The Carolina Hurricanes were all over the Nashville Predators early and often last night en route to a 3-1 win at PNC Arena to close out their eight-game homestand.
It was a complete team effort and a dominant showing from the Central Division-leading Canes, who enter the home stretch of the season in prime position to set themselves up very well heading into the postseason.
Let’s talk about last night.
“One of the best periods I’ve seen ever.”
Rod Brind’Amour did a good job of summing up how dominant the Hurricanes were in the opening period on Sunday, saying that it was one of the best periods he’s seen his team play.
The statistics completely back that point up, too.
In the first period, Carolina outshot Nashville 24-7, out-Corsi’d them 47-11, and dominated the scoring chance share by a 32-5 margin. It was pure domination from start to finish, and they were finally rewarded with a big goal off the stick of Jaccob Slavin.
According to Natural Stat Trick, the Hurricanes generated 3.96 expected goals in that period alone. That would rank as the team’s eighth-most for a complete game this season.
They did it in a period.
3.96 xGF is their most in a period this season — by a lot. Their previous high was 2.38 in the third period of their 1-0 win over the Dallas Stars on April 4. That’s 1.61 fewer expected goals than their first-period effort on Saturday.
So, suffice it to say that it was their best period of the season. It’s entirely possible that it was also their best period since Rod Brind’Amour took over as head coach. You don’t even need the stats to make the argument. If you watched them, you knew how overwhelming their attack was.
Last night, in only the first period, the Carolina Hurricanes had 25 shots on goals, 18 high-danger shot attempts, and a crazy 3.7 expected goals.— JFresh (@JFreshHockey) April 18, 2021
Here's what that dominance looked like: #LetsGoCanes pic.twitter.com/Csoc6ZyWkO
Jani Hakanpaa’s debut game on Thursday was a perfectly fine first game for a new player in a new system. He showed off some of the aspects of his game that made him so desirable, and the Canes got a good read on who they got.
Game two was true arrival in Raleigh, though.
Everything we thought we knew about Hakanpaa was dialed up in his second game with the club, and he was an absolute force. He had four hits, four blocked shots, and four shots on goal.
Jani Hakanpaa says it's time for a Predators line change. pic.twitter.com/Lg9ED5eIhm— Brett Finger (@brettfinger) April 18, 2021
His big hit brought life to the crowd, but it was his final act that brought the house down.
Hakanpaa’s perfect snipe off the faceoff win from Vincent Trocheck in the third period was his second career NHL goal and his first game-winning goal.
Naturally, he was the first star of the game.
It’s taken all of two games for him to become a fan favorite, which isn’t surprising. He pretty much checks off all the boxes. He’s a big Finnish defenseman who hits everything, plays a hard game, blocks shots, and scored a big game-winning goal in his second game.
What’s there not to like?
Another Day, Another Win for Nedeljkovic
While it was Carolina’s offense that turned heads on Saturday, Nedeljkovic quietly put together yet another great start. He wasn’t tested much early, but when he was called upon, he made big saves to preserve a win for his team.
Alex Nedeljkovic with a huge point-blank pad save on Luke Kunin to keep the Hurricanes in front. pic.twitter.com/AZoTQeEm2Y— Brett Finger (@brettfinger) April 18, 2021
He stopped 27 of 28 shots in the win. The lone shot he let in was a turn-around wrister from Roman Josi in the high slot that went bar-down. He gets a pass for that one.
The Hurricanes are 10-4-2 in games that Ned has started this season, and his save percentage has now reached the .930 mark. Over his last 13 starts, he has a .941 save percentage.
He’s been one of the best goalies in hockey this season, and after his stellar performance last night, he is fifth in the NHL in goals saves above expected. Conor Hellebuyck, Andrei Vasilevskiy, Marc-Andre Fleury, and Thatcher Demko are the only goalies who have outperformed Nedeljkovic this season.