In the first meeting in almost exactly two years between the Carolina Hurricanes and Calgary Flames, it was the Canes that came out victorious in the end.
On the surface, the 2-1 final score was exactly what you’d expect from two teams that were ranked first and second in goals allowed heading into the game, but high-danger chances were popping up all night.
A perfect penalty kill, clutch saves and weaponized star power are just a few of the key talking points from last night.
I mean… what else is there to say?
After the humongous five-minute major penalty kill in the third period Tuesday night against the Winnipeg Jets, the Canes followed it up with a perfect 5-for-5 performance on the kill Thursday night. In fact, the Hurricanes didn’t even allow a single shot on goal until the Flames’ fourth power play opportunity.
Even in the most pressing times, namely the final penalty that was split evenly between the end of regulation and the beginning of overtime, Carolina’s kill did not waiver.
“I think we’re well prepared and work really hard,” said Frederik Andersen after the game, on what makes the kill so good. “And we’re detailed. I think that’s really the major keys to that. Tonight was great. The other night was really good as well. We’re not really letting them sit up, which is great. I think that’s the best way to defend it, to not even give them a sniff in the zone. I have really big respect for the work that they’ve put in.”
It’s an all hands on deck affair that has become on of the crucial cruxes of the team’s overall success.
The Hurricanes are still one of the most penalized teams in the league (4.29 penalties taken per 60), but with the second best penalty kill in the league (87.6%), it seems like almost a trivial matter.
Oh yeah, and they have been doing this without one of the league’s best defensive defensemen, Brett Pesce, who is now out of COVID protocol, but won’t be able to join the team while it’s in Canada.
There’s nothing else you can say about this penalty kill except that greatness is now the expectation.
At five-on-five though, there was a bit more ‘bending’ to be done by the Hurricanes as Calgary was getting seemingly a bit higher danger chances when the Canes weren’t in kill mode.
Especially in the third period, were tied 1-1, a couple of Hurricanes had to do their best goaltending impressions.
TURBO pic.twitter.com/nkGs9Ebon1— Carolina Hurricanes (@Canes) December 10, 2021
OH. MY. pic.twitter.com/369wBzUEnP— Carolina Hurricanes (@Canes) December 10, 2021
“The guys made some great plays on those,” Andersen said. “It went in behind me. But that’s awesome. I’ll take the help sometimes. Just great plays.”
Reminds me of Justin Faulk in his final year with Carolina just completely buying in for the Canes and making those big saves.
But that’s what you need in this league to be successful. Never quitting on pucks.
Sometimes pucks are going to squeeze through your goalies and it’s up to the guys on the ice to be there to help him out.
Also, the Jaccob Slavin save was even more relieving after having seen two own-goals just a week ago.
They’re Your Best Players for a Reason
Sebastian Aho is the Carolina Hurricanes’ best player hands down, bar none and has been for the last five years.
He just creates chances and has a knack for finding the soft spots out on the ice.
His motor never quits, he wants to win all the time and he does what is needed of him in all three zones and in every situation.
The goals just make it all the better.
For his first of the night, he sets up the goal himself by threading a pass through traffic back to the blueline where Slavin collects it and then gets it back to Aho, who found the soft coverage, for the deflection in. All while he is battling off a defender draped all over him.
"Quit" is not in Fishy's dictionary pic.twitter.com/kVkhTfYDsm— Carolina Hurricanes (@Canes) December 10, 2021
And then on the game winner, he just simply blows past Elias Lindholm and takes it to the net. What was even more impressive is that he loses the puck after his hip is nudged from behind, but he is able to relocate it on Jacob Markstrom’s pad and get his stick on it, all in a split-second.
Elite, elite level talent.
“That’s your best player,” said Rod Brind’Amour on Aho after the game. “We rely on him to do a lot of things, and he came through for us tonight when I think a lot of guys were just having off nights. It was just hard to get anything kind of generated. Sometimes that’s what happens. Sometimes the best player just has to take over.”
Jaccob Slavin was also on one last night, just two seconds shy of playing half the entire game.
It was his first game of the season playing above 30 minutes and fifth time logging over 27 minutes in a game, and if you weren’t aware, he was one of the players battling through a non-COVID illness about a week ago.
He is a crucial fixture on the penalty kill, constantly pitted against the oppositions’ best and his offense is starting to build up, even generating some quality looks on the power play.
“I’m not more impressed or anything because I can’t be more impressed about an individual,” Brind’Amour said on Slavin after the game. “It’s just icing on the cake that he can do this. Obviously it’s not something we want to do, but we’re missing some great players. To hang around missing some of the guys we are says a lot about him because he’s doing a lot of the work, but just our group in general.”
To cap it off, Frederik Andersen had another solid outing in net even despite a few close calls. He turned aside 26 shots and was perfect on the penalty kill and even stopped a penalty shot against old friend, Noah Hanifin.
According to MoneyPuck.com, Andersen saved 1.08 goals above expected making this game a steal of a win for him and the Canes.