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About Last Night: Homecoming Spoiled

Thanks to some fortuitous bounces, the Hurricanes spoiled Jeff Skinner’s return to Raleigh.

Jamie Kellner

Jeff Skinner got his moment of glory last night in his return to Raleigh, but the Carolina Hurricanes got the last word as they defeated the Buffalo Sabres 4-3.

As the Canes try to climb their way back up the standings they need to find ways to win games against the teams ahead of them, and that’s exactly what they did last night. Nothing was pretty, there were some very lucky bounces for Carolina, but in the end they found a way to win and that is what matters.

The Good - Puck Luck

On any given night the odds of seeing a player deflect a puck in to his own net are slim. Yes it happens on occasion but it’s still rare. The Sabres managed to put three pucks in to their own net last night and the Hurricanes gladly used those to win the game.

The first goal of the game was a seemingly harmless shot from Micheal Ferland that went off Carter Hutton, off the top of the net, off the back of Hutton, and in to the net.

There’s no way that puck should go in to the net but somehow it did. One would guess that’s likely as much puck luck one team would get in an evening but we are just beginning.

Sebastian Aho would score two goals in the second period putting Carolina up 4-2 at intermission. Both of Aho’s goals went off of a Sabres player in front and past Hutton. The first one was a pass attempt to the slot that hit a skate and went straight in.

On his second goal it appears he was trying to pass the puck to Teuvo Teravainen who was crashing toward the net — only to once again have it go off a Sabres defenseman and in to the net.

Ladies and gentlemen, there is no scientific breakdown any of us can do here. All three of these goals are nothing but pure, honest luck.

Can the argument be made that the players are doing the right things and their positioning set it all up? Sure. But it doesn’t matter how you get them as long as they count. So yes, the analysis here is that the Carolina Hurricanes actually got lucky and it led directly to them winning a hockey game. It can actually happen.

The Bad - Defensive Miscues

Everyone in PNC Arena knew that Mr. Skinner would score a goal last night. It was never a question of if, it was a question of when and how impactful it would be.

That goal would come late in the first period when Buffalo scored very quickly on a power play. The Canes allowed Rasmus Dahlin to get wide open and he fired a shot at Curtis McElhinney who made the initial save. But all those batting practices at DBAP for Skinner paid off as he batted the puck out of mid-air and into the net.

Neither Brett Pesce nor Brock McGinn was able to keep track of Dahlin and Carolina paid the price via #53’s 30th goal on the season.

The defensive breakdowns only got worse as the Sabres’ second goal was not a pretty one on Carolina’s end. Dougie Hamilton got caught staring at the puck instead of watching his man and Jason Pominville was left all alone for a one timer.

There’s no reason Pominville should be that wide open at that point. It’s a shot you would hope McElhinney would stop but he shouldn’t ever have to face that shot if Hamilton has better positioning on the play.

Buffalo’s third goal came via an odd bounce that for once went their way.

The defense wasn’t that bad on this goal but Maenalanen could have been more cognizant of his stick positioning.

The first two goals of the game were preventable with more shored up defensive play. Ultimately, it did not cost Carolina but it’s little things like that that they need to clean up if they want to continue their hot streak.

The Great - Leadership

Dating back to the days with Eric Staal as captain the Hurricanes have had issues with their leadership core. It started with how they handled the transition from Rod Brind’Amour to Staal, which was handled poorly. At one point Brandon Sutter wore an ‘A’. There was the Co-Captain fiasco, and the fact that Justin Williams was passed over in favor of the cockamamie setup just made it all so much worse.

When Williams was rightfully named captain over the summer you knew things would be different. Williams as the leader was everything the Hurricanes needed. But Williams the player got off to a bit of a slow start this season struggling to keep up with the pace of the game. That has changed recently as he has been fantastic of late. Scoring in four straight games for the first time since he was with the Los Angeles Kings.

Willy has been leaned on as things took a bad turn and he seems destined to get things going in the right direction. Just as Brind’Amour said he feels a certain responsibility to fix the hockey world in Raleigh, you have to believe Williams does as well.

His goal last night was another beauty to add to his increasingly nice highlight reel this season.

He might be 37 years old but he sure isn’t playing like it right now.

On the flip side of his on ice contributions is his off ice contributions. Nobody will admit it but the Storm Surge concept has Williams written all over it. He loves having fun and it’s quickly become a fan favorite. Last night he orchestrated a bowling Surge that seemed to low-key represent him getting his 300th goal (300 is a perfect score in bowling for those unaware).

But the leadership doesn’t stop with Williams. It’s been felt from the other leaders of the team as well. Justin Faulk has been far and above better than he was the last few season and he dropped the gloves last night which was a spark for the team.

While Jordan Staal has been out for an extended period of time Jaccob Slavin has been wearing the other ‘A’ and there is nobody outside of Williams who seems more dedicated to this organization than Slavin. He’s a class act all around off the ice and he’s proving himself as a leader with his own ice play. The other players who do not wear letters have been noticeable leaders this year from Aho, to Ferland, to Jordan Martinook, and many others. It’s been a complete culture change and everyone is buying it this season unlike years past.

Moral of the Story

Carolina got lucky last night when it came to goal scoring. There’s no way around that. But they found a way to get the job done and that is what matters. Justin Williams’ leadership has this team heading in the right direction and if they can keep it up 2019 could be the best year of hockey Raleigh has seen in a decade. But before we start thinking bigger picture lets focus on one game at a time. A very good Nashville team will be here Sunday and that provides the Canes another shot at defeating a top team which would go a long way in continuing to build on this newfound momentum.