Desperately needing a win to close out the year, the Hurricanes received exactly that.
The win also made for another fun holiday win for the home crowd. As much as the team has struggled over the past month, its track record in home ‘holiday’ games has actually been very good. The Canes were 2-0 in a pair of home games sandwiched around Thanksgiving, and at least managed a split in the two-game home set just before Christmas including a fun win on Whalers night. When the New Year’s Even win over the Flyers is included, the team is a solid 4-1 in home games or the holidays.
I dubbed Monday’s game and also the previous match up against the Devils as the ‘battle for the basement.’ With a loss on Monday, the Hurricanes would have entered 2019 in last place in the Metropolitan Division. The win instead boosts the team into a tie for seventh place with the Devils.
To be honest, the front part of the game was some combination of sluggish and sloppy and looked very much like two teams trying to play their way back into the 2018-19 season. Credit to the Hurricanes for getting the puck to the middle of the ice and shooting, but the Canes also benefited from a rookie goalie having a tough night. Credit also to the Hurricanes for recognizing issues warding off shots glove high and going back to that spot (with success) repeatedly.
First, Lucas Wallmark labeled a shot for the upper corner while using a Flyers defenseman as a screen. Then Jordan Martinook found his way through Hart’s glove hand and into the net. Then when Andrei Svechnikov fired a laser off of a heady Clark Bishop centering pass early in the second period, the Hurricanes had jumped out to a 3-0 lead and chased rookie goalie Carter Hart. The three goals would stand up behind yet another strong Canes goalie outing, this time courtesy of Curtis McElhinney. He would be beaten only once on the way to a 3-1 win.
More than anything, the Hurricanes needed and picked up a win.
Player and other notes
1) Curtis McElhinney
McElhinney continued the run of strong goalie play continuing to give the team two solid netminders right now. This situation where I can just write that goaltending was good again as if it is a regular and normal thing is bizarre after the team’s many years of struggles in net.
2) Jordan Martinook
He continues to be a great under the radar pick up. As a depth player, he is not a regular in the highlights, but he has done three things incredibly well now half of a season into his first with the Hurricanes. First and foremost, any and all indications are that he is a tremendous team mate. He has played a significant role in Andrei Svechnikov’s transition to the NHL and just generally exudes the team-first attitude that is critical to successful NHL cultures. Second, he has a great feel for the game and has on multiple occasions been one of the players to dial up the physicality when the team might have been fighting it a bit and needed some kind of boost. Finally, his scoring has been a pleasant surprise. His nine goals are impressive for a depth forward who has received virtually no power play ice time.
3) Andrei Svechnikov
Svechnikov’s goal which just flat beat the goalie into the corner of the net is the variety scored by snipers like Stamkos, Laine and others who have the rare ability to regularly beat goalies cleanly. This is the second time Svechnikov has labeled a shot for the corner of the net recently. His ability to finish in close is maybe not as advanced yet, but it is not difficult to see his ability starting to show up on the score sheet more regularly.
4) Lucas Wallmark
Wallmark has yet to really break out offensively, but he has impressively stepped into the ‘tough match up’ center role with Jordan Staal out with his injury. At a minimum, Wallmark has quickly established himself as a dependable two-way center who is not in over his head even against tough match ups. That by itself makes him a capable fourth-line center with the capability to fill in in higher slots. The burning question with Wallmark right now is whether he has a higher gear offensively. He scored at the AHL level, and advanced statistics suggest he could have more on the score sheet this year.
Next up for the Hurricanes is a rematch against the Flyers in Philadelphia on Thursday night.