Today’s Daily Cup of Joe has a short collection of random Canes notes.
More than anything, I think Sebastian Aho’s slow start was a combination of just that a slow start combined with some amount of poor puck luck. He was not great but also did not seem to get a bounce or any help with someone finishing a couple of the plays he made. But I also think there is an element of teams adjusting. Since moving to center, Aho has never really had a Crosby or MacKinnon type of ability to push right into and through the teeth of the defense. With the puck on his stick on the rush, Aho’s go-to is to make time and space for himself either by pulling up just inside the blue line or more commonly using his speed to go outside and often all the way around the net to give himself time and space to make a play. Not expecting him to try to beat them to the inside, more mobile defenders are beginning to cheat to the outside forcing him even wider and often taking away his ability to beat them all the way to the wall and around the net. The result is that Aho is oftentimes finding a bit less time and space when he pushes outside and is often limited to his original side of the ice. Though it might not ever be his bread and butter, I think Aho needs to start mixing in more attempts to beat defensemen to the middle of the face-off circles. Even if it is not overly productive, it should have the effect of adding some amount of unpredictability to defending him off the rush and also keep defensemen honest.
Since bursting onto the NHL scene with a lights out preseason before the 2018-19 season, Warren Foegele’s play has been up and down, especially with regard to offensive production. He won his NHL roster spot with that strong preseason and carried it into the regular season for a few games. Then the offensive part of his game seemed to go dormant for the majority of the 2018-19 season. He then seemed to rise up in March and arguably was in my opinion the single biggest difference-maker in turning the Capitals series positive with his play in games three and four. One might look at Foegele’s ups and downs and chalk them up to his age and experience level. Though that explanation could be viable, I think more likely is that Foegele much more easily finds his highest gear with a boost from pressure. He started preseason last year very much on the outside looking in for an NHL roster spot and pressure to excel to start the season at the NHL level. Then inside the 2018-19 NHL season, he played his best hockey late in the season when the Hurricanes were basically playing playoff games. Then finally, he played his best of all in the actual playoffs. The theory fits with pre-professional career where he won the playoffs MVP in Canadian juniors. On the one hand, having a player who has a higher gear when the chips re down is a positive. But the challenge is figuring out how to find something close to that highest gear over the long haul of an 82-game regular season.
Jaccob Slavin and Dougie Hamilton
Dougie Hamilton has been the team’s best offensive player through 14 games despite being a defenseman. The duo combined for six assists in Friday’s wild win over the Red Wings. Buried beneath the goodness of offensive production right now is a short run of lesser play defensively. In addition to the positives on the offensive of the puck, the duo surprisingly struggled defensively in that game when Detroit opened things up. One of the Red Wings’ goals saw Hamilton try to challenge the puck in the defensive zone and the player to then also get behind Slavin for a grade A scoring chance and goal against. The Hischier goal on Saturday saw a complete rarity in Slavin getting completely worked over trying to defend 1-on-1. And Hamilton (along with goalie James Reimer) played a role in the turnover that led to Subban’s game-winner. The duo has been on the ice for six goals against (out of eight total) over the past two games. The trend is a short one that will hopefully correct quickly, but I still think is worth watching. In 2018-19, Slavin/Hamilton started fast out of the gate, but at about this point in the season, the pairing struggled. Slavin seemed to get dragged down by Hamilton’s struggles, and Hamilton was ultimately demoted to the third pairing. The two were later reunited and finished the season strong, but only after a rough patch great enough to separate them in November.
What say you Canes fans?
1) What are your thoughts on my three rounds of observations/speculations?
2) Who else has random Canes notes to add?