Carolina Hurricanes: Battling hard in midst of playoff push

CALGARY, AB - JANUARY 22: The Carolina Hurricane celebrate after a goal against the Calgary Flames at Scotiabank Saddledome on January 22, 2019 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Terence Leung/NHLI via Getty Images)
CALGARY, AB - JANUARY 22: The Carolina Hurricane celebrate after a goal against the Calgary Flames at Scotiabank Saddledome on January 22, 2019 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Terence Leung/NHLI via Getty Images) /

The Carolina Hurricanes broke more hearts last night, battling to force the Calgary Flames to overtime and then collapsing mere seconds into 3-on-3 hockey. Tonight, they have a chance to put the full two points on the board against the Vancouver Canucks.

Rarely does an overtime loss both hurt and feel good at the same time, but that’s what we’re experiencing today. The Carolina Hurricanes were defeated by the Calgary Flames in overtime last night, the 3-2 scoreline showing just how much character and heart the Canes have in taking a theoretically superior team to the extra frame. We can take great heart from the players’ efforts, and look forward to a matchup tonight against a team that loves to concede goals nearly as much as the Carolina Hurricanes do.

Here are our three takeaways from last night’s defeat:

1. Perhaps we shouldn’t wait until the deadline to trade Micheal Ferland

If ever there was a Carolina Hurricanes-type thing that could occur, it would be their prime UFA rental trade chip to pick up an injury just before the trade deadline that would preclude the Canes from maximizing the return on any trade. Micheal Ferland left the game last night midway through the second period, and did not return; this after missing the Canes’ previous game with an ‘upper-body injury’.

Perhaps I’m being a nervous nellie, but we have seen Ferland miss games earlier in the season, and now four-and-a-half periods over the last two games. Can we really afford to risk Ferland picking up another injury and devaluing his return? It may be best if the Canes trade Ferland now, rather than risk getting less in return.

On the plus side, Coach Rod confirmed it’s not a concussion. Unless you can tweak your brain somehow:

2. Perhaps we shouldn’t wait until the end of the season to re-sign Sebastian Aho

After the announcement of Teuvo Teravainen‘s contract extension earlier in the week, fans of the Carolina Hurricanes were left hoping that the team’s leading scorer, Sebastian Aho, would also sign a contract extension. However, there’s been no public word on how negotiations are progressing since Chip Alexander wrote about progress back in October.

Allowing Aho to get to the end of the season without a contract extension in place is dangerous. With every game that passes, he grows in stature; he is the main threat on this roster, and last night’s game-tying goal with 44 seconds left in the game showed why we need to keep him long-term. The longer this negotiation is left, the more expensive it will be. Don Waddell would be best-served by making a concerted effort to re-sign Aho upon his return from his first NHL All-Star Game appearance, with an offer that leaves him in a can’t-say-no-position. It’s better to pay the man $7m now, than $8m in the summer.

3. Petr Mrazek’s stats lied

They say that there are lies, damn lies, and statistics. Petr Mrazek‘s save percentage from last night’s game isn’t pretty – .880%. That’s downright awful in today’s NHL, but what that save percentage doesn’t tell you is that Mrazek made several key saves, and is the reason the game was a one-goal game that late in the third period. The casual fan might look at last night’s box score and wonder where the Canes’ strong goaltending has disappeared to – but allow me to reassure you, Mrazek was strong last night. Mike Maniscalco would tell you the same thing:

3. 112. 2. 109. Final

Defeat not an option against Canucks

The Carolina Hurricanes now move on to face the Calgary Flames’ rivals in the Pacific Division, the Vancouver Canucks. The Canucks have the runaway Calder Trophy favorite Elias Pettersson leading their playoff charge, and have excellent scoring options in Bo Horvat and Brock Boeser. However, their defense is flaky at the best of times, and their goaltending can be suspect, and so if ever there was a game to win, it is tonight. Coach Rod knows it too – time is slowly but surely beginning to run out:

"“The positive is you came in here against one of the best teams, and in my opinion, we could have had that game. I think anyone would say it was a pretty good effort. The hard part is going to be picking the guys up, and then you have to go play a team that’s been sitting there in the same boat like us, scrapping to try to make the playoffs. It’s not going to be easy, but we’ll see. Our group has been pretty resilient all year.”"

The Canucks have points in five straight games (3-0-2) and are on a high after Pettersson’s return from his second injury of the season. History is on the Canes’ side however, as the reverse matchup earlier in the season saw the Canes triumph 5-3 thanks to a goal and an assist from Aho. The Canucks’ defense relies heavily on veterans Alex Edler and Chris Tanev but after that, their blueline is error-prone. Erik Gudbranson and Derrick Pouliot are wildly unpopular amongst Canucks fans, and Troy Stecher and Ben Hutton are not entirely infallible. This is the perfect game for Aho, Turbo, El Nino and Svech to get on the scoresheet.

Next. Comparisons for Teuvo Teravainen's extension. dark

With just one game left before the All-Star Game break, the Carolina Hurricanes sit six points out of a wildcard spot. A win now, with results going the Canes’ way, would vault the team into serious contention. A loss with results going the other way, and that would almost certainly sink our playoff hopes.

This is a big game for the Canes. We may see Alex Nedeljkovic in net tonight, after Mrazek’s start last night, and we may also be missing Micheal Ferland – but either way, we’ll be keen to win the game, and will do so. After all, we need to do better in our back-to-back games than we have over the last season and a half.

Prediction: Hurricanes 4-3 Canucks