By the next time the Carolina Hurricanes play a home game, they’ll know a lot more about themselves than they do now. That’s four games and 14 days from now, thanks as always to the state fair.
What they do know, after taking three points from their first two games and being awfully disappointed that it wasn’t four, is that they’ve got what co-captain Jordan Staal called “sticktoitiveness.” They came back from two goals down to beat the Minnesota Wild on Saturday and scored with 85 seconds left to force overtime against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday.
In neither game did they give up after a backbreaking goal – Minnesota’s tying goal with 0.3 seconds left – or a really bad goal, the first allowed by Scott Darling – Columbus’ opening goal, a near-post stuff by Sonny Milano, with 10 minutes to play – so they have that going for them. Which is nice.
“There’s no quit, no give-up,” Darling said. “We’ve been down in both games and fought back to tie it up. That’s a great attribute to have in a team. We’re not quitters in here.”
Even better would be not falling behind in the first place. But they’re 1-for-8 on the power play, including two minutes Tuesday that should have led to a 2-1 overtime win instead of a 2-1 overtime loss on another Milano goal, seconds after Sebastian Aho misfired at an open net on a three-on-one rush. That was really the difference on Tuesday, and not only in overtime. On a night when open space on the ice was hard to find (and when there was, the puck was bouncing all over the place thanks to the unseasonable humidity), the Hurricanes can’t afford to squander chances with the man advantage.
That’s the No. 1 area for improvement going forward, with more offense in general being area No. 1A. So far, most of the Hurricanes’ offense has been generated by Aho, with his two third-period assists Saturday, or Jeff Skinner, who jumped into the air to knock down a clearing attempt with the Carolina net empty on Tuesday, then walked in on Sergei Bobrovsky and scored the first goal against the Columbus goalie this season.
The Hurricanes have gotten more or less what they expected from the Aho-Staal-Elias Lindholm line and the fourth line of Brock McGinn, Marcus Kruger and Joakim Nordstrom. They need more from the lines centered by Victor Rask and Derek Ryan. Justin Williams has been active but not yet productive, Teuvo Teravainen continues to baffle and Janne Kuokkanen looks like a rookie, which is entirely fair.
It’s too small a sample size to draw any sweeping conclusions – Hurricanes coach Bill Peters acknowledged it’s all “a work in progress” – but the Hurricanes’ resiliency looks like something they can build upon going forward. They’ll find out quickly. Over the next two weeks they’ll go from Manitoba to Alberta to Texas. The schedule’s loose enough that Darling could probably start all four games, but Cam Ward will probably get a look in Calgary or Edmonton, and the Canes will learn something from that as well.
“We’ve got to get playing some games and get some rhythm of that,” Peters said. “That’ll happen when we go out on the trip.”
By the time they’re back home in two weeks to face the Tampa Bay Lightning, this team will have a better sense of what works and what doesn’t. All it knows now is that it doesn’t seem inclined to give up easily when facing adversity, but playing from behind every night is no way to go through a season.
Sports columnist Luke DeCock: 919-829-8947, email@example.com, @LukeDeCock