It wasn’t pretty, and at times it looked like it was going to end, but the Carolina Hurricanes extended their franchise-record winning streak to open a season to nine games thanks to a come-from-behind win over the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday.
With the win, the 2021-22 Hurricanes are off to the second-best start to a season in league history, and consecutive wins against the Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning on the road would give them sole possession of the record.
Before we shift our sight to that, though, let’s talk about last night.
Falling Behind the Eight-Ball
Rod Brind’Amour shared his dislike of how the Hurricanes played through 40 minutes after the game last night.
“We weren’t great in the first two periods, that’s for sure,” said Brind’Amour. “Felt like we were just kind of going along with the game. Certainly weren’t playing our game the way we needed to. It showed because we were down going into the third period.”
Overall, the Hurricanes didn’t play an awful first two periods, but they were very obviously not in control of the game, and when they failed to execute, they really failed to execute.
Just after a minute into the game, Andrei Svechnikov whiffed on catching a harmless puck out of midair at his own blue line. He deflected the puck down and directly onto a silver platter for Alex Debrincat to step in and score a breakaway goal.
Early in the second, a turnover at the Chicago blue line from Martin Necas, combined with a deep-pinching Tony Deangelo, created a 3-on-1 the other way that the Hawks eventually turned into a Patrick Kane goal.
And finally, just before the midway point of the second period, Brady Skjei managed to turn an offensive zone faceoff win into a blooper reel moment. His point shot got blocked, the puck then got stolen from him, he fell down, and Chicago scored on the odd-man rush as Skjei was still down on the ice.
If there was a game that the team felt destined to lose, it was that one. Every mistake was in their net... every terrible, and sometimes hilarious, mistake.
Thankfully, the Hurricanes weren’t getting shut out thanks to a fortunate bounce off the stick of DeAngelo to Derek Stepan in the first period.
“I’m going to give Tony all the credit in the world,” Stepan said with a smile last night. “He totally saw me, and he meant to pass it. You might have to ask him and he can tell you the real truth, but I’m going to say it was a set play.”
A Shot of Life
After Chicago took a two-goal lead, the Hurricanes started mounting some serious pressure.
One of the most significant moments of the game for Carolina, behind a dramatic late penalty kill, was rookie Seth Jarvis turning defensive presence into offense and scoring a huge goal to cut the Chicago lead to just one goal in the second half of the second period.
“It’s a goal that says a lot about the talent he has,” said Stepan after the game. “His ability to skate and his breakaway speed. That’s rare to find. He makes a great play and a good read. It started in his own end, which is a big part of this thing, and he was able to make offense out of it. High-level talent and a high-level goal.”
It was only appropriate that Jarvis’ first goal was assisted by Stepan, who has been his de facto mentor to this point in his very young NHL tenure.
“He’s been someone that, from the first day I started practicing with the team, I’ve been able to lean on,” Jarvis said after his NHL debut against the Arizona Coyotes. “He’s a guy I can ask questions to and he’ll give me a straight-up response and he won’t sugar coat it. That’s what you need.”
The’s part of the reason why the addition of Stepan was so important, especially for a fourth-line role. This is a player in the back half of his career who has accepted his role from day one. He’s no longer the perennial 50-point scorer he was for his entire career in New York, but he’s still an excellent 4C with a wealth of experience and hockey know-how to create offense and be a steady all-around player.
Jarvis is benefitting from playing with him, and the Hurricanes seriously benefitted last night from those two being on the ice and being on the same page.
Wild Third Period
The Hurricanes were buzzing for most of the third period, and it started with Jesper Fast’s goal just 17 seconds into the final frame to tie the game at three apiece.
Just over three minutes later, Martin Necas gave the team their first lead of the night, setting up a wonderful and stress-free finish to their ninth straight win.
The Hurricanes spent just under seven minutes of the third period on the penalty kill, starting with Ian Cole’s interference call (which Brind’Amour questioned the legitimacy of after the game).
Brady Skjei then got called for hooking at 9:45 of the period, and the cherry on top was a four-minute double-minor for high-sticking on Ethan Bear with 5:26 left in the game. The Blackhawks essentially had the rest of the game on the power play, and the Hurricanes needed to come up huge.
And they did.
The Hurricanes did a phenomenal job collapsing and taking away Chicago’s shooting lanes on the penalty kill in the third period. In their three power plays, the Blackhawks had 12 shot attempts. Only five went unblocked and only three made it on the net.
Jaccob Slavin finished the game with six blocked shots, several of which came on the desperate final penalty kill in the third period, wherein he had a shift that spanned 3:39.
Carolina bent, but they refused to break, and thanks to that, they are now 9-0 on the season and have a chance to make NHL history if they can get through the state of Florida unscathed.
But if we know anything, it’s that if you’re going to go through the state of Florida, you’re going to need a lot of luck on your side to get out in one piece.