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About Last Night: Skills Competition Lifts Hurricanes to Another Win and Top of Division

The new-era Hurricanes are mad lads in the shootout.

Carolina Hurricanes v Chicago Blackhawks Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The Carolina Hurricanes kicked off a 12-day, six-game road trip last night in the Windy City.

With a four-game win streak on the line, the Canes had to deal with the Chicago Blackhawks, a team that has undergone a great deal of change over the last few seasons and now find themselves in the midst of what most would consider a rebuild despite retaining some of the big names that carried them to multiple Stanley Cups.

Carolina managed to eke out another win, again coming in the shoot out. Here are some thoughts on last night’s game.

Jordan Staal, Noted Playmaker

Staal was the first Carolina player to fall victim to the COVID protocol list during the first week of the season. That was a huge hit to the Hurricanes, and his impact upon returning has been very noticeable.

On Tuesday, he was very involved in the team’s early 2-0 lead by way of a pair of primary assists.

His first helper saw him drive down the wing and deliver a perfect one-handed pass to Andrei Svechnikov in front of the net. His other hand was being used to shield himself and the puck from big defenseman Nikita Zadorov.

That goal was Svechnikov’s fifth of the season, and momentarily sat alone atop the list of Carolina goal-scorers. Vincent Trocheck’s third-period goal re-tied him with the 20-year-old winger.

Staal made another key play to double the Canes lead in the first period. Brady Skjei’s point shot got knocked down in the slot, and Staal calmly waited and slid a pass to a darting Warren Foegele who rifled one by Kevin Lankinen.

Staal has been a force since returning to the lineup. He carries a four-game point streak into Thursday’s rematch against the Hawks. Beyond that, though, he has delivered the steady play that the team has come to expect from him.

He’s an important piece of the puzzle, and that has been on display again this season.

Taking a Breath

Just like in their second game against the Stars, the Hurricanes had a stretch where they stepped off the gas. Last night, it happened late in the first period.

In less than two minutes, the Canes saw their 2-0 lead totally dissolve thanks to goals from Philipp Kurashev and Patrick Kane.

Kurashev’s goal was the result of a breakdown in coverage during a late-period penalty kill. You could argue that Martin Necas got interfered with in the middle of the defensive zone, but a call wasn’t made and moments later the Hawks capitalized on the lapse in coverage as Kurashev broke free in front of James Reimer and tapped a centering pass into an open net.

Kane’s goal was the result of an unfortunate error from Jaccob Slavin. Carolina’s steady d-man got control of the puck and promptly turned the puck right over to Alex Debrincat who then set up Kane for an easy goal.

The Hurricanes have been vulnerable to these types of short lulls in their game. Every team can be from time to time, but it’s been especially noticeable for Carolina, a team that has to be engaged in how they play (particularly with how they play in the defensive zone) in order to be successful.

Brett Pesce is Outrageously Good

The return of Pesce to the lineup this season has served as yet another reminder of how important he is to this team and the stability they have up and down the lineup.

Last night, he was outstanding.

His 68.09% corsi-share was best among Carolina defensemen and he was on the ice for a team-high 32 shot attempts at 5-on-5. He had the highest on-ice expected goals-for among all Canes skaters and the best expected goal-share among Carolina defensemen.

His best shift might’ve been during the first period where his hands were all over a successful defensive sequence for the Hurricanes.

I mean, come on.

Skills Competitions are Fun when You Have Skill

For years, the Hurricanes were plagued by lousy shootout showings, but that has very quickly changed with the influx of young talent that has graced the Canes.

Last night, it was Andrei Svechnikov who played the hero in the shoot out with his quick move to the forehand that beat Lankinen on the blocker side.

Not to be overshadowed by the highlight-reel ending to the skills competition, James Reimer made a huge save on one of Kane’s patented deke shows that takes fifteen minutes.

I’m still a staunch believer that shootouts should be avoided at all costs. 3-on-3 hockey is awesome and implementing them is probably one of the best decisions that the league has made in a very long time. Games should be decided by a group of players on the ice, not a skills competition.

But hey, skills competitions are more fun when you have... skill.