Facing what on paper looked like a strong challenge against a good goalie and the NHL’s second-ranked defense, the Hurricanes surged early and again late on the way to deluge of goals and an overpowering 7-3 win.
The win marked the third straight for which the Hurricanes started strong and built an early cushion on their way to win a game that they had in hand more or less throughout.
The fun started early again when Jaccob Slavin made an incredibly skilled play for anyone especially a defenseman. Jordan Staal made the right play to feed Slavin joining the rush but put the pass in his skates. Without giving up much speed, Slavin played the puck from his puck to his stick then shifted the puck to his backhand to shield the puck from a defender and then shoveled it bar down for a goal. Just wow! with the level of skill on that goal. That was just the warm up for the Justin Faulk show that started next. The first goal came on what looked like a harmless shot when Faulk walked the blue line on the power play and flipped a well-timed wrist shot at the net. Jonathan Quick was screened by his own team mate and slow to react, and the puck found the net behind him. That opened the flood gates for Faulk. Again on the power play late in the first period, Faulk fired, this time with a bit more heat, and beat Quick to make it 3-0. When the first period ended Hurricanes had out-shot the Kings 18 to 3 and were up 3-0 on the scoreboard in one the Hurricanes most dominant periods for the entire season.
And Faulk and the Hurricanes picked up right where they left at the beginning of the second period. When Faulk scored on the power play again only 1:17 into the second period Faulk had a hat trick, Canes fans had set their eating schedule for Wednesday with Bojangles’ Boberry biscuits for breakfast, free queso from Moe’s for lunch and half price pizzas from Papa John’s for dinner. The goal also chased Jonathan Quick from the game. In the minutes that followed the Hurricanes proceeded to clang the post twice (Justin Williams and Victor Rask before Jeff Skinner started to try to chase Faulk down. After his post, he scored next to stake the Hurricanes to a 5-0 lead. The Kings finally responded and scored twice to pull to within 5-2 in a wide open second period.
When the Kings scored only 6:43 into the third period to pull to within two goals at 5-3, a tense finish suddenly seemed possible. But any late dramatics were averted when Skinner scored his second on a pretty backhand and Sebastian Aho finished on a breakaway to give the Hurricanes a football-looking 7-3 win.
Notes from the Carolina Hurricanes 7-3 win over the Los Angeles Kings
1) Key players breaking out – Skinner and Faulk
If I had to pick one forward and one defenseman who might have a bit more to given in terms of offensive production down the stretch, Justin Faulk and Jeff Skinner would top those lists. Scoring for a defenseman often requires catching a bit of a break like Faulk did on Tuesday, but the starting point is finding a way to gets shots on the net, especially on the power play. Skinner has intermittently had some strong games of late but probably has not been rewarded quite as much as he has deserved. Here is hoping that the duo’s combined five goals on Tuesday prove to a spark that ignites a run of scoring for each player.
2) The power play
The Hurricanes scored so many times that you could slice and dice the scoring a number of different ways. The power play scored three times on only five tries while the game was still being decided which was huge.
3) Offensive production from the blue line
Blue line scoring has provided a timely pick me up in the three game winning streak. On Friday, Pesce scored only 16 seconds into the to relieve pressure and set the tone when the team was trying to rebound from a three-game losing streak. Tonight, Slavin broke the ice and Faulk added three more to stake the Hurricanes to a 4-0 lead before a forward even scored.
4) Sebastian Aho at center
Sebastian Aho’s time at center lasted about two periods before Peters went back to a few tried and true combinations in the third period in an attempt to halt the Kings’ push. Aho did not look bad at center by any means, but in watching his game closely, the move really is a transition at this point despite center being his natural position before being drafted. Aho very much reminded me of Martin Necas in preseason. Aho looked comfortable with the puck on his stick and without the puck in the offensive zone or crossing the blue line on the rush. And the few times he had the puck on his stick with room to skate and wind up the wheels from within the defensive zone, he took off in turbo mode up the ice. But without the puck in the defensive zone and neutral zone when not the forechecker on the puck, he looked very ‘squishy’ in terms of understanding angles, assignments and positioning. I coined the term ‘squishy’ awhile back to describe the way Necas had a general idea of where to be and what to do like a natural center would but lacked the skill set that Jordan Staal and Victor Rask have in terms of understanding exactly where they needed to be to take away skating and passing lanes and force the opposition to go sideways instead of north-south to advance the puck. To be clear, I would not consider this a surprise or something that cannot be learned with time, as Aho collects more ice time at the center position at the NHL level.
I think it will be interesting to see where Peters goes with this. Long-term, Aho and Necas are the two (and likely only two) internal options to become the offensive catalyst from the center position that the Hurricanes lack. And I think there is a good chance that Aho could learn quickly if he continues to play center. But at the same time, with 25 games remaining in the 2017-18 season and the Hurricanes in the thick of the playoff chase, I could see Peters going back to Lindholm at the center position and tabling the Aho move until 2018-19 in favor of going with safer.
5) Still looking for broader contributions from the forwards
Aho continues to score regularly. Skinner broke out with a power play and even strength goal. But lurking behind a run of higher scoring hockey and a burst of fives goals from the defensemen is the fact that 5-on-5 scoring by the forwards still needs to step up. For the eight-game home stand, all of Teuvo Teravainen, Jordan Staal, Derek Ryan, Lee Stempniak and Joakim Nordstrom are goal-less. Justin Williams, Elias Lindholm, Phil Di Giuseppe and Victor Rask have only one goal each. If you do not have a forwards checklist handy, that means only Sebastian Aho, Brock McGinn and Jeff Skinner produced offensively as measured by goal scoring during the eight-game home stand. With the power play clicking and the defensemen suddenly scoring in bunches, the lack of forward scoring is hiding in the background right now, but at some point the team will need more offense from the forward group.
6) The standings
The win keeps the Hurricanes in the final wild card spot. The night was not a great one for help with the Penguins, Blue Jackets and Devils matching the Canes win, but the team did pick up points on the Flyers who lost in overtime and also the Islanders who lost in regulation.
Next up is the first road game in forever when the Hurricanes travel to play the New Jersey Devils away on Thursday night.