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ALN: Offense sees Carolina past Chicago

The Carolina Hurricanes defeated the Chicago Blackhawks 5-3, Friday night at PNC Arena. The Canes, in their Reverse Retro Whalers gear, controlled play for essentially the whole game, leading Carolina to a comfortable win.

Kaydee Gawlik

The Carolina Hurricanes took care of business as they defeated the Chicago Blackhawks 5-3 Friday night at PNC Arena in their Reverse Retro Whalers Gear.

It was a total reversal of the last game that saw the Hurricanes lose 6-4 to Chicago due to special teams nightmare and relenting pressure.

As the team prepares for a four-game straight series with the Tampa Bay Lightning, let’s take a look back at last night’s game.

Second-Line Scoring

It’s literally a line of hopeful expectations all coming together.

“Oh, I hope Nino Niederreiter can bounce back.” Nine goals on the season, leading the team, including two last night.

“Oh, I hope Vincent Trocheck can fit into the Carolina system as the second-line center.” Eight goals and 15 points in 14 games, including one goal last night.

“Oh, I hope Martin Necas can take the next step.” Two goals and nine points, including a goal and an assist last night.

The Canes, for the first time in a while, have multiple scoring lines and their second-line is one of their most dominant and impressive.

It’s the perfect recipe. Necas’ speed and transition game opens up so much of the ice and his playmaking skills are inching closer and closer to a high level. Also, the increased attention he’s putting into his physicality and off-puck game is making his retaining abilities tremendous.

Niederreiter is a prototypical power forward who crashes in behind the net and into corners to retrieve pucks and gets in close in the blue paint to bang home goals. It also helps that he can be a sniper when he wants to be.

And Trocheck finally brings it all together with great hand-eye coordination, awareness, playmaking and faceoff abilities that really meshes the line.

Special Teams

The last time these two teams met, special teams were the Hurricanes’ undoing. They whiffed on four power-play chances and surrendered three in five opportunities.

This time however, the tables were turned.

Carolina relied on their power play to give the team the lead and extend it in the third period after giving up a 2-0 lead late in the second.

Necas’ blast from the point encumbered Chicago netminder, Kevin Lankinen, and it took a lucky bounce off of defenseman Calvin de Haan and in.

Unlikely power play candidate, Jesper Fast, who had been on the second unit since the Ryan Dzingel trade, provided the net-front presence on the goal and soon after, provided the perfect pass to Niederreiter on another power play for the second two-goal lead of the game.

And on the penalty kill, the Hurricanes came up big when they needed to. The kill went 3 for 4, but really it was essentially perfect as the one surrendered power play goal came in the final minute of play, when Carolina already had a three-goal lead.

The Canes took the first penalty, and when that expired, they used the momentum their kill generated to push into the o-zone and scored the first goal of the game. They killed off the next two in strong fashion to help lead the team to victory.

Return to Form

For the first time since losing a good portion of the team to the COVID-19 protocol, it seemed as if Carolina’s players have returned to form.

The first pair of Dougie Hamilton and Jaccob Slavin finally looked like some semblance of the power house they were last season, with the two being much more reliable in their own zone. Hamilton has also begun making up for lost time on his shot streak, putting up eight shots last night and the hope is a few of those may start to go in.

Jaccob Slavin was also rewarded for what was most definitely his best game of the season, by sealing the game away with the empty-net goal.

Teuvo Teravainen has also been another player who is back to form as he has been absolutely tearing it up. The Finnish forward has a statline of 2-7-9 and registered his third multi-point game this season, with seven of his points coming in his last four games.

He had a slow return from being out on COVID-19 protocol, but has since made up for lost time.

Jesper Fast is also another player who’s been getting involved. The new Cane is still looking for his first goal, but the assist tonight bumps his point total to three so far and if he is going to continue to be effective on the power play, that number will start trending up.

Unsteady Netminding

The Canes are winning games, but it’s not been due to the grace of their netminders. Well… kind of not. Kind of yes… It’s complicated.

Fact: James Reimer has a record of 8-1-0. Sounds pretty good. But his GAA of 3.08 and save percentage of 0.896 begs to differ. Those aren’t great numbers. But hell, he’s winning the games.

It’s a polarizing story, especially last night. He let in two really soft goals to give up the lead late in the second, but in the third he turned away quite a few high-danger chances to preserve the win.

It’s a fair assessment to say he has not been as advertised. There have been multiple soft goals allowed as of late and his play has not been as solid as it was last season. But on the other hand, he is making some really crucial saves when he needs to. It’s a mixed bag.

Alex Nedeljkovic has been playing in a similar fashion. He’s 1-1-1 with a 3.23 GAA and 0.886 save percentage and he too has made some huge saves on plays only for his hard-fought resume builder to be undone by a soft goal.

The Carolina Hurricanes aren’t finding any solace in either netminder, but their offensive swagger has managed to keep the team almost exclusively in the win column. If Petr Mrazek can return at the level he was when the season started, the Canes may just find another gear.

Return to Form (But not as fun)

It was bound to happen. It seems Jordan Staal may be coming back down to Earth with the rest of us mere mortals. His four-game, five-goal streak came to an end and his 38%+ shooting percentage also took a hit.

This may not be the same path he’ll follow next game, because maybe that will be the day of a Jordan Staal hat-trick, but his line was the Canes’ worst last night.

The line of Staal, Warren Foegele and Andrei Svechnikov had the worst Corsi For Percentage of all four lines and also generated the least amount of chances against Chicago.

It is also worth mentioning that Svechnikov has been a bit off his game lately. He’s been goalless in seven straight after having scored six in the first eight games of the season.

You can tell by watching him that he’s getting frustrated with himself. He’s been trying to force plays and passes and it hasn’t been as accountable in his own end.

This isn’t to say he can’t just flip a switch and turn it all around in an instant, because he totally could. The kid’s a bonafide superstar. Because in the same context, Svechnikov was on a four-game assist streak before it ended last night.

He was producing, yet here we are, noticing he’s off of his game. Being off his game and still being efficient just goes to show you how impactful Svechnikov can be.