For the first time in 3 tries, the Hurricanes won at home on Sunday and provided a tremendously entertaining game in the effort. With a fast pace, high level of intensity, probably season peak physical play and plenty of scoring chances, Sunday’s game could make a strong case for being the most entertaining of the season.
Recap of the Carolina Hurricanes 3-1 win over the Winnipeg Jets
The first period saw the Hurricanes get the better of a fast-paced first 20 minutes. Cam Ward actually seemed to be fighting the puck a bit giving up a couple big rebounds and also having a shot get through him but go just wide of the net. But when Ward is playing well, he plays a really quiet game in terms of movement and just seems to be in the right place to get hit by puck after puck. He finished the first period perfect, and the Hurricanes notched the period’s lone goal when Sebastian Aho made a crafty play entering the offensive zone 1-on-3 in the middle of a line change. Instead of throwing the puck to the corner and going off for a change, he turned to the middle bought time and space and waited for help. Shortly thereafter, Elias Lindholm collected his first goal of the season.
The second period saw the intensity and physicality dial up. Winnipeg seemed to become increasingly testy and physical, and the Hurricanes put forward a textbook example of how to answer inside the whistles and rules but also stay disciplined. The result was a bunch of Jets penalties out of frustration. The second period ended with nothing on the scoreboard but still an incredibly entertaining 20 minutes because of the back and forth physical play and intensity level.
The third period saw the Hurricanes push up to 2-0 when the team capitalized on 1 of the many Jets penalties. After providing a screen for a point shot and being hit by the shot, Lee Stempniak deftly retrieved and quickly fed Victor Rask who made an equally skilled play quickly lifting the puck into the top half of the net. Noah Hanifin scored later to put the Hurricanes up 3-0 and on their way to a win. The lone Jets goal came when Brett Pesce got caught deep in the offensive zone and despite hustling just did not quite get back into the play as the Jets rushed up the ice and scored.
‘What I’m watching’ recap
The full game preview can be found HERE if you missed it and want to catch up.
1) The big 5 against Patrik Laine
Laine was actually separated from Ehlers and Scheifele, and Peters mostly matched Staal’s line plus Slavin/Pesce against Scheifele’s line. They were victimized for the Jets lone goal but generally had a strong night.
2) Derek Ryan and Brock McGinn
Neither of the duo got on the score sheet, but I thought McGinn especially had a strong night. McGinn actually had a point blank chance off the rush 3-on-1 but missed the net. Nonetheless, I thought McGinn especially had a strong game. On a night when the Hurricanes needed to answer physically, he had a couple big hits and was not shy about contact all night. And he drew 1 of a couple retaliation/frustration penalties from the Jets that resulted in Hurricanes’ power plays. At some point, they will need to chip in some scoring to stay in the top 9, but the duo has been doing enough other things to have an impact even when not scoring in bunches.
3) Continued sound play
Sunday’s game in general was pretty wide open at times. Despite the modes 3-1 final, both goalies faced a high volume of high-quality chances and played well. That said, the Hurricanes avoided the horrible variety of breakdowns even when under duress and therefore gave Ward a chance on most shots. And that is all that he needs right now.
Cam Ward continued his strong run. The Hurricanes were the better team but also gave up some chances that required Ward to be sharp. He continues to be right in the middle of the Hurricanes strong play including 4 wins in a row. What is most striking about Ward right now is how calm and quiet he is in net. Historically, when he is playing well, Ward makes most saves look easy and looks more like he is just in the right place more so than doing anything spectacular or acrobatic. That is exactly where he is right now.
Jeff Skinner: I really like his game right now. Even on nights when he does not score, he is creating scoring chances and avoiding the temptation of gambling for goals that plagued him early in his career. Just like in Friday’s win, Skinner could easily have had a goal or 2 but stayed the course playing sound hockey otherwise.
Brock McGinn on the penalty kill: McGinn has stepped straight into a top NHL penalty killing unit and not looked out of place at all.
The fourth line: The fourth line had another sound effort. Jay McClement and Joakim Nordstrom both drew penalties in the first period, and the line has held its own of late.
Elias Lindholm: Good for him finally netting his first goal. Here is hoping that it breaks the dam and leads to a few more on the upcoming road trip. He is another player who has quietly been part of a penalty kill that continues to excel.
Noah Hanifin: Good for him making it a night of firsts utilizing his improved shot to notch his first goal of the season and help the Hurricanes pull away for a win.
Hainsey/Faulk: Their run of strong play continued in Sunday’s win. Faulk led the Hurricanes with 26:08 of ice time, and Hainsey played well in his 22:28.
Jordan Staal: When the intensity dialed up, Staal was a force. He matched hits with Jets players, drew a penalty and led the ‘big boy hockey’ effort by the Hurricanes. Staal logged a rugged 21:11 of ice time and led the charge physically for the Hurricanes. Also of note were Lee Stempniak, Joakim Nordstrom and Justin Faulk though I think it is fair to say that the Hurricanes in total responded well to the physical challenge issued by the Jets.
The win gets the Hurricanes above .500 for the first time this season and pulls the Hurricanes to within 3 points of a playoff spot heading into a 3-game Canadian road trip that starts Tuesday in Toronto.