When you get a road shutout in the NHL, plenty went right. So let’s have a look at what was good, what was better, and what was the best.
Good - The Team Defense
Sometimes, hockey is very simple. If you prevent the other team from scoring, you have an excellent chance to win.
Since shutting out the Chicago Blackhawks on October 26th, the Canes have struggled to keep opponents off the scoreboard. They’ve given up four or more goals on six occasions. Only twice, against the Calgary Flames in early November and last night, have they held the opposition to one or zero goals.
True, it’s challenging to hold an NHL team scoreless or nearly scoreless, but the Canes are built to do it. They currently have a cap hit of ~$80m, with almost 40% of that committed to defensemen and goalies. Up and down their three defensive pairings they have players in their prime, and two are already Stanley Cup winners.
On Sunday night, the defense lived up to the high expectations. They held Detroit to 19 shots on goal, doing so even as the Canes were playing the second game in a back-to-back and their third game in four days.
Yes, Detroit is not very good. Yes, Detroit has a ton of injuries. Still, it was an impressive performance, and hopefully, one the team can repeat moving forward.
Better - Sebastian Aho
Maybe he loves costume parties. Perhaps he stocks up on candy. Whatever it is, Sebastian Aho has historically shifted into another gear once Halloween is in the rear-view mirror, and this year is continuing that pattern.
In November alone, Aho has scored nine goals and recorded four multi-point games. He scored the game-winner last night, and it was his hustle and spinning backhand pass from the boards that set up Teuvo Teravainen’s empty-netter.
He finished with five shots on goal and was plus-2. Aho now leads the team with 12 goals this year. It’s safe to say he’s back to his old self.
Some credit here has to go to his linemates as well, Teravainen and Andrei Svechnikov. All three players have been rolling, and they now are genuinely one of the top lines in the NHL.
It’s fun to watch. Hopefully, the candy doesn’t run out.
Best - James Reimer
Back in September, it was no given that Reimer would make the roster for opening night. Anton Forsberg had played well in the pre-season, and Alex Nedeljkovic was coming off an AHL goaltender of the year award combined with a Calder Cup. Yet, it was Reimer who got the nod as the back-up to Petr Mrazek. Sunday night’s shutout serves as a vindication for both Reimer and the coaching staff.
Reimer, 31, did his heavy lifting in the first period. He made 11 saves in that frame as the Canes’ defense was opened up on several occasions.
His two saves against Darren Helm were his best. Helm’s first chance was created short-handed and led to a breakaway. Helm got to his backhand but was unable to lift the puck over Reimer’s pad. A few minutes later, Helm toe-dragged the puck into the slot, but Reimer shut him down again and kept the game scoreless.
After the first, it was relatively smooth sailing as Reimer would only face eight shots in the remaining 40 minutes.
Reimer was barely tested even after Nino Niederreiter took a late penalty. Teravainen’s empty-netter with 1:13 left smothered the push Detroit was aiming for, and it more or less ended the game.
With the win, Reimer moves to 4-4-0 on the year, and 4-2-0 on the road. His .910 save percentage for this season is right around his career average. However, his 2.83 goals-against is his best since his ‘15-’16 campaign (2.78, split between Toronto and San Jose).
If the veteran can keep it up, he can expect to see more starts heading his way, especially with the Canes playing ten of their next 14 games on the road.