For the Carolina Hurricanes, their current five game road trip will undoubtedly determine whether or not they have a chance of making the playoffs. Things got off to a great start last night as the Canes defeated their divisional rival, the Pittsburgh Penguins, by a score of 4-0.
Thanks to a total team effort that included outstanding goaltending, stellar defensive play, and timely offense, the Canes got back to their winning ways while creeping up to just four points back from 3rd place in the Metro - and three out of a wild card spot.
The Good - Revenge
The last time these two teams faced off the Penguins handed the Hurricanes an embarrassing 3-0 defeat at PNC Arena where more than half of the crowd was cheering for Pittsburgh. With the Penguins known as one of the two powerhouse teams in the Metro it would have been easy for the Canes to go into Pittsburgh absolutely desperate for a win and yet lay another egg. We’ve all seen it happen too many time over the years.
But last night they decided they would not take the night off — in fact, they put together one of their best victories of the entire season. Jordan Martinook got things started for the Canes late in the first period and it was on from there.
Brett Pesce would add a goal in the second period and Curtis McElhinney would dominate the game from there. The best part of the game offensively was Andrei Svechnikov pouring salt deep in to Pittsburgh’s wound with a great power move well after the game had already been sealed away by Micheal Ferland’s empty netter.
Andrei Svechnikov casually pulls this dandy of a goal out of his back pocket late in the third period. Canes win 4-0 in Pittsburgh. pic.twitter.com/uotPvhjtqi— Brett Finger (@brett_finger) February 6, 2019
Svechinkov has struggled since the calendar flipped to 2019 but this could be just the type of play to help him get back on track. The Canes need the rookie to start contributing offensively and maybe this will get the monkey off his back.
The Bad - The Powerless Play
For as great as the game was last night for the Hurricanes they still failed to break through on their power play. The team has now gone just 2 for 23 with the man advantage over their last eight games. All year we have talked about just how bad the power play has been and last night was no exception.
Nobody seems to understand how to fix the power play which may be the most concerning part. While the Canes may not need a good power play unit to get in to the playoffs, odds are it will to end up costing them some crucial games down the stretch and that is just unacceptable.
The Great - Mac
Curtis McElhinney had not played in a game since January 15th when he and the Canes got throttled by the New York Rangers. Mac has been dealing with a sore knee since then and some were worried about his ability to bounce back given so much time off.
Curtis McElhinney. Robbery. He makes like 7 of these saves every period and always looks calm and in control. pic.twitter.com/gQPxpUOxfB— Brett Finger (@brett_finger) February 6, 2019
So how did he respond to that long layoff? With his first shutout as a Hurricane. There is not a single person alive that would have ever thought McElhinney would have been as good as he has been since the Canes picked him up on waivers. He has been an absolute stud in net and, along with Petr Mrazek, has finally provided the Hurricanes with above average goaltending for the first time in a very long time.
One would guess with Mac healthy again that the Canes will go back to alternating the two goalies, and so long as they both keep playing lights out why wouldn't you? Both guys have earned time in goal and last night was a perfect example of that.
So with all that being said, congrats Curtis, you earned that shutout. Oh, and Toronto, thank you for waiving this guy - he’s been great.
Moral of the Story
It goes without saying, but every point is crucial for the Canes now. These four point swing games against Pittsburgh and Buffalo were the two biggest of the road trip. Carolina is in a position where they have to take every game one at a time and now that the Penguins are behind them the focus turns toward the Sabres.
A win in Buffalo would be monumentally huge for the Hurricanes playoff hopes. They must continue to string wins together and keep momentum to continue to climb the ladder. While we do not know what will happen with the playoff race, what we can deduce is this: If the Hurricanes can play like they did last night they should have no problem leaving upstate New York with two points in hand.