After eight days off, it would’ve been easy for the Carolina Hurricanes to come out last night and play sluggish. But they did just the opposite as they took down the Vegas Golden Knights 5-2 in front of 17,104 rowdy Caniacs.
In what has become somewhat of a Friday tradition, the Hurricanes are truly making their opposition Take Warning while wearing their new black jerseys. In turn PNC Arena has been electric and possibly the best environment inside that building for hockey in nearly a decade.
Thanks to Sebastian Aho’s strong play and some helpful contributions throughout the lineup, the Canes came out of the All-Star break and got the job done while saying goodnight to the Knights.
The Good - Offensive Firepower
The month of December was extremely difficult for the Hurricanes as they struggled to score and were shut out multiple times. Once the calendar turned to 2019, though, the struggling offense started to find its rhythm - leading to a very successful January. If Carolina is to have any chance of continuing to climb the standings, they will need every ounce of that offensive outbreak to continue. Last night was their first test of February and they delivered.
Nino Niederreiter got things going for the Canes by scoring his fifth goal in just his fifth game as a Hurricane.
Justin Faulk did a good job keeping the puck in and then threw the puck toward the net. What occurred next is something even the guys over at NCFC may be jealous of. Justin Williams back-kicked the puck to El Nino who was in the slot waiting and easily tapped it in from there.
When you got to Vegas you hope to bring lady luck along for the ride. But when Vegas comes to your barn, they apparently bring the luck to you. Brett Pesce found that out early in the second period when the Knights’ goaltender Maxime Lagace dove in an attempt to clear the puck but ultimately passed it right to Pesce who had an easy shot for his fourth goal of the year.
After Vegas came back and tied the game at 2-2 the Canes needed a lift and they got that from the busiest guy on the team. One would think adding a child to your family and signing a new multi-million dollar contract would be enough for one man within a week. But for Jordan Martinook, it’s never enough. Brock McGinn, Andrei Svechnikov, and Martinook broke in on a 3 on 2 and after a nice pass from McGinn, super-dad Marty scored his 11th of the year.
Brock to Marty and it's a party! pic.twitter.com/EoFtLwMWMD— Carolina Hurricanes (@NHLCanes) February 2, 2019
Seeing this team score the way they have of lately makes one wonder just what went wrong in December. They are scoring up and down their lineup and getting contributions from everyone. This will have to continue if Carolina wants to make the playoffs but so long as everyone continues to play this way it will make that uphill battle a lot easier.
The Bad - Special Teams
A common theme all season for the Canes has been their inability to generate anything offensively with their power play. Despite the break, that trend does not appear to be on track to change any time soon. They went 0-3 last night and the first two were horrendous. The last opportunity did see the Canes at least hold the zone and generate some opportunities but they were unable to convert any of them.
For whatever reason the Hurricanes just cannot figure out their power play issues. They have tried different players and different combinations yet the same results occur. For as good as the five on five offense has been, the power play has continued to be the team’s weakest link.
On the flip side, the penalty kill has been slowly getting better and better throughout the season. Last night they failed to kill off the Knights’ first power play opportunity and it led to Vegas getting the first goal of the game. Shea Theodore scored his first of two on that power play after being left alone at the point. It was a goal that Petr Mrazek would likely want back but it wouldn’t have happened if he wasn’t left alone.
Both special teams units need to play high end hockey over the last 30+ games of the season. There will be nights when the Canes will not score five goals and the special teams play will decide those games. As it stands right now, the Hurricanes cannot afford to be on the wrong side of those decisions.
The Great - Mr. All-Star
Justin Williams may be the captain of the Carolina Hurricanes but make no mistake, this is Sebastian Aho’s team. Not since the early days of Eric Staal have the Canes had such a game changer on their roster. Yes, Jeff Skinner was a great scorer, but he was never that game changing player that Staal and now Aho have been.
In the first period Aho pulled of one of the sickest moves we have possibly ever seen a Hurricane perform. While this move did not lead to a goal you have to admire the beauty and skill involved. There are very few players in the NHL that could even dream of pulling this off in an actual game nonetheless actually do it.
As if that wasn’t good enough, Aho would score the fourth goal of the game for the Canes by turning and burning the Vegas defense. In yet another highlight reel goal for Aho, he skated right past the defender and went top shelf past Lagace. This is a special goal, but it’s a goal we are becoming used to seeing Aho score, simply because he is just that special.
Moral of the Story
Winners of 10 of their last 14 games, the Hurricanes are soaring up the standings. Sebastian Aho has taken over this team and his play is just amazing to watch at times. If the Canes can continue to get contributions throughout their entire lineup and play like they did last night, we may see that playoff drought end. They still need to work on their special teams as we saw last night, but as of now everything is finally clicking for the Carolina Hurricanes and it is beyond fun to watch.
- These cellys just keep getting better:
- Even John Forslund can’t keep his excitement for this team under control:
- The new on-ice projection system is awesome:
- Alex Nedeljkovic has been named AHL goaltender of the month for January. [Checkers]
- The latest edition of Category 5 with some good notes about where the Canes stand. [NSJ]
- This is a good list to be on for the Canes:
Top 10 #NHL teams: Points percentage since Jan. 1— The Hockey News (@TheHockeyNews) February 1, 2019
Bruins .625 pic.twitter.com/dhJmqcbJT9
- The NHL kicks off Black History Month by spotlighting Willie O’Ree’s debut. [NHL]
- Along with spotlights, the NHL is bringing the Black Hockey History Tour to six NHL arenas. [NHL]
- Adidas has unveiled the Penguins and Flyers’ Stadium Series jerseys. [PensBurgh]
- Your mid-season report for all 31 teams. [ESPN]
- Jim Rutherford swings for the fences again, making a big trade with the Florida Panthers, sending Derick Brassard, Riley Sheahan, and draft picks in exchange for Nick Bjugstad and Jared McCann [Pensburgh].