The Carolina Hurricanes have faced many challenges this season, but through it all there had been one team and one player who was truly their kryptonite. From the very first game of the year Thomas Greiss and the New York Islanders had been unbeatable and beyond frustrating to play against.
That all changed last night as the Canes got some sweet justice with their 4-3 victory over the Islanders. Thanks to some more stellar goaltending, a first ever NHL goal, and another McKegg stand, Carolina got the job done extending their winning streak to five games in a row.
The Good - Goal Scoring
There’s no coincidence that the Hurricanes’ five game streak has seen the team scoring goals in a consistent manner better than they have all season. Scoring at least three goals in every game during the streak, Carolina is finaly getting the goal scoring that has eluded them for the majority of the year.
Things got started for the Canes with Saku Maenalanen getting his first ever NHL goal. It was an odd play that was credited to him only because he gloved the puck down, but ultimately it was the first of two pucks the Islanders would put in their own net. But the puck doesn’t go in if Saku doesn’t drive the net.
First of many for Saku Maenalanen pic.twitter.com/rLFwZn31fn— Carolina Hurricanes (@NHLCanes) January 9, 2019
Maenalanen is clearly comfortable playing in the NHL and has been producing quality chances unlike other call-ups like Janne Kuokkanen. Slotted in a fourth line role, it’s getting easier by the game to see why Saku was so successful in Finland.
The odd bounces would continue later in the first period when Greg McKegg would be awarded his second goal of the season. Just like the first goal this all starts with the desire to drive the net. Micheal Ferland throws a puck at the net and because McKegg went to the front he got a lucky bounce that went off him and then off a Islanders defender and into the net.
The ultimate question here is: does it really matter how it went in? We all get to do McKegg-stands again and that is life.
The offense quieted down throughout the entire second period and the majority of the third until Justin Williams put the Hurricanes ahead late in the third. After Williams took a bad penalty with just under five minutes left, Canes fans everywhere likely had that all too familiar feeling of “here we go again” popping in to their heads.
But the defense came up huge and once Willy was released from the box he made his way to the offensive zone. The entire play happens because McKegg found Williams who had worked free and the Captain found the top shelf putting the Canes ahead.
Jaccob Slavin added a power play goal at the 18:53 mark that would end up being the game winner. The snipe by Slavin helped continue a stretch that has seen the Hurricanes power play come to life which has been critical during this winning streak.
The second "c" stands for "snipe". Jaccob Slavin with the PPG. pic.twitter.com/PQrSWXPtao— Brett Finger (@brett_finger) January 9, 2019
The Bad - Another Near Collapse
Along with the consistent goal scoring, this five game winning streak has provided one other consistency - nearly blowing the game. It started in Philadelphia when a four goal lead was cut to one in less than five minutes, then continued against Columbus where a three goal lead was cut to one. The last game against Ottawa featured a 4-2 lead turn into a tie that Williams was able to break in the third period. Then last night a 2-1 lead going in to the third was erased only to be salvaged once again by Williams.
For some reason it seems that the Hurricanes are having a problem with letting off the gas for just a few seconds, and it is costing them consistently. Ultimately they have gotten the win in the end, but it could be a lot easier than they are making it out to be.
After Carolina took a 2-1 lead last night they let the Islanders creep back in to the game — not once, but twice. The first time was the tying goal in which the Canes let Devon Toews have too much space in the offensive zone. Meanwhile Lucas Wallmark lost the battle in front of the goal allowing Curtis McElhinney to be screened as that quickly it is a tie game.
The second scare came right after Jaccob Slavin scored the power play goal with just over a minute remaining in the game. With a two goal cushion the Hurricanes completely let off the gas, allowing Brock Nelson to skate down as easily score just eight seconds later.
It’s a unsual soft goal by McElhinney and a bad play by Brett Pesce who got turned around by Nelson. The continued mental lapses would continue even after this goal with two very uneccesary icings by Slavin and Sebastian Aho when they could have just tapped the puck ahead instead of going for the empty net.
The Canes have been lucky to get away with these lapses over the last four games because of their offense, but that will not be the case every game. This is still a young team and they are learning how to play with the lead, but they need to be more cautious in these scenarios.
The Great - Streaking
Five wins in a row is a truly big feat for this team and it has kept them from flatlining in the wild card race. Beating the Flyers and Senators was somewhat expected, but the wins over Columbus and now the Islanders are huge. If Carolina want to see the postseason they must keep winning in their division. This was the Canes’ final game against the Islanders this season, but there are still plenty of games remaining against the Metro division and those game will make or break this team.
The Hurricanes had one 5-game winning streak during Bill Peters' four full seasons as head coach. They have their first 5-game winning streak just 42 games into the Rod Brind'Amour era.— Brett Finger (@brett_finger) January 9, 2019
Finding a way to win consistenly has been a struggle this season, but multiple four-plus game winning streaks have kept the team alive in the standings. They won’t win them all from here, but it will be very interesting to see if they can keep this up and get on a long winning streak.
Moral of the Story
Last night was the definition of a must win game when facing an uphill battle. Things are going great for the team right now and that is reflected by the lucky bounces that are going their way. Winning or losing can be contagious, and right now the Hurricanes are on the healthy side. This game was a great example of everything that has to go right for this team to win but it also shows it is completely possible to take down the teams ahead of them in the standings. Winning is great no matter who it is against but getting some sweet revenge on the Islanders was just an added bonus.
The next three games will be major tests of how good this group is truly coming together. This five game winning streak is very nice but if they lose the next three it will all be for nothing. If they can find a way to knock off a potential Stanley Cup contendor in Tampa, it will go a long ways in determing the direction of this franchise over the next few months.