In what I think was by far the best all-around effort of the season, the Hurricanes notched their first winning streak of two games with a 2-1 win in Calgary against the Flames.
Immediately following the conclusion of the game, I said on Twitter:
1/2 Took 5 tries, but THAT is the repeatable formula for #Canes wins.
— Canes and Coffee (@CanesandCoffee) October 20, 2017
The season-opening win featured plenty of offense, but Darling was not great, and the defense had far too many breakdowns. The next two games that netted a regulation and overtime loss featured strong netminding by Darling and decent defense but also a complete power outage offensively. And as exhilarating as all the goal scoring was in Tuesday’s 5-3 win over the Oilers, the Hurricanes strayed widely from their puck possession and pace brand of hockey, were outplayed and were rescued by Oiler miscues and incredibly efficient finishing.
Thursday’s win over Calgary was easily the Hurricanes’ best all-around effort. Two goals is not tremendous, but the Hurricanes did a decent job of creating chances here and there (without gifts) across four lines and used the power play to extend a lead. More significant than the goal total was the brand of hockey and consistency. The Hurricanes played fast and aggressive in all three zones with and without the puck. The forecheck made Calgary’s life miserable, and the team pushed the puck forward with pace out of their own end and through the neutral zone. The good version of the Hurricanes plays fast in all facets of the game, and Thursday was easily the best game in that regard. Peters again leaned extra on Jaccob Slavin and Brett Pesce which is something to keep an eye on, but the defense in total was much better than Tuesday, and Trevor van Riemsdyk was a step up in his #5 slot. And Scott Darling was good when he needed to be. Significant in that regard is that he was called upon to make a few really good saves and did help hold the fort when Calgary pushed in the third period, but he was not under siege behind a weak effort like Cam Ward was on Tuesday.
Notes from the Carolina Hurricanes 2-1 win over the Calgary Flames
Skinner has yet to hit a stretch (and he will) where he is buzzing around and dangerous each and every shift and is dominant offensively and puts the team on his back for a few games. But despite not yet reaching his top gear, he now has three goals in five games which exceeds his 37-goal pace from 2016-17. The medium good version of Jeff Skinner scoring at a 40+ goal pace is impressive, and the goals he has scored have generally been big ones. He had the late game-tying goal that netted a point on a tough night against Columbus. Tonight’s goal broke the ice in a low-scoring affair. His goal against Winnipeg was ultimately wasted but drew the Canes even at 1-1 when it occurred. This is exactly the kind of offensive leadership that the Hurricanes need from Skinner to score enough.
He did not face nearly the barrage of shots that Cam Ward did on Tuesday, but he was equally good. When Calgary pushed late, Darling made a couple of heroic saves to preserve the win. The most notable was robbing Jagr, but that was only one of two saves where things changed quickly requiring quickness and athleticism to make a save on a shot that was more the reactionary variety.
The dynamic duo were phenomenal again. Peters has taken to leaning on them as much as he thinks he needs to inside of a game. The result is a 26-minute average for Slavin in the past two games and only a bit less for Pesce. This is something to keep an eye on. In my opinion, Peters contributed significantly to the goaltending problems last winter went he went one too many times to the “play to win today” approach running Cam Ward into the ground trying to win the next game with minimal balance for the long haul. If you need to win one game, playing Jaccob Slavin as much as at all possible is the right way. For an 82-game season, there is a bit more of a balancing act to consider such that he does not hit a wall physically midway through the season.
The second pairing had a mostly uneventful game defensively in a good way not giving up too much and generally clicking off shifts with sound hockey. Both are doing the kind of things that contribute offensively. Hanifin registered a power play assist on a nice play where he hesitated just long enough to hold the goalie and the defense which gave Skinner some space when he received the puck and then found Justin Williams who scored. Faulk has not caught a ton of breaks or bounces yet, but he continues to play with a ‘shoot when possible’ mentality which is generally a good thing. On Thursday, he took a whopping ten shots with four on net. Both players are tracking toward being positive contributors offensively.
Trevor van Riemsdyk
His game was not flawless, nor was his partner Haydn Fleury’s, but the team looks significantly better with van Riemsdyk in the lineup in terms of being capable of moving the puck from their own end with all three defense pairings. The result is a better flow and greater puck possession from fewer times of having to chuck the puck up the ice to get a line change which can sometimes result in not one but two shifts of mostly chasing the puck.
As I concluded on Tuesday, results very much matter for a Hurricanes team that has created insurmountable deficits in October and November in the past few seasons. The Hurricanes are now assured of finishing the four-game NC State Fair road trip at a minimum of 2-2 and will return home with a record that is above .500 at a minimum of 3-2-1. Here is hoping that the team can ride the momentum and collect two more points in the road trip finale in Dallas on Saturday.
A few readers did not like my ‘half empty’ tone after Tuesday’s win which I thought was lackluster in terms of level of play. For Thursday’s win, I am easily in the ‘more than half’ full camp.
Who else has observations from the Hurricanes big win?