Over the course of a playoff series, there will almost always be ups and downs, and winning usually requires different players taking turns making plays that decide games. So by no means is a single game a point at which it is fair to do deep evaluations on players whether they had a tremendous first game or a lesser one. In total the Hurricanes were very good and deserved the first win on Monday, but as I said closing out my game recap, there is still room for improvement. In that vein, today’s Daily Cup of Joe offers quick hitters on ‘keep’ or ‘improve’ from Monday.
The fourth line
At a basic level, the team hopes to keep nearly everything from the two more physical forward lines. The fourth line was incredibly good both fulfilling an important role matching the challenge physically, but at the same time they were incredibly productive too. Steven Lorentz and Jordan Martinook were both on the ice with Lorentz picking up an assist with only a partial line change for Teuvo Teravainen’s goal that broke the ice. The line also drew three penalties during the game. The trio was also front and center in matching Nashville physically without getting distracted or sidetracked with unnecessary extracurriculars.
Jordan Staal’s line
Jordan Staal was a beast. The goals stand out but more impressive was his work winning/keeping pucks on the walls in the rugged areas of the playoffs. Warren Foegele was easily a Robin to Staal’s Batman. And Jesper Fast was his usual steady self. Staal’s line also played significant roles in both matching or bettering Nashville’s physical play and also posting goals on the score sheet.
Amidst flashier headlines, I think the biggest underlying story of the game was the Canes’ team defense. Svechnikov ‘oopsed’ a bit on the Forsberg goal, but to the best of my memory the Hurricanes did not allow a true odd man rush all game. (Someone holler if I forgot one.) And the team did a great job collapsing to the net when needed and clearing pucks when Nedeljkovic was a bit shaky with rebound control in the first half of the game.
Secondary scoring from Trocheck’s line and a goal from Niederreiter
Vincent Trocheck’s line was not particularly dominant or noticeable throughout the game, but Nino Niederreiter’s game-winning goal in the third period on a pretty Martin Necas’ feed was obviously critical to winning. With the emergence of Vincent Trocheck, the Hurricanes were finally two (or even three) lines deep scoring-wise. Maintaining that in the playoffs will be critical especially against opponents that have strong shutdown defensive groups and deep scoring. So far so good in terms of getting that needed production from a second scoring line.
Strong play from the blue line
The foundation of the Canes rise up into the 2019 NHL Playoffs and two series wins was the team’s strength and depth on the blue line. With help from forwards who committed to being the third or fourth back to help defend, the blue line gave up almost nothing off the rush and very little in general. Brett Pesce probably took top honors, but the group in total was solid to start the playoffs.
The power play
I did not think the power play was horrible despite going 0 for 4. The peak crispness from when the power play was flying during the middle of the regular season is still not there, but Monday’s effort was at least a mixed bag. Especially early in the game, the power play showed a propensity to shoot the puck when given the opportunity which is a good starting point or breaking through. So Monday’s power offers both reason for hope but also the need to re-find a higher gear.
Rebound control from Alex Nedeljkovic
In a results business at a time of year when results are even more important, Alex Nedeljkovic had a great NHL playoff debut. And his two goals against on 24 shots is also on target. But Monday’s win was one where the team also helped him out maybe a bit more than desirable. In the first half of the game Nedeljkovic left rebounds laying in the blue paint four times along the way to giving up two goals on 13 shots. Had the Canes defensemen not found the loose pucks first, the Canes could have been down two or three goals early which could have greatly changed the complexion of the game. But especially in the playoffs, it is not always going to be pretty or perfect. Some amount of scratching and clawing to get a win is to be expected. So with a game and a win under his belt, I would look for Nedeljkovic to be a bit tidier with rebound control going forward.
What say you Canes fans?
1) Do you have anything that you would add to my keep/improve lists for the Hurricanes coming out of game one?
2) Who has other ‘keeps’ or ‘improves’ that you would add to my lists?
3) Which of the ‘keeps’ do you think is most significant? Which of the ‘improves’ do you think is most significant?