Putting it simply, the Hurricanes and their loyal fans have had an absolutely tremendous week.
The week started with a good win against the NHL’s #1 team on Tuesday, got even better on Friday and then topped it off with the best of all on Saturday in addition to a feel good off day on Thursday. The week culminated with a 3-0 mark all at home and the Hurricanes pushing up into the final playoff spot (adjusted for total games played).
If you can look past the loose play defensively on all accounts, Saturday’s 7-4 win against the New York Islanders was as good as you can get in terms of raw entertainment with scoring chances by the bucket full and goals by the half bucket full.
Recap of Hurricanes wild 7-4 win over the New York Islanders
Writing the normal chronological recap seems impossible because of the volume of scoring plays, so let me just try to call out stars on the Hurricanes side of the puck:
THE BIG LINE: They were just absolutely phenomenal offensively.
*Brock McGinn deservedly won the first star of the game. He was absolutely lights out in Friday’s win with 2 big goals. He was significantly better on Saturday. He had a familiar looking when he went to a place where goals happen with the puck on Jordan Staal’s stick and sure enough, he finished quickly and efficiently when the puck showed up. From there he went on to add 3 more assists, and they were not the variety where he happened to touch the puck before someone else scored. First, he had a swift backhand through traffic and onto Lindholm’s tape for a pretty goal off the rush. Then he threaded the puck through traffic to Brett Pesce at the back door for another pretty assist.
*Elias Lindholm continued his strong play. He finished on the McGinn pass noted above and also tacked on 2 assists.
*Jordan Staal might actually have been the low man on his line despite playing a great game. He gets credit for being the leader of the team’s best line on a good night, and had a goal and 2 assists to his credit.
*Justin Faulk continued his scoring ways. After making a key play to spring Jeff Skinner with a long pass in Friday’s win, he had another strong effort in Saturday’s win.He squeaked a shot through goalie Thomas Greiss when he stepped into the play offensively. He was on the score sheet again when he got a shot through the Teravainen finished with a tip in.
THE FINNISH LINE
*Lee Stempniak: The game ended up being comfortable in the final minutes, but Lee Stempniak’s laser off of a face-off win. The goal helped the team bounce back from a Tavares’ game-tying goal early in the third period. The goal sent the Canes off to the races and ultimately stood up as the game-winner.
*Teuvo Teravainen: He had the goal on the tip and also an assist with his face-off win on the Stempniak goal.
*Sebastian Aho: On a night with a busy score sheet and a collection of offensive heroes, Aho’s pointless night was a fairly quiet one, but he was by no means bad and had a couple scoring chances.
THE TOP SCORING LINE
*Skinner/Rask/Ryan: Hidden beneath the excitement, one could make a case that the most striking thing about this game is that the team’s top scoring line was held completely off the score sheet. Yet the team scored 7 goals. The Hurricanes have magically become one of those teams that comes at you in waves from every which direction. How fun is that? And important to note is that the top scoring line had a big night offensively in Friday’s win, so it is not at all like they are slumping.
OFFENSE FROM THE BACK END
Goals from Justin Faulk and Brett Pesce were a nice addition to the offense. Faulk especially has been on a nice run of providing offense primarily in the form of passing of late.
Other things to feel good about
While it is not ideal to get in the habit of needing 4 or 5 goal efforts to win regularly, how incredibly cool is it that this is even possible after so many years where it seemed like a mighty struggle to try to get 2 and somehow make that enough to get to overtime to try to steal a win?
The atmosphere at PNC Arena on Saturday night…We still have a way to go to make it a regular event but it is coming. Yes, there are still empty seats but the buzz is growing. And you can bet that many of the non-regulars in attendance on Saturday will be back. IMPORTANT: Let’s all promise to be the kind of long-time Canes fans who welcome new fans and returning old fans back with open arms and promise to never ever be the ‘I’m a better fan than you’ kind of fan.
Did I mention that our hockey team is basically sitting in a playoff spot right now? On January 14 no less!
Coming out of the clouds
I am going to bury this at the bottom and then decide if I want to write about it in more detail before the game Tuesday in Columbus, but Saturday was actually a pretty bad train wreck defensively. The Hurricanes are in a transition phase where they improving immensely in terms of playing attacking hockey (which is obviously good), but the adjustment that is lagging is knowing when/where positioning needs to hedge slightly toward defense before defense is required. Saturday was an extreme case, but this has been the case in other games too that have seen the Canes generating attack chances by the dozen but also giving them up by the tens.
Next week is a big week. After a long climb up and into the playoff chase that has leveraged home ice for every point it can get, next week sees 3 tough opponents (Clu, Pit, Clu again) with 2 on the road and also a road match up against surging Washington to start the next week. While it is not necessary to run off 3-4 more wins in a row, it is important to continue collecting points.
But I think now is an incredibly good time to just enjoy the wins this week, revel in where the team is right now and also tell a neighbor or friend who is not a PNC Arena regular about it.
Next up is a Tuesday tilt in Columbus. Canes and Coffee is working frantically to line up someone who scout Columbus (who would be the Canes playoff opponent right now) for travel route, hotels, eateries and bars in case we need it for a road trip in mid-April.