a time warp:

Meaningless wins like this one have left the Hurricanes with mid-teen draft picks and questionable prospects that resulted into a cycle of mediocrity. Here’s to hoping the 2018-19 season can break that cycle.