It is said that the NHL playoffs are a war of attrition. Not sure if there is a verb for attrition, but the Hurricanes have definitely been ‘attritted’.
The team has been without Andrei Svechnikov and Micheal Ferland since early in the Capitals series. Jordan Martinook also missed games in the Capitals series before gutting out games 6 and 7.
Sunday’s win brought another sizable batch of casualties. Trevor van Riemsdyk was virtually run through the boards on a clean check, left and did not return. Petr Mrazek seemed to tweak something in a leg or groin area and left slamming his stick. And Saku Maenalanen suffered an injury that also caused him to leave the game not to return.
In total, the Hurricanes were down six players at the end of Sunday’s game.
Today’s Daily Cup of Joe counts the casualties and assesses the lineup heading into Wednesday’s game.
Petr Mrazek has been playing well, and reinserting Curtis McElhinney after a long layoff has its risks. But McElhinney playing well and at least holding his own in non-standard action entering the game midway through it suggests that he could be ready to take the reins. Not long ago at all, the two goalies were both part of the winning equation, so it is not unreasonable to think that McElhinney can again rise to the forefront with no change in the team’s trajectory. This might sound odd, but I am not overly concerned about the goaltending. In addition, the way Mrazek left on his own after seemingly trying to play through it suggests that his injury could just be a minor tweak that needs a few days.
Upshot=> I think it will take the next game to gather enough information to make a call, but I generally like McElhinney’s chances to again be part of the goalie tandem.
Sara Civian from The Athletic Tweeted this about Trevor van Riemsdyk’s injury
TvR isn’t coming back “anytime soon” …no update on the others
— Sara Civ (@SaraCivian) April 28, 2019
As a #6 defenseman, the loss of Trevor van Riemsdyk could seem minor, but I think that misses how well he has played thus far in the playoffs. He has been as steady as the top 4 defensemen. Through eight playoff games, van Riemsdyk had been pretty close to flawless in terms of puck management and avoiding costly mistakes. The positive for the Hurricanes is that they really have five top 4 defensemen, so that makes it easier to fill the bottom pairing regardless of who the second defensemen. But there is a significant gap between van Riemsdyk and Fleury. Even during regular season play, Fleury just has not looked comfortable playing with the puck on his stick which leads to a high volume of ‘safe turnovers’ where he chips the puck forward to avoid problems but at least in some cases would be better-served seeking ways to gain an advantage in transition or at least move the puck up the rink with possession.
The other issue is depth if the Hurricanes suffer another injury.. Jake Bean has had a strong season in the AHL, but whether or not he is capable of parachuting into NHL playoff competition is an unknown. Trevor Carrick or one of the other veteran AHLers could be an option too. But more likely than not, Brind’Amour will prefer to mostly go with five defensemen and pick spots for 6-9 minutes with the sixth defenseman whether that is Fleury or someone else. The question is whether that is viable long-term. Jaccob Slavin seems to have a Joni Pitkanen-like ability to just play as many minutes as needed and Faulk and Pesce have regularly been up in the 22-24-minute range even with a full roster. So maybe it is possible to get by with five defensemen for the most part.
Upshot=> I think van Riemsdyk is a bigger loss than many would expect. His injury also leaves the team thin on reinforcements.
As I said on Twitter, the Hurricanes have already used 16 forwards after only nine playoff games. Fortunately, the forward position could become a bit of a revolving door over the next few days. Andrei Svechnikov has seemingly been close to ready for three games now but still ends up on an exercise back each game day. He is cleared for contact and seemingly a coach’s decision at this point, so I think the chances are good that he plays Wednesday.
Jordan Martinook could also return Wednesday. Based on the pad/strap he had on during one of the post-game videos in the locker room, he seems to have some kind of lower body muscle strain, i.e. a groin, hamstring or maybe lower abdominal muscle. His reappearance for games 6 and 7 versus the Capitals seems to suggest that his availability is just a matter of if the level of pain he can play through. The biggest news on Martinook was that he took the pre-game skate on Sunday which would suggest that he was a game time decision. If that is the case, then being ready in three more days seems reasonably possible.
Micheal Ferland’s situation is less certain. He stayed in Raleigh for the just completed three-game road trip. That would suggest that he was not a possibility to return yet. The question is how close he is to ready.
Svechnikov or Ferland would be a big addition as both have much higher-end scoring potential than the current replacements.
Clark Bishop is light offensively, but stylistically I think he is a great fit for what Brind’Amour wants to do. Patrick Brown is sound in terms of decision-making, but he just not have the ideal speed and more importantly acceleration to be a disruptive force on the forecheck.
I think ideally, the Hurricanes get two players back and can bump Brown back to the AHL and add decent NHL scoring experience in the proces.
Upshot=> To avoid becoming too thin at forward, the Hurricanes need to get some combination of Svechnikov, Ferland or Martinook back.
What say you Canes fans?
1) How likely is it that Curtis McElhinney will just pick up from his main role in 2018-19 as a regular part of a tandem?
2) On defense, will Brind’Amour mostly just go with five defensemen? Or is it possible that Fleury earns more trust and takes on a bigger role?
3) Of the call up forwards, who do you like best? How many players do you think the Hurricanes need to be close to full strength?