NHL Carolina Hurricanes

Carolina Hurricanes’ Rout Of Washington Capitals Not Just Any Win

Geoff Burke – USA Today Sports

It was a huge night for the Carolina Hurricanes and their fans. While they’ve had some marquee wins this season, it’s safe to say none of them have been a bigger rallying point for the entire organization than Tuesday’s domination of the Washington Capitals.

It’s not that it’s the first time Carolina defeated their Metropolitan Division and geographical rival this season. They also took Washington down on October 10 at the Verizon Center. As much of a boost for the team and fans as that might have been, it comes nowhere close to Tuesday night.

The importance of this win is two-fold.  First of all, it was an absolute trouncing. The second period was a killing field for the Capitals. Washington goaltender Braden Holtby was a casualty of the horrors, having been introduced to the bench.

Furthermore, Carolina forward Jeff Skinner finished the night as the First Star, having recorded a pair of goals and an assist. When Skinner is performing well, everyone benefits. Also huge was Jiri Tlusty lighting the lamp. His goal still counted the same on the scoreboard, but for Tlusty — whose name has been thrown around in trade talks – it was a small slice of vindication.

The other benefit from Tuesday’s win is that it came at exactly the right moment. Carolina’s stock has been on the rise in the Eastern Conference, but with trade talks looming and the team not exactly shooting up the standings as expected, blowing a hated rival out of the water serves to solidify the team and makes a statement.

This is something to rally behind. While the losses to the Boston Bruins and dropping the second of two to the New Jersey Devils still sting, Tuesday’s win allows the Hurricanes to walk with their head high and say “we killed Washington.” With something like that in their caps, impossible becomes nothing.

This is not without flaw, however. The win came with backup goalie Justin Peters in net. This brings a cloudy problem to the forefront: what to do with Peters, and what to do about backup goalie Anton Khudobin, who is due to re-join full practices this week? On top of this, is there any confidence lost in starter Cam Ward? While it’s easily a coincidence, does dropping bombs on Washington with Peters in net show a more confident Carolina team than with Ward?

It’s been pointed out that Carolina has yet to come out and dominate an opponent. Most of their wins have been what Fox Sports analyst Tripp Tracy — in a rare moment of coherence — called “reactionary wins.”  That’s to say that Carolina has yet to play their game. They come out, let an opponent do what they do, and then solve that particular puzzle as it happens.

Yet with Peters in net, the Hurricanes came out and told Washington this was how it’s going to be and they need to make their peace with it because it’s going to happen. Coincidence or not, this hasn’t happened with Ward yet. Where that leaves Khudobin is a mystery.

With two more games before the road trip out west that might prove to be the season’s highlight, this is the confidence head coach Kirk Muller needs to foster. Whether that means teaching Ward some humility, or something else — this is the team that needs to show up at Raleigh-Durham International on Sunday.

Michael Peckerar is a Hurricanes writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @peckrants, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.