Canes’ Aho” “We need to find way”
Wins matter more to Sebastian Aho than his stats.
If the Carolina Hurricanes can win without their All-Star center scoring, he’s fine with that. But if they can’t, and Aho’s production has dipped in the past few weeks, then the 21-year-old center understands the correlation.
“That’s kind of a tricky one,” Aho said. “When you win, that’s all that matters. When you lose, you have to look in the mirror and see where you can be better.”
Aho is taking a long look after the Hurricanes dropped the first two games of their first round Stanley Cup playoff series with the Washington Capitals. The Canes return home on Monday night looking to win Game 3, their first playoff home game since 2009.
Aho, the team’s top scorer during the regular season with career-highs in goals (30), assists (53) and points (83), is hoping his goal in Saturday’s Game 2 loss will jump-start his production and the team. It was his first goal since March 9, a span of 16 games.
“I hope so,” Aho said. “I think it’s good for the confidence but it’s all about wins this time of the year and we haven’t won. We have to find a way to get those wins.”
The Canes were winning down the stretch of the regular season without Aho scoring. He didn’t score a goal in the final 14 games of the regular (although he did have six assists) and the Canes went 9-5-0 to get into the playoffs.
It has been a collective effort all season for the Canes, rather than relying on one star, but the flashy but slightly undersized Finn (6-foot-0, 176 pounds) has been the team’s best player. In the playoffs, that hasn’t been the case.
As the old saying goes, your best players have to be your best players. That has been the case for Washington. Star center Alex Ovechkin, the NHL’s leading goal-scorer during the season, and his top linemate, Nicklas Backstrom, have shone in the first two games. Ovechkin has a goal and two assists while Backstrom has three goals and an assist.
Aho says he doesn’t look at it as a personal matchup between him and Ovechkin but he understands what Washington’s top line has been able to do through two games.
“You can’t really think about it too much but, for sure, their top line has been better than ours,” Aho said.
Canes coach Rod Brind’Amour noted his team’s top two lines, not just Aho’s, needs to do more to get back in the series.
“They need to be better, that’s for sure,” Brind’Amour said of the top two lines. “That’s obvious. Whether they were scoring or not, I’d be saying that because they’re not getting the chances, they’re creating enough and they’re giving up too much. So that’s not a good recipe.”
Aho spent much of the season with Teuvo Teravainen on his wing. Brind’Amour broke up Finns down the stretch to try to get more scoring balance. Teravainen was second on the team with 76 points during the regular season and led the Canes with 55 assists.
Aho has been playing with captain Justin Williams on his right wing and Nino Niederreiter on the left side while Teravainen has been on a line with Jordan Staal and Micheal Ferland.
Brind’Amour has hinted at making some combination changes — Teravainen was back on Aho’s wing in warmups Saturday, but only in warmups — but remains confident in his top six forwards.
“Those guys have found a way all year to figure it out,” Brind’Amour said. “Whether we change the lines or whether we do something a little different to spark something, we’ll see. Our top guys, obviously, they’ve got to show up. Otherwise, it’s going to be real, real tough.”