The Carolina Hurricanes swept their short trip to Pennsylvania, capping it off with a 4-3 overtime win over the Philadelphia Flyers — courtesy of Brett Pesce.
It was a game that the Canes probably would have wanted to forget about quickly due to the way they played, but now it stands as a testament to how even when the team is playing poorly, they can still pull off those wins.
So let’s take a look back at last night’s victory:
Even When They’re Off, They’re On
It was a bad game for the Canes. Everyone will admit as much.
“I didn’t like the game,” said head coach Rod Brind’Amour after the game. “We were terrible to start. It’s kind of what I thought might happen. A lot of games in this week with four in six days.”
But it’s telling when the team can still pull off wins despite that.
“It wasn’t a great game by us, but you’re not going to have beautiful games every night,” Brind’Amour said. “It’s just not going to happen. It was a good win.”
The ability to win these kinds of games comes down to a combination of two things: star power and routine.
Star power is in the sense that Frederik Andersen will more than likely do his fair share of the work and one of either Sebastian Aho, Teuvo Teravainen or Andrei Svechnikov — the Canes have so much talent, but these three are just special — will probably make a dazzling play at some point.
Both of those things happened last night.
Svechnikov made a ridiculous pass to Teravainen for the Canes’ second goal of the game...
...but Andersen was the real star of the show.
The Danish goaltender made 38 saves, including stopping some really high-danger chances by the Flyers with none being bigger than the save on Cam Atkinson in overtime.
Oh my... pic.twitter.com/wWMvvdgBqQ— Bally Sports: Canes (@CanesOnBally) February 21, 2022
“He’s been great,” Brind’Amour said on his netminder. “The goals that went in, we shot the first one in ourselves, right? The other one is questionable, banging around and we’re debating whether we call goalie interference. Those are the ones that beat him. He got us two points tonight, for sure”
When Jaccob Slavin was asked after the game if he’s ever surprised by how well Andersen plays, he provided a pretty candid answer.
“Surprised? No. But thankful? Absolutely.”
And when I say routine, I mean how the Canes have a structure and a way they go about playing the same way every single game.
It’s an extremely demanding system that requires a ton of effort and can really drain players of their energy. Brind’Amour himself knows as much.
“I ask a lot of these guys, and they give it every night,” Brind’Amour said. “Tonight we just didn’t have it, you could tell. The fact that they still found a way to build some sort of game. Again, our D, when one guy goes down and we get put in the penalty box and we’re four guys playing for all these minutes. It says a lot about those guys.”
So even when the Canes are gassed, they are still trying to build their game and do things the “right” way.
One of the primary ways they go about that is forechecking hard and generating offense in close to the net.
Because when you can start creating bounces, good things usually follow.
The Staal line generated another start-of-the-period goal by getting pucks in deep and going to the net and the Trocheck line was a case of cycling the puck to the blueline and creating chaos in front.
Both goals being direct results of the primary offensive systems of the Hurricanes.
Good teams win the games they are expected to, but great teams win games even when they really shouldn’t.
Heavy Logs for the Defense
It was a difficult situation for the blueline.
In back-to-back games, the Hurricanes found themselves shorthanded on defense due to an injury early in the game.
On Sunday, it was Bredan Smith being struck in the head with the puck while attempting to block a shot and on Monday, it was Tony DeAngelo seemingly injuring himself on a slap shot attempt.
Below is the sequence that will cause DeAngelo to miss the rest of today's game.— Walt Ruff (@WaltRuff) February 21, 2022
He was in some real discomfort after letting the shot go, which came right at the start of his shift. You can see him getting off and going down the tunnel immediately following. pic.twitter.com/aSpewXnU59
As such, the remaining guys had to hold down the fort and log some really heavy minutes over the two-day stretch.
Here’s how the minutes broke down for the Canes’ top three guys:
Jaccob Slavin - 56:17
Brett Pesce - 55:40
Brady Skjei - 50:06
That’s a lot of hockey in ~about~ a 30-hour window.
The craziest thing was that the blueline was still effective in the offensive zone in spite of those heavy minutes, with five different defensemen registering points over the two-game span, including Pesce’s overtime winner.
“It’s not easy, especially on a back-to-back,” Pesce said after Monday’s game. “When you go down to four D, it’s always tough. Sometimes it makes it more fun. You’re going out every other shift. You don’t even have time to think. You’re just kind of playing. Your instincts take over. You ask anybody, the more minutes you play the more fun you’re going to have. It wasn’t too bad”
Even if it might have been “fun” for some of Carolina’s players, the upcoming three-day break should be a welcome sign for the team.
Their next game is at home and will be against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday, February 25, so the defensemen can get some much needed rest and maybe DeAngelo and Smith can make some headway on their recoveries because their is a lot more hockey on the horizon and the Canes are going to need all hands on deck as they push for the playoffs.