In what was obviously the most exciting matchup that happened in the sports world Sunday, the Carolina Hurricanes defeated the San Jose Sharks 2-1 in regulation at PNC Arena thanks to some late-game heroics by Andrei Svechnikov.
It wasn’t the prettiest game by any means — which has been the case for a few in a row now — but the effort was there from the Canes’ skaters, however yet another strong goaltending performance was the key to boosting the team to a fourth straight win.
The Hurricanes haven’t had their mojo for a few games now, but maybe the All-Star Break will be just the thing the team needs to reset and refocus for the second half of the season.
Andrei the Giant
We have been talking about Svechnikov a lot as of late, but that’s a good thing. Svechnikov has been extremely consistent this quarter with both scoring and overall chance generation as he continues to round out the rest of his game.
Scoring the game-winning goal in back-to-back games, it’s becoming more and more evident just how much of an impact Svechnikov has.
He has a knack for the net and gets there with ease thanks to his size and strength. He’s also 18th in the league in total 5v5, high-danger chances for among forwards according to NaturalStatTrick.com.
His goal last night, his 16th of the season, was another prime example of him going to the net and battling through opponents to get a chance off.
“You don’t have to do anything with this guy,” said Rod Brind’Amour on Svechnikov. “You just have to tell him where to be and what time the game is and make sure he’s got that figured out. He wants to win and he’s competitive, sometimes maybe a little too much, but I think he’s starting to figure that out. He’s just a tremendous athlete, person, player, everything. We’re excited with him. Is he gonna keep getting better? Yeah, it’s hard to believe, but I think he still can get better.”
Already on pace for new career bests in goals and points, an even better Andrei Svechnikov would certainly be a treat to watch.
When a team isn’t playing at its best, they have to hope that one or two players can try and carry the load and there is no better player to do that than the goaltender.
Frederik Andersen, 27 saves, followed up Antti Raanta’s strong performance from the night before to guarantee his team yet another two points.
It has mostly been the Andersen show this season with Raanta having to battle through a few different injuries, but when both the goalies are going, the team can rely on either one between the pipes.
Andersen has a 0.929 save percentage and a 2.12 goals against average, ranking him third in the league overall in each category, and he’s tied for total wins at 24. He also has saved 22.4 goals above expected according to MoneyPuck.com, second overall by their model.
While these are Vezina-level numbers from Andersen, Raanta’s having a great season soon too, having basically starting goaltender stats with a 0.914 save percentage and a 2.21 goals against average. And according to MoneyPuck.com, he’s saved 4.0 goals above expected.
“They’ve been phenomenal,” Brind’Amour said on his goaltenders. “I feel like we’ve played well all year, but there are obviously times... our record speaks for itself, and I think our record is that good because our goaltending has won us a bunch of games where we weren’t that great or the other team was better or it was even. And yet we’re pulling out these victories because our goaltending has been that good. We have a good team, but I think our goaltending has been a difference-maker.”
Time to Rest
While the break won’t be as long as once promised due to the rescheduling of four postponed games, the Canes will still be getting about a week off, which can be huge for resting some injuries.
Teuvo Teravainen has missed the last two games dealing with a nagging injury and Brett Pesce just had an injury scare after saving a goal late in the game.
Brind’Amour didn’t sound too concerned about either player moving forward, which is a good sign.
Regardless, the time off should give the players time to properly heal up, and could be beneficial for anyone who may be dealing with undisclosed issues.
The Canes overall just need the time to just decompress and come back with a clearer focus. While they haven’t played bad, they haven’t looked like a top-ranked team should against some of the bottom feeders in the league.
One such area of concern has been the Hurricanes’ power play which was climbing the ranks earlier in January, going 7 for 17 in the first seven games of the month, but has since seen itself slip, going 1 for 12 over the last five games.
Part of that could be tied to Teuvo Teravainen playing through injury as well as missing some time, but the overall disjointedness that the roster has battled through as of late seems to be the most likely reason.
The time off will be good for the Canes, who should see a boost in play when they return to the ice for their first game back February 7 against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Scotiabank Arena.