If there’s a word that accurately describes the Carolina Hurricanes’ season through 20 games, that word is “streaky”.
After starting the season 5-0-0, the Canes lost four of five, won three straight, lost four straight, and now they’ve won three straight yet again after their 4-3 overtime victory in Minnesota on Saturday.
A Strong Start
Sunday’s game was far from a masterpiece, but Carolina’s saving grace was their hot start.
After allowing a couple of long offensive zone shifts for the Wild and a breakaway right off the opening face-off to Brad Hunt, the Canes locked in and put together a strong offensive attack.
Martin Necas worked a puck low to high, and Joel Edmundson placed a long-range one-timer perfectly in the top corner of the net to give Carolina a 1-0 lead.
Joel Edmundson gives the Hurricanes a 1-0 lead in Minnesota. After going 17 games without a point to start the season, Edmundson has points in 3 straight games. pic.twitter.com/kYtDxensNw— Brett Finger (@brett_finger) November 16, 2019
Two minutes later, the Hurricanes had nice puck retrieval in the offensive zone. Brock McGinn got to the dump-in, flung it back around the boards to Teuvo Teravainen on the partial line change, and went straight to the net. He picked up Teravainen’s centering attempt and roofed it to give the Canes a 2-0 lead.
McGinn picks up the puck in front and rifles a wrister by Dubnyk to make it 2-0. Teuvo Teravainen gets the primary assist, he has points in 5 straight games. pic.twitter.com/VhQR2RubLl— Brett Finger (@brett_finger) November 16, 2019
At that point, it looked like the Hurricanes were on the verge of maybe burying the Wild, a team that has lived at the bottom of the NHL standings this season. Unfortunately, like so many other times this year, that’s not what happened.
A BAD Period
Carolina’s second period in Minnesota was one of their worst periods of play all season.
From the opening face-off, the Canes were pinned in their own end of the ice almost non-stop. An early tally in the frame off of a slick play and shot by Luke Kunin brought the Wild back within a goal.
Minnesota continued to mount pressure and put Carolina in a really bad spots. James Reimer got the start for the Canes and was the only reason why his team didn’t see their 2-0 lead turn into a 3-2 or 4-2 deficit in the span of about ten minutes.
James Reimer with a big-time glove save on Eric Staal. pic.twitter.com/s2GOjcUglQ— Brett Finger (@brett_finger) November 16, 2019
All it took was one good shift from the Hurricanes to get that Kunin goal back. Jordan Staal, knowing that his team had been in their own end of the ice for seemingly three generations, powered the puck through the neutral zone and into the Minnesota end. Upon reaching the corner of the offensive zone, he dropped the puck off for Ryan Dzingel who found Warren Foegele streaking to the front of the net.
Foegele managed to chip the puck over Devan Dubnyk for his third goal of the season to give the Hurricanes at least some semblance of breathing room.
Jordan Staal, a very strong human being, powers his way into the Minnesota zone, and his line mates do the rest. Warren Foegele scores to give Carolina a 3-1 lead. pic.twitter.com/j8d3Sq1udo— Brett Finger (@brett_finger) November 16, 2019
The Canes proved to desperately need that breathing room as they went right back to just barely surviving after the Foegele goal.
The Wild hounded the Canes in their own end, and they came up with an additional two goals before the closing of the middle frame. One goal came at the tail end of an excellent power play shift from Carolina that quickly transformed into an ugly 2-on-1 chance the other way for the short-handed Wild. That one could be attributed to a bunch of tired bodies not getting back to play defense. The other goal came off of a great stop-and-start play from the beloved Victor Rask along the right wing.
When it was all said and done, the Wild outscored the Canes 3-1 in the second period, out corsi’d them 15-4 at even strength, and outshot them 15-7 in all situations.
Blowing Leads and Going to Overtime
For the second consecutive game, the Hurricanes blew a lead and were forced to go to overtime.
And for the second consecutive game, the Hurricanes got bailed out by their clear talent advantage.
On Thursday, it was a gorgeous drive down the left wing by Martin Necas that led to a booming one-time goal from Dougie Hamilton. On Saturday, it was a nice cross-ice pass from Hamilton to the tape of Andrei Svechnikov that led to a game-ending far-side snipe on Dubnyk.
Andrei Svechnikov with the walk-off snipe in overtime. Hurricanes beat the Wild 4-3, win their third straight game. pic.twitter.com/KFo6Y4w45J— Brett Finger (@brett_finger) November 16, 2019
With Svechnikov’s goal, the Hurricanes improved to 5-1 in games that go to overtime this season, which is a pleasant change of pace after years of struggling mightily in games that go beyond 60 minutes.
Like I mentioned above, the difference here is pretty obvious - the Canes are extremely skilled. Their 3-on-3 lines rival just about any team in the league, considering the level of talent and the type of talent that they have on their roster.
Sebastian Aho, Teuvo Teravainen, Svechnikov, and Necas all serve as mismatches against a vast majority of defensemen in the NHL in 1-on-1 situations, and their vision, skating, and ability to move the puck are huge assets when there’s more ice to work with.
Just as importantly, Carolina’s top-end blue line is a big reason for the success. That all starts with Hamilton and Jaccob Slavin. They are both great skaters who aren’t afraid to get into the offensive zone and, essentially, serve as a third forward on the ice. They move the puck exceptionally well and, in Dougie’s case, can beat a goalie in a number of different ways.
It took this team a long time to get the talent together to be a legitimate force in overtime, but they certainly are right now.
What a difference a year makes. This time last season, Svechnikov didn’t have the trust of his coaching staff to be a guy who consistently plays in the biggest situations. Now, he’s a no-brainer in all late-game situations.
His overtime winner was his ninth goal of the season and put him up to 22 points in 20 games to open up the campaign. Not bad for a 19-year-old sophomore in the NHL.
He has three game-winning goals in the early going, which already ties his number from a season ago. He’s proven that he is exactly who the Hurricanes wanted with the second-overall pick in 2018. He’s a game-changer in every sense and his game consistently rises when his team needs him the most, be it in a tie game late or in overtime, or when you’re down by a goal late in the third period. More often than not, Svechnikov has come through in those spots this year.
Reimer Needed That One
After losing four consecutive starts, Reimer was in desperate need of a great game. Fortunately, that’s exactly what he had against the Wild.
During that second period onslaught, he kept Minnesota at bay long enough to allow his teammates to put together one good shift that resulted in a goal. While he bent a little bit late in the period, he refused to break.
Reimer kept the game exactly where it needed to stay, and for that, his teammates should be thrilled. He could’ve allowed four or five goals and not seen too much blame fall on his shoulders, given how poorly the team played through stretches of that game, but he kept Minnesota at three goals through the third period and overtime and came away with a big win.
The Hurricanes shouldn’t expect that kind of performance every time Reimer steps in the crease, but knowing that he is capable of that kind of game is a big deal moving forward. This team needs him to be reliable.
The Hurricanes are in Chicago now and await a Tuesday-night date with Calvin de Haan and the Blackhawks. Carolina beat them by a score of 4-0 at PNC Arena in October.