Hello again, Canes fans. This 2016-17 season for the Hurricanes has been up and down all the way through. Let’s take a look at some of the best and worst ones.
Best comeback: December 18 vs. Vancouver Canucks
This was an easy decision. The Canes and Canucks played a relatively normal first period, with the Canes heading to the first intermission up 2-1 on goals from forwards Jeff Skinner and Sebastian Aho. That’s when, to put it mildly, all hell broke loose. The Canucks scored four goals in the second period, one of the worst twenty-minute efforts for Carolina of the season. The Canucks were all over the Canes, and the team’s defense gave up grade-A chances galore; the score honestly could have been worse. Head coach Bill Peters replaced starter Cam Ward with Michael Leighton looking for a spark, but it did nothing as far as the middle frame was concerned. The Canes looked to be on their way to a blowout loss on home ice to an inferior opponent. Or so it seemed.
The Hurricanes erupted for four goals in the first five minutes of the third period, getting markers from Skinner, forward Victor Rask and defensemen Ron Hainsey and Justin Faulk to take a 6-5 lead. The crowd was ignited by the four-goal blitz in one of the most exciting moments at PNC in recent memory. Forward Jordan Staal added an insurance marker to make it 7-5, and that turned out to be the game-winner as former Hurricane Brandon Sutter made it 7-6. Forward Lee Stempniak added an empty-net goal to make it 8-6 and seal one of the most dramatic wins in Canes history. While the Canes would not like to see a first 40 minutes like they had in this game, it gave the team a thrilling, memorable win. The choice for best comeback of the 2016-17 season was not a difficult one.
Verification that this actually happened is in the original game recap HERE.
Worst reverse comeback: October 13 @ Winnipeg Jets
Unfortunately, there’s a lot to choose from here. Playing with a lead has not been the Canes’ forte this season. Heading into the first game of the season, the Canes were looking to reverse a long trend of dropping the first game of the season. Through 40 minutes, the prospects of doing that looked good. The Canes played a very strong first two periods. After giving up the game’s first goal, the team took a 3-1 lead to the second intermission on goals from Skinner, Stempniak’s first as a Hurricane, and Staal. Rask then pushed that lead to 4-1 on the power play to start the third.
Unfortunately, it was the Canes’ man advantage that started the Jets’ rally. Skinner made an ill-advised turnover to Jets forward Blake Wheeler, who grabbed a short-handed tally to bring the Jets within two. Winnipeg rookie then made it 4-3, and the Jets tied it at four with an extra attacker. Mark Scheifele capped the Jets’ comeback victory in overtime, and the Canes left with a very disappointing one point. The Canes had a great opportunity to start the season on the right foot and let it slip by. This paved the way for a 1-6 opening road trip, and many more blown games. The Canes blew another three-goal lead in their second game, and putting away games has been an issue all season.
The painful start of the Canes struggles holding leads on the road is detailed in the original game recap HERE.
Best defensive game: November 15 vs. San Jose Sharks
This game saw the Canes really show what they can do when they play Bill Peters’ defensive system to a tee. The team’s first shutout win of the season saw its starting goalie, ironically, not have to work very hard. Ward made some good stops, to be sure, but the Canes’ defensive effort was the headline here. The top defensive pairing of young studs Jaccob Slavin and Brett Pesce, along with Staal’s shutdown capabilities at center were particularly impressive in shutting down the Sharks’ big guns of Joe Pavelski, Joe Thornton and Brent Burns. As a five-man unit in this game, the Canes consistently came back to take away the middle of the ice, break up chances and make Ward’s life as easy as they could. The Canes earned their second win on the way to a five-game winning streak in November that turned things around from a rough start was far and away Carolina’s best defensive game of the year.
Read about the Hurricanes’ stifling defense in the original game recap HERE.
Best individual performance: Sebastian Aho vs. Philadelphia Flyers January 31
Coming off a five-game skid going into the All-Star break, the Canes desperately needed a win against a fellow playoff bubble team. It was their star rookie forward that came forward. The skill Aho possesses has been evident all season, and has started to show up on the score sheet more and more as the season has gone on. This game was a culmination of that; Aho picked up three goals and an assist for his first hat trick. It seemed everything Aho touched turned to goals in this game, and he showed off his skill in scoring some nice ones. The hat-trick goal, a snipe on the power play in the second period brought an eruption from a larger than usual crowd. Aho has this season’s best individual performance, and the 19-year-old Finn should have many more to come.
Another account of Aho’s magical night on a big stage is HERE in the original game recap.
Worst loss: January 20 vs. Pittsburgh Penguins
Another easy choice. This 7-1 blasting was not only the Canes’ worst performance of the 2016-17, but quite possibly of Peters’ tenure as head coach. The Canes actually started the first 10 minutes of the game well, but could not find the back of the net. A Teuvo Teravainen turnover gave the Pens a 1-0 lead, and that was it. The Penguins bombarded the Canes for the four goals in the second. Teravainen had another turnover for a goal against, and Skinner took two unsportsmanlike-conduct penalties that led to both forwards being benched for the final frame. The Pens finished the route with two more goals and the Canes got one of their own for the final 7-1 score. Frustration boiled over when Ward punched Pens forward Patric Hornqvist after a goal against in the third, summing up the night for Carolina. A loss like this had not been seen on home ice, or at all, all season, and definitely stands out as the low point of the year so far.
The original game recap, if you can stomach it, is HERE.
Best win: October 28 vs. New York Rangers
The Canes came into this game looking to do something they hadn’t done since the 2008-09 season: win their home opener. (Isn’t there something else the team is looking to do for the first time since that season?) Coming off a brutal season-opening road trip and in front of their home crowd, the Canes really needed a win from this one. They got it. The Canes got off a strong start, but the Rangers struck first on the man advantage. Skinner then tied the game to ignite the crowd, setting up a big second period.
Skinner scored a highlight-reel goal early in the middle frame to put the home team up a goal, before the Rangers tied it. With time running down in the period and the Canes on the power play, Skinner wound up and blasted a shot by Lundqvist to put the home team up 3-2 and bring the roof down. It was free hat night, and the headwear rained down as Skinner appeared to have a trio, but it turned out forward Bryan Bickell deflected in the goal. In the third, Ward came up big with a series of huge saves to start the Canes’ home record at 1-0-0 for the first time since 2008. Starting the home slate for 2016-17 on the right foot easily qualifies as the best win of the year.
Jeff Skinner’s big night and the fun win is detailed in the original game recap HERE.
There have been a lot of memorable games in the 2016-17 season for the Carolina Hurricanes, both good and bad. The odds look long right now, but the team and its fans will hope that there are more of the good variety for the rest of the way, leading to a playoff trip for the first time since 2009.