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Lightning vs. Hurricanes
Tracking the Storm

Canes Go Into Break on High Note

Wednesday, 01.21.2009 / 11:33 AM / Tracking the Storm
By Paul Branecky
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Canes Go Into Break on High Note
It looked bleak for a while, but thanks to back-to-back wins against Toronto and Pittsburgh, the Canes now head into the All-Star break on a positive note.
Paul Branecky
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The team’s most recent three-game road trip, which began with a 3-1 loss in Buffalo before winning the next two, is almost the complete opposite of the disastrous swing only a week earlier that featured blowout losses in Boston and Ottawa. In any case, winning two of three on the road should always be viewed as a success, and if not for the efforts of Buffalo goaltender Ryan Miller in the third period of Saturday night’s game, the Canes could have made it a clean sweep.

There are several aspects of the Canes’ game that improved over the last week, most notably work ethic. The team was constantly the first to loose pucks and won battles all night, particularly in Pittsburgh.

Beyond that obvious yet important facet of their game, credit must also go to the penalty kill. As we’ve been mentioning recently both in this space and on the podcast, it’s quietly been a problem all year and was starting to cost the team games, especially in the loss to Toronto last week. In that game, a late power play goal by Frank Kaberle’s brother Tomas thwarted one of the finest comebacks in recent history for Carolina.

Instead of costing them games, the last two contests are the first I can think of this season that the penalty kill actually won one for the Canes.

With both games very tightly played, the outcome could have been a lot different if Toronto had converted on a lengthy two-man advantage, or if Pittsburgh had made good on their four-minute power play to finish the game last night. The Canes killed 10 of 11 penalties during the trip, responding to some criticism coach Paul Maurice threw their way beforehand.

“At the end of the day, with the guys we have on faceoffs our penalty kill shouldn’t be as bad as it is,” he said after Friday’s tough practice. “We have a very difficult time of getting into shooting lanes right now, and we’re trying to find some pairs that are willing to do that.”

That quote doesn’t include an adjective I can’t repeat here, but it’s the same one he used during his press conference after the Toronto loss, if you happened to see that.

Of course, the cliché is that your best penalty killer is always your goaltender, and the Canes had a good one. Cam Ward stopped 90 of 94 shots on the road, continuing the strong play he’s exhibited for most of his 13 consecutive starts.  I'll also single out Joe Corvo, who was on the ice for a team-high 6:30 while shorthanded against the Penguins.

Now, the Canes (with the exception of Eric Staal) will take a break for one full week, and can hold their heads reasonably high after three solid efforts. The All-Star break is really the only time the players have significant time to get away on their own (Mike Commodore had it listed as his favorite holiday in last year’s media guide), so they should come back refreshed and feeling good about themselves. That especially goes for Scott Walker and Niclas Wallin, who picked up injuries in last night’s game.

The Hurricanes were a different team after last year’s break, posting a 19-9-2 record once they got back to work. They’re in better position now than they were last year (three games above that pace and in playoff position) but they’ll need a run like that again down the stretch.

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STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 TBL 48 30 14 4 156 127 64
2 NYI 46 31 14 1 151 129 63
3 DET 47 27 11 9 139 119 63
4 MTL 45 29 13 3 123 106 61
5 PIT 46 26 12 8 138 117 60
6 NYR 44 27 13 4 134 106 58
7 WSH 46 24 13 9 137 120 57
8 BOS 48 25 16 7 126 121 57
9 FLA 44 20 14 10 107 122 50
10 OTT 46 19 18 9 126 128 47
11 TOR 48 22 23 3 142 150 47
12 PHI 48 19 22 7 130 146 45
13 CBJ 45 20 22 3 113 142 43
14 NJD 47 17 22 8 107 134 42
15 CAR 46 16 25 5 98 120 37
16 BUF 47 14 30 3 89 167 31

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
E. Staal 41 15 13 -8 28
J. Faulk 46 8 18 -14 26
J. Skinner 41 10 9 -7 19
E. Lindholm 46 9 10 -10 19
R. Nash 46 7 12 -4 19
J. Tlusty 39 11 7 -12 18
N. Gerbe 42 4 13 -2 17
V. Rask 46 6 9 -9 15
A. Sekera 44 1 14 -8 15
C. Terry 33 6 3 -3 9
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
A. Khudobin 5 8 2 .916 2.32
C. Ward 11 17 3 .911 2.45