Carolina Hurricanes head coach Bill Peters jostled up his team’s lineup Saturday night in preparation for the visiting Montreal Canadiens. It was effective as the ‘Canes beat the Habs 3-2 in a hard-fought battle against the Atlantic Division leader.
Sent down to the Charlotte Checkers was defenseman Ryan Murphy, who had just been recalled from Charlotte last week after a concussion rehab stint. The Murphy move was somewhat surprising in that much ado was made about his return to the Hurricanes.
Executive Vice-President/General Manager of the ‘Canes announced the move late Friday December 4. Recalled from Charlotte were defenseman Jacob Slavin, and forwards Brock McGinn and Phil Di Giuseppe. Di Giuseppe would be making his NHL debut against the Canadiens.
Slavin has one assist in his six NHL games played for Carolina. He earned the assist on November 30 against the New York Rangers. McGinn has three points in 12 games with the ‘Canes this season, two goals and one assist. Both Slavin and McGinn are 21, and Di Giuseppe is 22.
Jostling a Must
Peters was visibly upset after Thursday’s horrendous outing in a 5-1 loss to the visiting New Jersey Devils. The team showed no compete whatsoever, putting on the ice an unacceptable display of lackluster effort. As I wrote in my most recent article, “Eric Staal Imploding Contract” a caller to Mike Maniscalco’s Aftermath post-game show said that he had been a Hurricanes season ticket holder for 14 years and that the team’s performance was the worst he had ever seen. The caller said, “It was pathetic.” I think had Peters been hosting the post-game show he would have readily agreed.
In fact, Peters said after the game, “I don’t think we were engaged emotionally in the game.” Team captain Eric Staal also accurately summed the game up saying, “We just didn’t have enough compete.” I have questioned for over a year how professional athletes can come out and lack energy, motivation and the desire to compete. Maybe a guy can have an occasional off night for a variety of reasons, but an entire team playing with no heart is inexcusable. Peters apparently agrees.
On Saturday Chip Alexander of the Raleigh News & Observer wrote that Peters said after the morning skate, “To the individual, to the team, to the organization, everybody. We need more, we need better. We need better and more consistent compete and we’re going to look for ways to find it and be solution-based.” Continuing that theme prior to the game Peters said he was looking for “youthful exuberance.”
Whether it was youthful exuberance or Staal continuing the passionate play he found in the third period against the Devils, the Hurricanes played one of their most competitive games I have seen all season. In beating the Habs 3-2, to a man they played hard for 60 minutes, something that they are capable of, and that needs to become the norm for this hockey club.
Peters like what he saw out of the “young guns” and after game said they’d be on the ice Sunday as well against the visiting Arizona Coyotes:
Peters did not rule out lineup changes for the #Canes Sunday, but he said the young guys brought up would stay in.
— Carolina Hurricanes (@Canes) December 6, 2015
Someone said recently that the ‘Canes are not going to “out-talent” other teams, so they need to work harder. And work harder they did against the Habs. Hurricanes goalie Cam Ward put on an outstanding performance, stopping 36 of 38 shots from a Canadiens team that was relentless from the opening draw.
Ward stopped a fierce shot in the third period from Alex Galchenyuk and lost his mask in the process:
Compared to some of the outing that both Ward and Staal have had this season, both of them played well against the Habs, with the ability that we know they have, and with the heart and determination they need.
Andrej Nestrasil had two assists against Montreal and Joakim Nordstrom scored his first goal of the season. These are two more younger players that the Hurricanes have on their roster with whom they can build.
The other bright spot for the Hurricanes was another “young gun” Jeff Skinner, not only scoring, but scoring twice against the Canadiens. “Skinny” has been in a dry spell this season, but against the Habs he was attacking the net and it paid off nicely for him and for the ‘Canes. In the first period he tied the game up at one with this nice shot that went past Canadiens goalie Mike Condon:
Skinner has the skills to score with the elite players of the NHL. If he can find his what’s been missing this season, the ‘Canes will be a much improved team. Once again in the third he was in the right place in front of the net, this time after making a great pass off the draw and netted a power play goal that proved to be the game winner.
— NHL (@NHL) December 6, 2015
The real test for Carolina will be in maintaining the high level of intensity that they had against Montreal when they play a team next that is struggling as they have been in the Coyotes. Peters may have found a solution in the “youthful exuberance.” His jostling was effective against the Habs. It would be nice if he could roll with these guys for a while and really build some team chemistry. We will see.
Mark lives in the Raleigh, NC area and covers the Carolina Hurricanes.