Carolina Hurricanes: Three takeaways from win over Stars

RALEIGH, NC - FEBRUARY 16: Petr Mrazek #34 of the Carolina Hurricanes goes down in the crease to protect the net as Justin Faulk #27 defends against Tyler Seguin #91 of the Dallas Stars during an NHL game on February 16, 2019 at PNC Arena in Raleigh, North Carolina. (Photo by Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images)
RALEIGH, NC - FEBRUARY 16: Petr Mrazek #34 of the Carolina Hurricanes goes down in the crease to protect the net as Justin Faulk #27 defends against Tyler Seguin #91 of the Dallas Stars during an NHL game on February 16, 2019 at PNC Arena in Raleigh, North Carolina. (Photo by Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images) /

The Carolina Hurricanes capped off the second game of their back-to-back with another win, shutting out the Dallas Stars and putting themselves in a playoff spot for the time being.

The Carolina Hurricanes challenged themselves to something on Saturday night as they took the ice against the Dallas Stars. They challenged themselves to do the same thing they did the night before, but to do it better. They met that challenge a little too well. Here are our three takeaways from the win that put this team in a playoff spot for the first time since October!

1. If it works, don’t fix it

The Carolina Hurricanes played an almost exact carbon copy of the Edmonton game, except for one little tidbit: the Dallas Stars never found the back of our net, giving Petr Mrazek his third shutout of the season. For the second night in a row, a Canes goalie was awarded first star of the game as the crowd howled his name.

Just like the previous night, it didn’t take long for the first goal of the night to be netted in Carolina’s favor. And just like the game against Edmonton, there was some beautiful passing from Sebastian Aho that led to the lights going off and the crowd going nuts. This time it was the Captain, Justin Williams, who was on the receiving end of the pass from Aho and who didn’t skip a beat as he fired the one-timer past former Canes goalie Anton Khudobin:

This time, the Dallas Stars did not find an answer to that goal. And only a few minutes later the Carolina Hurricanes would find themselves up yet another goal as they kept the forecheck pushing hot and heavy. Justin Faulk collected a puck at the blue line, keeping it in the zone excellently and found Brock McGinn wandering on his own in front of Khudobin. It was a beautiful pass and an excellent finish from the Carolina Hurricanes’ Mr 110%.

As the Stars defense started to close in on McGinn, he did the only thing he could from that position, he backhanded it. His relationship with the posts must have soured, because he managed not to hit any of them for a perfect shot past Khudobin. Again the Carolina Hurricanes found themselves ahead of the opposition early in the first period.

2. Shutdown defense

Yet again the Carolina Hurricanes held the line for the rest of the game with only true danger chances given to the Dallas Stars. Every one of those chances was shut down by Petr Mrazek, who never appeared to be out of position at any time of the game. The one time the Stars were patient enough to try and outmaneuver Mrazek, the defense were on them like flies. Calvin de Haan had an excellent blocked shot on that attempt while Mrazek was low to the ice.

Brett Pesce delivered another outstanding performance as he, Jaccob Slavin, and Trevor Van Riemsdyk ensured that the rested Dallas offense could not take advantage of the gassed Carolina Hurricanes backcheck. Mrazek held the final line of defense as he brought fire and passion to the net that played beautifully to the opposite side of the spectrum from Curtis McElhinney‘s ice cold, calm, white wolf demeanour. Nothing was going to get past him on last night, and he knew it:

Mrazek managed to stop all 30 shots seen to complete his 17th career shutout win, and his second shutout in three games. Hockey analysts have always joked that no team can truly have two starting goaltenders, but the Carolina Hurricanes do. There is no easy night for opponents against this duo. In the last 10 games the Canes’ goaltending tandem has allowed only 18 goals for a 1.80 GAA. If you remove the Calgary and Buffalo games, that makes it only nine goals in eight games for a 1.13 GAA. There were also THREE shutouts in that time period. This is playoff goaltending, and it couldn’t have come at a better time.

3. Team that has fun together, wins together

Not only is the Canes’ goaltending playoff-worthy, but the way this team stands up for each other and enjoys each other’s company is playoff-worthy. Between the storm surges that are repeatedly annoying the old heads of hockey like Brian Burke or Don Cherry (who really have no room to talk between the hair, ties, and suits), and the way they party hard after each win or suffer Rod’s wrath together after each loss, this team is a single cohesive unit. Just watch Justin Faulk’s interview from last night where you can hear the music coming out of the weight room:

That’s a team that knows how to have fun and ignore the pundits. They don’t care about the standings – they just want to win. And they are winning. Winning all types of games. Games they have no business winning. Games that have historically gone the wrong way. Games that they would have been forgiven for losing. These Carolina Hurricanes do not care for such nonsense. They just want to win. If they keep this up, they will be enjoying playoff hockey sooner rather than later. After last night’s showing, they have given no indication of slowing down.

Even the recent losses have been great showings by the team. Of their last five losses, only two have come with a goal differential higher than one. Those came back-to-back against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden and the Senators at home, their lone regulation loss wearing the black sweaters. That’s a time period they have probably washed away, as since then the Canes have been on two road trips where they have taken at least 80% of the points. For now, they will continue to pump out early 2000s classics in the weight room after they celebrate on the ice.

3. 109. 0. 119. Final

The next game is a chance to win the series against the New York Rangers, a feat not accomplished in almost a decade. That will be followed up by a short road trip south between the sunny swamps of Florida and the desert ranges of Texas. A couple more wins there can, and will, cement their ability to stay in a playoff spot and end the team’s playoff drought that has almost lasted a full decade.

I can see this being a team no-one wants to play in the playoffs. There are no weak links here. Not in goaltending. No longer in goalscoring, even though a bit of trade deadline help is always appreciated. And definitely no weak links on defense. If this team makes it to summer hockey, it will go far. The return to playoff hockey in the Tar Heel State is imminent.

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Question for CC Readers: 

If we had to re-sign only one goalie for next year to start while Alex Nedeljkovic backs them up, who would you choose?