If the Hurricanes were going to have a bad game, last night's matchup against the San Jose Sharks would have been a solid bet. After all, the Sharks are one of the best teams in the Western Conference while the Canes have been treading water in the lowly Metropolitan Division. San Jose is also a top-ten team in terms of possession, goal differential, goals per game, goals allowed per game and shots per game. In addition to that, they have been a very good road club this year, earning points in 12 out of 15 games, and matched up favorably with the Hurricanes on paper. Carolina may have came into this game winning two straight, but San Jose is much stronger team than either Washington or Nashville and has enough forward depth to give the Hurricanes fits even at home.
When taking that and the Hurricanes struggles against other good possession clubs, San Jose should have been able to throttle Carolina, especially at even strength. Hockey can be an unpredictable game, though and we saw an example of that last night as the Hurricanes defeated San Jose 5-3. Not only that, but the Hurricanes also outplayed and outworked the Sharks and looked more like the club we expected to see last season. This is a team that has been grossly under-performing their expectations for the last nine months (both in terms of wins and underlying numbers) but they seemed to have found a groove over the last week and are playing more up to their standards, last night's game possibly being their most impressive game to date.
Some might disagree with that last statement because they fell down 2-0 early but even then, I don't think they ever let San Jose take over the game. Carolina had control of the play for most of the first period, were creating chances and winning most of the battles for the puck, but found themselves trailing by two goals thanks to a bad turnover and a deflection. Mistakes like that can throw off a team's game plan, but the Hurricanes didn't seem to shell-shocked by this and were able to slowly mount a comeback and get their reward in the third period, scoring four goals and going on to win 5-3.
I've talked about the fight that this team has shown in them all season, but that will only take you so far if you don't have skill, talent and finish to back it up. All of this has been absent for the majority of the year and we are starting to see it come to life over the last three games. What has changed during then? The roster has gone through some shuffling due to injuries, but I think some credit should go to the coaching staff for making some lineup tweaks that have really worked in the team's favor. The new first line of Tuomo Ruutu, Eric Staal & Jeff Skinner really gave the Canes offense a jolt in the Washington & Nashville games and last night, it was the new "second" line of Jordan Staal, Elias Lindholm & Nathan Gerbe that led the way for Carolina.no comments