Power Play: Hurricanes edge Bruins in shootout for second straight win
RALEIGH, N.C. — The Carolina Hurricanes got their second win in a row after knocking off the Boston Bruins at home in an exciting, back-and-forth 2-1 shootout victory on Sunday. They’re now 2-1-0 since the return of Jordan Staal on Dec. 29.
1. A two-game win streak is modest, but the Hurricanes will take it
Yes, it’s just two straight wins. And yes, the Hurricanes (12-23-4) still are longshots at best for the playoffs. But those two straight wins mean a lot to a team that hasn’t won two in a row since Nov. 4-7.
"It’s a lot nicer coming to the rink and coming to games, everything that goes with winning, it’s just a better feeling," Eric Staal said. "You want to keep that and hold on to it when you get it. You had to know how hard you worked to get it."
This is a young group, and even though it’s almost certainly not going to make the playoffs, they’re going to play as if they are. And there’s plenty to learn, plenty of growth to make under first-year head coach Bill Peters and a lot of that feels easier when you’re winning.
It’s tough to win without confidence, and it’s tough to find confidence if you’re not winning.
"I think we’re starting to gain some confidence," Patrick Dwyer said. "As you put more and more games together, you get more confident in what you’re doing. If we can find that confidence within ourselves, then we can hopefully string some together."
2. As good and active as their start was, the Hurricanes need to manufacture more scoring
Peters always talks about his team’s start, and he was pleased with it in this one. He should have been — his team out-shot the Bruins (19-15-6) 14-4 in the first and worked hard for chances before finally getting a goal.
"I think we got in deep early and the whole group was forechecking from our first line to our fourth line, in there banging bodies and putting pressure on their (defense)," Dwyer, who scored the Hurricanes’ only regulation goal in the first, said.
But offense is still a problem. Since the beginning of December, the Hurricanes have scored one goal or less 10 times (out of 16). They’ve scored more than two just once (in a 4-1 win against Toronto on Dec. 18) and they’re 5-0-1 when scoring at least two goals.
Nine of the Hurricanes’ games in that span have been a 2-1 final one way or the other, including five of the last six. The Hurricanes won only four, but three of those wins have come in the last six. So they’re finding a way to win some of those close, low-scoring games, but that won’t go on forever.
"I’m used to it, but I’m not going to accept it. We’re going to push to score. We’re going to start doing more things off o-zone faceoffs. We’re going to get our power play ready. I don’t think it’s going at 100 percent right now," Peters said of his team’s constant 2-1 finishes.
"So if it’s a power play every other game, in this recent stretch, instead of being at 2, you’re at 3. So now you’ve got a little bit of wiggle room. So we’re going to hold our offensive guys more — not more accountable, but we’re going to put them in situations to score. … I think once we get into a situation where we go, whether it’s on the road or we play at home and we get three one night and four the next, I think we’re going to break the seal and be fine.
"But in the meantime, let’s make sure we’re winning these games however we have to do it. Right now, it looks like it’s 2-1."
3. The return of Jordan Staal likely came too late for the playoffs, but it’s important nonetheless
The Hurricanes’ burly 26-year-old center broke his leg in the preseason, and his presence was sorely missed, if for no other reason than his physical presence that opens things up for everyone else.
But Peters has finally gotten to see one of his best players in action over the last few games, and he’s clearly loved what he’s seen.
"I like him. I like him a lot. I like everything about his game. I really do. I like the fact that you can put him in every situation imaginable, he can play in it," Peters said. "He’s an intelligent guy. He’s a competitive guy. He’s won. He’s won a cup in Pittsburgh. He’s into what’s going on on the bench. He’s a very intelligent hockey player and he’s a competitive hockey player, and I like that."
He won 63 percent of his faceoffs against the Bruins, but he’s still a bit rusty on the offensive end. Still, what he gives the Hurricanes right now isn’t necessarily quantifiable on the stat sheet — although Peters thinks soon enough, it will be.
"He’s a horse. He’s a big, strong man and he’s powerful and he gets a half a step on you and he’s going to turn the corner. Eventually, as he gets his timing down offensively, we’ll get a little bit more offensively out of him. … I think he’s going to be a guy who’s very dangerous moving forward," Peters said.
"You can use him in so many different ways. It gives you options as a coach, and that’s pleasant."
Perhaps the person happiest about his return is his older brother, as Eric Staal now doesn’t have to take on center duties and can go back to the wing full-time. He clearly has chemistry with his brother, and they’re playing off each other very well with the younger, bigger Staal creating room for the smaller, more offensive-minded one.
"It’s been fun for me to see No. 11 back, skating the way he is. It looks like he hasn’t missed — or, he’s making it look like he hasn’t missed half a season," Eric Staal said. "It’s been fun, and we’ll keep it going and develop even more chemistry as we go and try to keep getting the wins."
"Jordan has come in and is a big body through the middle, and he’s been able to take some pressure off of Eric and put him on the side there and Eric’s going up and down the wing," Dwyer said. "You find them in the zone and you’re not going to push those guys off the puck. If they get it down below the goal line, they’re going to be in there for awhile."
Anton Khudobin: The Hurricanes’ backup goalie saved 19 of the 20 shots he saw, not to mention stopping all three attempts in the shootout. After going winless to start the season, he now has wins in his last two starts (both shootouts) and managed to stay engaged in spite of seeing just four shots in the first period.
"After my first win, I didn’t play for a long time. So I was so pumped today. It’s not because it’s Boston or Vancouver or Detroit. It’s just because I wanted to play more and more. I was like, I wanted to win so badly," Khudobin said. "I’m glad it happened. That’s why my emotions were just all over all of my mind."
Patrick Dwyer: The Hurricanes’ fourth-line forward was part of a line that gave the team a lot of energy, and in just 11 minutes of ice time, he dished out six hits (a team high) and connected on the only shot he took, which was a rebound off of a Jay McClement miss. Peters wants his team to be active around the net, and he was.
Eric Staal: The veteran winger had the game-winner in the shootout, scoring on the Hurricanes’ third attempt. He also was active offensively, taking four shots, and just looks like a different player since the return of his younger brother.