Trying to extend a 2-0-1 record on the road trip, the Hurricanes took to the ice in a chilly Winnipeg.
The game started with a good pace back and forth both ways with each team receiving a handful of decent chances. Per a familiar theme of late, the scoreboard tilted in the Hurricanes direction when they killed off a penalty and then scored on a power play of their own. I still am not sure if it was an incredibly pass or a bit of luck, but either way Nino Niederreiter deserves credit for receiving the puck at the side of the net and getting it to the front. There, Lucas Wallmark was waiting and quickly finished to give the Hurricanes a 1-0 lead. But just when it looked like the Canes would carry that 1-0 lead to the locker at the end of the first period, Winnipeg scored on a pretty tip in front of the net with only 7.4 seconds remaining in the period to send the teams into the locker room knotted at 1-1.
The second period would be in consideration for the best period of the season so far. Lost in the goal scoring frenzy that followed could be the fact that the Hurricanes were nearly flawless defensively and with managing the puck for the first 15 minutes, and when Winnipeg pushed in the last five minutes the Canes contested the puck, defended the front of the net and gave Mrazek a chance. That defensive part of the game is a key element to what peak Canes looks like to go with the fun bursts of scoring. And what a fun burst of scoring it was. Teuvo Teravainen found Sebastian Aho with a blind pass across the top of the crease for a pretty goal. Andrei Svechnikov officially made the lacrosse goal a weapon instead of a rare novelty. Aho scored again when Niederreiter made a great play to win a puck at the offensive blue line that look like it was going to be interrupted. He then fed Aho who went to his patented move to pull to his backhand to open the goalie and then simultaneously slide the puck five hole. Jordan Staal capped of the fun period with a power play marker to run the Canes out to a 5-2 lead.
The third period was more even but looked to be more of the same when Jordan Staal scored his second to put the Canes up 6-2. Winnipeg did push in the third and scored on the power play to get to within 6-3. The Jets gained a burst of energy from that goal and pushed late. Roslovic hit the cross bar on a breakaway with four minutes remaining. From there, the Canes rode out an impressive win.
Player and other notes
The team’s top scoring line had a big night. Aho garnered the headlines with his two goals. Teravainen did his thing with another heady playmaker’s special pass. And though kept out of the headlines by the team’s huge night, Niederreiter had two nice plays to collected well-deserved primary assists with passes that led directly to goals.
The second line did its part two. That line is playing very well right now despite not scoring a ton. What stands out to me is how much Svechnikov and Foegele have matured in terms of understanding positioning and when to fly at pucks (mostly) but also when to read/react. Svechnikov scored the lacrosse goal, and Staal also tallied at even strength in the third period in addition to Staal’s power play tally. Coupled with Foegele’s two late tallies on Tuesday, the trio suddenly has broken out for five goals in two games. But equally important has been their consistency lately even on quieter nights on the score sheet. After a slow start, Staal’s game has been building. Netting a couple goals after a long drought should relieve some pressure.
3) Special teams
The Hurricanes continued to win the special teams battle on a nightly basis. With two goals for and one against, special teams was positive yet again.
4) Petr Mrazek
The game ended up being a route in the end, but Mrazek’s play early played a key role in buying the team to sprint out. He was beaten only twice on deflections on which he had no chance and bar in on a power play blast, but he stood tall when the game was being decided.
5) The second period as a model for peak Canes
As I said on Twitter after the second period ended:
What could get lost (in a good way) in the scoring was that being the best period of the road trip in terms of attention to detail/defense. #Canes were flawless for first 15 minutes and decent when #GoJetsGo pushed in last 5. #CanesAfterDark
— Canes and Coffee (@CanesandCoffee) December 18, 2019
The team’s success in the first half of the season has regularly featured scoring outbursts, so the four goals in the second period was familiar. But harder to find so far in the 2019-20 season has been extended stretches of flawless defensive hockey and puck management. For 15 minutes, the Hurricanes were flawless in this regard even before the goals piled on. That period is what peak Canes hockey looks like and probably closer to what the team’s game needs to look like come April.
Next up for the Carolina Hurricanes is the finale of a road trip in Colorado on Thursday that has already been a success.