Yesterday’s 4-3 OT loss to the Edmonton Oilers was a mixed bag for the Carolina Hurricanes. It featured a hot start, a few tough breaks, and an exciting finish that salvaged a point.
So what are the takeaways from a game that saw the Canes build a lead, lose it, then nearly take both points in the extra frame? Let’s take a look under the hood.
Aho is Worth Every Penny
Remember when Sebastian Aho signed an offer sheet with the Montreal Canadiens? Remember how the Canes’ front office immediately announced they would match the terms (following a requisite time of making the Habs twist in the wind), thus ensuring Aho would remain a Hurricane for years to come?
They knew what they were doing.
Aho scored his 32nd and 33rd goals of the season on Sunday, extending his career-high for goals scored in a season. He’s now on pace to finish the season with 46; that would be the most by a Hurricane since Eric Staal posted 45 back in the Stanley Cup season of ‘05-’06.
It’s not only possible that Aho might challenge Staal’s “Carolina-era” record; it’s probable. Consider his impact yesterday. He scored twice, was the net-front presence on TVR’s first-period goal, and came close to winning the game in overtime on a breakaway.
️ ️ ️ AAAAAHHHHOOOOO!!!! We're tied, 3-3!!#LetsGoCanes pic.twitter.com/TZaOd9MoZp— FOX Sports Carolinas (@CanesOnFSCR) February 16, 2020
He’s Carolina’s best player, and the coaching staff will continue to ride him as much as possible. Let’s hope he can continue to shoulder the load.
An Overtime Loss
Nobody wants to lose. It’s lame. Losing, to quote pretty much any professional hockey player after any loss, sucks.
But there are different types of losses. And for the Canes, there have been many more of one kind than the other.
Through 58 games, the Canes have lost 25 games, but only 4 in overtime (they are 5-0 in shootouts this year).
Compare this to some of the teams that the Canes are battling for the final playoff spot: Philadelphia 7 OT losses, Toronto 8, Columbus 11.
Several times this year, the Canes have failed to earn an extra point by getting to the extra frame. Yesterday, they got a late goal from Aho that forced OT and ultimately gave them a much-needed point in the standings.
It’s never ideal to lose, but something is better than nothing.
Shoot The Puck
As I noted recently, since losing Dougie Hamilton, the Canes are struggling to get shots on goal. In addition to everything else Hamilton did so well, he consistently forced the opposing goalie to make saves.
The pass-first mentality makes for some spectacular highlights (see the Aho to Turbo to Svech sequence from Valentine’s Day). But it also makes for some cringe-worthy moments.
For example, yesterday, in overtime, when Martin Necas takes a pass from Sebastian Aho on a 2-1 and then tries to return it back to him.
Necas needs to shoot that puck.
Not only because it’s a great look. Not because the ice is choppy. Not because it’s overtime.
No, he needs to shoot that puck because he needs to shoot more.
Necas, in his rookie campaign, currently boasts a shooting percentage of 21.1%. That’s the highest for any Hurricane since relocation.
And that’s a mixed blessing because high shooting percentages are the result of a player who:
1) Is a gifted goal scorer
2) Is passing up chances to shoot
Bear in mind, Necas is a rookie, and his 15 goals this season are now third on the team, it’s not like he’s having a bad year.
But next time — he needs to take the shot.
To Wrap It Up
Although a loss is a loss, there were some positives to take away from yesterday. The top line continues to shine, and if Carolina can start to get production from the rest of the forwards, the offense could really take off. Haydn Fleury continues to grow in confidence. Although Jake Gardiner is unlikely to drop down to the third pairing, Fleury may push him if he continues to play like this.
The OT loss brings the Canes’ record in February to 4-2-1. There are 3 home and 3 road games remaining in the month, and the trade deadline is a week away. From here, the pressure and importance of each game will only increase.