It was a return to form for the Canes who had been running into some really unfortunate luck as of late, but the roster looked good from top to bottom.
It wasn’t an incredibly easy win, but the Hurricanes made it seem that way. Let’s take a look back at last night.
When you’re doing everything right and yet things just aren’t going your way, it’s very easy to get off your game.
When you add in a plethora of unpredictable off-ice issues, that potential gets even greater.
They had Ethan Bear playing in his first game since testing positive for COVID-19, the two Chicago Wolves callups in Maxime Lajoie and Jalen Chatfield playing in place of Brett Pesce and Tony DeAngelo who are still in COVID protocol, Jordan Martinook out with a lower body injury, Andrei Svechnikov being a last minute scratch with a finger issue, a non-COVID illness going through the locker room and having affected both Canes netminders, and to top it all off, Vincent Trocheck was ejected from the game during the second period after he boarded Tage Thompson.
And all of this while they were on a slide due to rather rubbish luck.
But the Carolina Hurricanes stuck to their guns and, to borrow a phrase from the Hurricanes’ great color commentator, Tripp Tracy, dug in.
They smashed the Sabres 6-2 and reminded themselves of the team that they are.
Every team goes through adversity, but good teams overcome it, and that’s what happened last night.
Stick Grips Loosened
It was a night of getting back on track.
Not just as a team, as the Canes had lost five of their last six games prior to the win against the Sabres, but also for a lot of individual players on the team too.
Antti Raanta was lights out for Carolina, posting a 0.941 save percentage, as he turned aside 35 shots and saved 1.18 goals above expected according to MoneyPuck.com.
Vincent Trocheck snapped an eight-game point drought, notching a goal, three points and an ejection all in 9:16 of ice time.
In addition, Martin Necas snapped a six-game goal drought, Ian Cole scored his first as a Hurricane, and Seth Jarvis registered yet another point.
Marty Necas wraparound goals never get old pic.twitter.com/7SkZJDnE67— Carolina Hurricanes (@Canes) December 5, 2021
But the true dominance came from the Hurricanes’ top line of Nino Niederreiter, Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen.
Niederreiter had a two-point night and looked to be playing with the same level of dominance he had been before his lower-body injury.
But Nino made this look so easy?? pic.twitter.com/dCsKZq9mar— Carolina Hurricanes (@Canes) December 5, 2021
Aho was all over the ice, generating chance after chance and finishing off the night with three primary assists.
And the first star of the night, with a two-goal performance and leading the team with four shots on goal, was Teravainen who now has three goals in his last two games, certainly a surprising, but welcome, development.
Road Trip Time
The Canes got exactly three games at home — still with one on the road even between those — after their last six-game road trip and now have to go back out west for five more.
It’s another Western Conference swing that will see the Hurricanes head through Canada and face the top three teams in the west. It’s never smooth sailing even against the West and the volume of travel is grating.
The first matchup will see the Canes take on former head coach Paul Maurice and the Winnipeg Jets who have been a fairly hot and cold team.
Following that it’s a trip to Alberta where Carolina will take on the Pacific Division leading Calgary Flames and then the Edmonton Oilers with the NHL’s two leading scorers, Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid.
A bit of potential relief in the middle of it all will be the matchup with the Vancouver Canucks who have been spiraling out of control since the season began and where things don’t seem to be getting better anytime soon.
And then to cap it off, the Canes will return to the US to face the Central Division leading Minnesota Wild.
It will be a much tougher schedule than the last road trip, but the Canes need to be able to beat those top teams if they want to continue to claim to be one of the best.