Just one night after an abysmal performance in New York City, the Carolina Hurricanes returned home to take on the Washington Capitals. It was the first time the Capitals have been to PNC Arena for a regular season game since the Hurricanes defeated them in round one of the 2019 playoffs. It was going to be a tough task for the Hurricanes no matter what, as the Capitals are the best team in the National Hockey League and tensions were high.
After some back and forth goal scoring, the Hurricanes were able to hold off the Capitals to win 6-4 and snap a three game losing streak. The scoring was spread around but Warren Foegele was the shining star on the night with his first career four-point night.
The Good - Resiliency
One of the biggest issues the Hurricanes have faced this year is their inability to hold on to a lead. Numerous times the Canes have jumped out to a multi-goal lead only to see the other team claw back in to the game. After the Canes went up 2-0 last night the Capitals answered quickly and there was a sense of ‘here we go again’ around PNC Arena.
But in an unusual turn of events, the Hurricanes managed to find an answer every time the Capitals scored. Minus the final goal for the Capitals in garbage time, the Hurricanes were able to score within four minutes of each of the Capitals’ goals. That’s bearing down and being resilient, never giving up and being determined to not let Washington gain momentum.
Dougie Hamilton was the first one to answer the bell when he scored just under two minutes after Nic Dowd made the game 2-1. Foegele and Hamilton raced in to the Capitals zone on an odd-man rush. Foegele then got the puck over to Hamilton who ripped home a laser to give the Canes a two goal cushion.
Warren with the effort, Doogie with the snipe pic.twitter.com/yLKtdFR7pM— Carolina Hurricanes (@Canes) December 29, 2019
Alex Ovechkin would pull off his patented power-play one-timer to bring the Capitals back to within one but Foegele would respond himself with a short-handed goal three-minutes and six seconds later. More on that later.
Lastly, after Evgeny Kuznetsov made the game 4-3 shortly in to the third period, Martin Necas would show off his skills just one-minute and twenty seconds later. Necas found himself in the right spot at the right time and made a good move to get the puck past Braden Holtby.
This is what you call composure pic.twitter.com/aye4jj7KFi— Carolina Hurricanes (@Canes) December 29, 2019
Finding a way to respond not just once, but three times against the best team in the league shows the resiliency of the Hurricanes. Even in the games when they have allowed the opposition to come back, they have been able to bear down and get the win. It’s certainly not a perfect strategy to winning games, but a win is a win, and resiliency will go a long way for the Canes down the stretch of the season.
The Bad - More Penalties
Since the start of the season the Hurricanes have had a major issue with taking unnecessary penalties. They are averaging 4.06 penalties taken per 60 minutes, which ranks seventh-worst in the entire league. For most of the season they had been getting by because their penalty kill was one of the best in the league. Recently, however, the penalty kill has taken a major drop off.
Since the start of December the Canes are only killing 76.5% of their penalties which ranks 21st — and over their past four games they rank dead last at just 50.0%. You read that right: over their past four games they are giving up a power play goal every other time they go on the kill. Last night was only slightly better, as they went three for five on the kill while giving up the patented Ovechkin one-timer.
Hello from Ovi's office pic.twitter.com/eVxV0gJqHt— Washington ☃️ Capitals (@Capitals) December 29, 2019
You have to go all the way back to December 14th against Calgary to find a game in which the Canes did not give up a power play goal. This sets up a classic chicken and egg question: is it the penalty kill, or is it the number of times the PK unit has to go out on the ice?
The Hurricanes rank in the top five in short-handed time on the ice for the year, and rank number one since December 1st. Many of these penalties have been bad decisions that you know should not happen. Andrei Svechnikov’s slashing penalty last night comes to mind, an undisciplined play that gave the Capitals an unneeded power play. Those types of mistakes have to get cleaned up. At this point the Hurricanes’ kill is struggling and the team is doing itself no favors by continuing to take penalties.
As the calendar turns to 2020, the penalties and penalty kill must be a major focus for Rod Brind’Amour to correct.
The Great - FoegDaddy Does It Again
There is something about playing the Washington Capitals that seems to gel with Warren Foegele. Going back to the playoffs, Foegele has scored 11 points, including six goals in his last nine games against Washington. It came at a good time for him this season as well, having posted nine points over his last ten games.
Foegele is never going to be the type of player to be a household superstar, but he is a glue guy who gives you everything he has on every shift. His offense comes and goes but his real specialty is killing penalties. For as bad as the PK has been of late, Foegele has provided a small shining star with his league-leading three short handed goals.
His short-handed goal last night may have been the biggest goal of the game as it was a response to Ovechkin’s power play tally and it gave the Canes a two goal lead. The goal itself is also the epitome of Foegele’s effort level. He never gave up on the play and managed to squeak the puck past Holtby when everyone thought the play was dead.
Scoring like this short-handed is the definition of gritty pic.twitter.com/H0PqNPqHKC— Carolina Hurricanes (@Canes) December 29, 2019
It’s hard not to like Foegele because he literally does give it his all every shift. He’s not fast, he doesn’t have great hands, and he doesn’t do things pretty. But he gives it his all and it continues to pay off for him as he has become a key part of the bottom six and one of the best penalty killing forwards on the team.
Moral of the Story
The Hurricanes needed a win last night. They had to be the more desperate team and they were. Losing to a team like the Rangers and then responding with a big win against the best team in the NHL is a total Canes move but thankfully they managed to pull it off.
Warren Foegele had a helluva night and earned every bit of his first-star. The team has six more at home including another match-up with the Capitals next Friday night. They need to find a way to stay out of the box and use this home stand to gain ground in the Metro. This was a perfect start to the homestand, but now it has to continue. If they are unable to do that, they may find themselves in a tough spot by mid-January. If they can use it to their advantage, they should be able to climb back up in to the top three in the Metro and give themselves some breathing room.