Time for a Hurricanes’ Road Win

The Carolina Hurricanes are tied 3-3 with the Washington Capitals in their best of seven series. Their first-round skirmish in the Stanley Cup Playoffs has been one-sided – the home side, that is. The home team has won each game in this series so far. The Hurricanes would love to disrupt that trend by winning Game 7 in Washington, D.C. Wednesday night.

The nagging question is how do the Hurricanes go about disrupting that trend and winning game 7 on the Capitals’ ice.

Good Time for Hurricanes’ Stars to Shine

It would be helpful if Sebastian Aho, the Hurricanes’ leading goalscorer all season long would get on the scoresheet. If there were ever a time for him to bust out, it would be Wednesday night against the Capitals. During the previous six games, Aho has had one goal and three assists. Wednesday night would be a great time for him to get one or two more playoff goals. It could put the Capitals on their heels to see him get hot.

T.J. Oshie
Carolina Hurricanes’ Sebastian Aho (20), of Finland, and Washington Capitals’ T.J. Oshie (77) chase the puck during the first period of Game 3 of an NHL hockey first-round playoff series in Raleigh, N.C., Monday, April 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

Aho’s linemate Teuvo Teräväinen has two goals and one assist in the playoffs. But, one of those goals was a big difference-maker. As Brian LeBlanc wrote at Canes Country after Monday night’s Hurricanes win, a score at the right time can be crucial to the game’s outcome: “Teuvo Teravainen’s goal 1:56 into the second period was a beauty, tying the game after the Washington Capitals had twice taken the lead in the first…A key goal from the Hurricanes’ key players came at a key time and started a comeback that ended in a 5-2 win in Game 6 in front of yet another standing room only crowd at PNC Arena on Monday.”

This is what the ‘Canes need desperately Wednesday night. A big score by Aho and/or Teräväinen or even Nino Niederreiter at the right time to make the Capitals have to pay more attention to these top line guys who have not been leading the way thus far. There is a dynamic that goes along with the best working together and having success.

The Hurricanes need the Capitals to have to pay close attention to the top guys. So what if someone unexpected scores? The Hurricanes will take it for sure. Check Warren Foegele’s stats to see why the Hurricanes are still in this series. But, scoring at the top brings a dynamic that the Capitals have not had to face much this series and it is needed Wednesday night.

Carolina Hurricanes Nino Niederreiter Sebastian Aho
Carolina Hurricanes Nino Niederreiter and Sebastian Aho (James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports)

After Game 2 which the Capitals won at home 2-0, Hurricanes head coach Rod Brind’Amour said, “….our top guys aren’t on the scoresheet. Theirs are. I feel pretty good that, if we get those guys going – which they have all year – it will give us a better chance to win, that’s for sure.” Game 7 Wednesday night would be a prime time for that “better chance” to materialize, with Aho, Teräväinen or Niederreiter putting the puck into the net.

“Mr. Game 7” Time

Hurricanes captain Justin Williams has earned the nickname, “Mr. Game 7.” For fans of the team, his goal in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final in 2006 versus the Edmonton Oilers to clinch the victory is the most noteworthy of his heroics. Wednesday night would be a good time for Williams to notch another heroic act in his Game 7 belt.

Williams has made a huge difference in the team as its captain. He and Brind’Amour are joined at the hip when it comes to intensity and passion to win. The team has responded to both its coach and captain with a “never give up” attitude.

It’s been said that the Hurricanes are not the biggest, fastest, quickest, or most talented team in the NHL. What they have lacked in those areas they have more than made up for in tenacity and playing until the final horn night in and night out. Credit for this culture change goes to Brind’Amour and Williams.

Regardless of who is the hero against the Capitals, the Hurricanes obviously want to win and advance to play the New York Islanders. Obviously, it would not matter if Foegele continued to set the goal-scoring tone as long as the Hurricanes were able to win. It would not matter if it were Greg McKegg that stepped up and earned three stars. The goal is a victory no matter how it comes on the scoresheet.

But, as Brind’Amour said, if the team can get the top guys going they have a better chance to win. A goal in the first period by Aho followed by a Teräväinen goal and then one by Niederreiter would be a recipe for sweet success in the nation’s capital Wednesday night. Follow it up with a clincher by Williams and call it a series.