Carolina Brushes off Adversity

The NHL season is as long as any. Add in two three-game win streaks, the third-best points percentage in the league, and Martin Necas with a point in all but one game, and you have a dangerous combination. In this scenario, however, the danger goes both ways. The Hurricanes could be in danger of becoming complacent. We’ve seen how the Tampa Bay Lightning, an unbeatable hockey machine during a historic regular season, stalled and were swept by the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2019. That’s why Sebastian Aho’s shootout winner felt so sweet, as the Hurricanes were thrown a full nine innings of adversity and then some more in extras, hanging on to defeat the Lightning in an identity win.

You can’t be prepared to face adversity in the playoffs if you haven’t had any for long stretches! By all means, this is a game Carolina deserved to have. While the Lightning played without star defenseman Victor Hedman, Carolina cast 55 shots on net, dominated the face-off dot at 61.8%, and got the first goal. A textbook formula for a win, to be sure, but Andrei Vasilevskiy offered a superhuman effort, stopping 52 shots en route to a first star-worthy performance.

Even then, Jordan Staal found himself facing an empty net with 3:04 left in the third period but came up empty. Even then, Carolina had a power play in overtime and was stymied. Tampa Bay refused to go down. After six rounds, Sebastian Aho finally found the shootout winner, Carolina took the extra point and a group of relieved Canes spilled on the ice to congratulate Aho and Frederik Andersen. Since then, Carolina has beaten Buffalo and endured a 3-1 loss to the Maple Leafs. However, they remain at the forefront of the Metro division, sitting just one point back of the New Jersey Devils.

Sebastian Aho’s sixth-round shootout tally was the last straw for Andrei Vasilevskiy and the Lightning.

Florida, Edmonton, and Colorado await the Hurricanes in their next three games, following that, a meeting with a Chicago team that’s performing far better than previously expected and a second game against the Avalanche. This could be a tough stretch, but it’s important to remember that for a team like Carolina, the regular season is nothing more than a tune-up for when it really matters. The statistical record matters less (even though it’s looking phenomenal) than the battles the Hurricanes overcome along the way. The Tampa Bay game is an indicator of a strong level of compete from start to finish. Learning these skills now will take this team on a long run when the playoffs roll around.

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