I watched after hours after holiday/family time, so my comments will be brief and skip the full recap.
An impressive win
Last weekend, the Hurricanes took a shot at division-leading Columbus and came up woefully empty in a 4-1 loss. Wednesday’s game was against a similarly strong opponent and yielded a significantly different results. The two points are critical, but how the Hurricaes went about it also adds some points.
I thought this was his best game of the season. He netted only a mop up empty-net goal on the score sheet, but I thought he was especially good. He touched the puck battling around the net three times before Trevor van Riemsdyk goal. He had a similar flurry in the second period that also saw him make a pretty pass to Jordan Martinook on the rush (the shot bounced off the cross bar). He had eight shots on goal in the game. In addition, his hard hat and lunch pail style of play around the net show that he is hungry to score and willing to do the dirty work to do it.
Calvin de Haan/Justin Faulk
The duo has grown to become the team’s steadiest defense pairing and the one that Brind’Amour justifiably tries to lean on the most. Kudos to Calvin de Haan for being a strong complement for Faulk, and kudos to Justin Faulk for being equally strong in his own right. As someone who has been incredibly hard on Faulk’s defensive play over the past two years, it is important that I give credit where it is due.
The good version of bad in the second period
After a crazy shooting gallery of a first period, the Hurricanes mostly failed to launch for the second period. But unlike tough periods of Canes past that usually featured defensive coverage break downs and bunches of goals against, the Canes did a tremendous job of not allowing puck possession to automatically translate to grade A chances. In addition, the penalty kill gave up only one medium chance on two power plays in keeping Toronto off the board in the second period.
The first period shooting gallery
I am not gonna lie…When John Tavares scored to convert a 29 to 11 first period shot advantage to only a 2-1 lead, the game seemed destined to be yet another Canes classic where the team dramatically out-shot the opponent but lost. But this time the hockey gods smiled down and rewarded the Hurricanes. That 29 shots on goal in a single period is nearly unfathomable. Half of that is a very good period.
Justin Williams leads the way again
Since the team faced a bit of adversity in the Columbus lost, captain Justin Williams has scored in the first period of each of the next two games to get the team off to a good start.
…and right now that is Curtis McElhinney. He would want the second goal that beat him from a tough angle back, but otherwise he was solid all night, and two goals against is what was needed to win. The watch point for him going forward is how he looks in a run of games. As a 35-year old who has not played more than 20 games in a season in awhile, his norm is playing a game or two and then getting a significant break before taking the ice again. But at least for now, he is the starter, and the team should just be taking it a game at a time.
With fourth line minutes, he did not do anything spectacular, but he did not look overmatched by NHL pace either. I count Wednesday’s game as a decent building block as he plays his way back after missing the first 20 games with an injury.
Next up for the Hurricanes is a pivotal (ref Tripp Tracy) for the current home stand. With a win, the team notches an impressive 4-1-1. With a loss, it looks much more like .500 hockey at 3-2-1.
HAPPY THANKSGIVING CANIAC NATION!