Painful memories from yesterday in Anaheim
If you could not make the late 10:30pm start time work for your sleep schedule on Wednesday night, it might have been for the better. You can find the recap HERE including notes on the Canes defensive struggles that play heavily into ‘what I’m watching’ below. Put briefly, the Canes again mounted a lead only to implode in the third period and lose in overtime. The game was eerily reminiscent of the 2 West Coast breakdowns to start the season.
I have half written a more detailed post on the Canes current struggles, but when I sort through the wreckage of late, my basic assessment is as follows:
1) The team really misses Jordan Staal especially on the road. Peters was leaning on him to boost a Hainsey/Faulk pairing that looked better on the front part of the road swing but seemingly more because of Jordan Staal’s help than their individual play.
2) We know this because the Hainsey/Faulk pairing has been a sieve especially late in games on the road since Jordan Staal was felled by a concussion. In the 5 road games since Jordan Staal was lost to injury, Justin Faulk is minus 8 bringing his season total on the road to a grueseome minus 17 in 16 games.
3) As good as Nordstrom/McClement/Stalberg has been as a fourth line of late, they were exposed when trying to do the heaving lifting as a top checking line in key situations against top-end competition. McClement was victimized for on 2 of the Ducks’ 3 third period goals and was a minus 3 on the night, as were line mates Nordstrom and Stalberg.
Despite the negative vibe with the way things went down in Anaheim on Wednesday night, it is important to remember that the Hurricanes picked up an important point in the standings. For a road game against a good team and minus arguably their most irreplaceable player, picking up half of a possible 2 points is not a bad things.
‘What I’m watching’ for the Carolina Hurricanes versus the Los Angeles Kings
Against that backdrop, here is ‘what I’m watching’ for Wednesday night:
1) Continuation by Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen
A recurring theme in the Hurricanes road losses in the past 4-5 weeks has been the team’s inability to find enough depth scoring or just scoring in general. Jeff Skinner has contributed but has been suppressed on the road of late. This is actually a normal phenomenon as other teams’ key on him and send their best defenders out to mark him. That situation makes it crucial to find depth scoring on the road. And largely because the Hurricanes had been unable to do so, the team had played 10 road games since October 22 and failed to register more than 2 goals in any of those games. Lost behind the negative end result was a huge burst of scoring of all varieties including 5-on-5 depth scoring. The Canes collected 5 goals from a variety of sources including a power play marker from Teravainen, an even strength marker from Teravainen, an Aho breakaway, a Pesce blast from up top and the usual goal chipped in by the fourth line on a McClement breakaway.
The leaders of the charge were Sebastian Aho and Teravainen. Teravainen was the Hurricanes best player and could easily have had another goal or 2. Sebastian Aho was also right in the middle of the scoring outburst with a sick breakaway finish, an assist on Teravainen’s even strength marker and other good plays.
If I could keep only 1 thing from Wednesday’s game, it would be the play of Teravainen and Aho. They looked every bit the part of a pair of dynamic offensive players and none of the part of players who are young and still figuring it out like other stretches this season. On Thursday night, I will be watching to see if the duo can build on Wednesday’s effort or it was just a 1-game outburst.
2) Bill Peters, duct tape and super glue
Jaccob Slavin had a rare breakdown on Anaheim’s first goal against on Wednesday, but played well otherwise. Brett Pesce would be the other player (to go with Teravainen) who could stake a claim to being the Canes’ best player last night. But the second pairing of Hainsey/Faulk was another story altogether. The theme of Hainsey/Faulk struggling minus the help of Jordan Staal on the road has permeated the majority of what I have posted over the past week. They duo was on the ice for 3 goals against in the third period on Wednesday, and trying to substitute Nordstrom/McClement/Stalberg into Staal’s spot late in the game failed miserably to the tune of 2 of the 3 goals allowed.
The number of problems late in Wednesday’s collapse were many, but one could make a reasonable case that Bill Peters’ attempt to boost the previously fourth line into the role formerly held by Jordan Staal was the biggest tactical contributor sitting below the on-ice collapse. Despite being labled more as offensive players, might the red hot duo of Aho and Teravainen have provided more support for Hainsey/Faulk? Would it have made sense to put someone else besides mobility-challenged McClement between Nordstrom and Stalberg who are generally solid defensively and skate well for the third period when the Ducks pinned their ears back and attacked aggressively?
That is water under the bridge, but I will be watching closely to see what combination adjustments Peters makes to try shore up the porous defense. The coach really gets a chance to earn his money trying to figure out a way to make things work in less than 24 hours.
3) The goalie position
As bad as Ward’s 5 goals against and meager 2 for 4 in the shootout looks, I do not think this is a game that gets pinned on him. Was he great? No. Would it have been wonderful if he could have made 1-2 more big saves to make 5 goals stand up despite the fact that the team was imploding in front of him? Of course. But he was beaten on 2 deflections and a few other chances from right in front of the net, so I while I would hope for better from Ward in his next start, I would not lump his play on Wednesday with his suspect play early in the season.
One question is who will start. With the back-to-back, it would be reasonable to expect backup Michael Leighton to see the ice, but the Hurricanes week is lighter with only 3 games this week followed by a 2-day layoff. That makes it possible that Peters will skip the ‘backup start’ and go back to Ward. Either way, the Canes might need a little of extra in net on the road right now with Staal out of the lineup.
Personally, I would stick to the common script of using the backup in back-to-backs. Leighton was not great in his second start, but he is 1 for 2 in terms of providing quality outings (and his quality start was lights out). Especially with Ward being ‘meh’ on Wednesday, best to keep him fresh and mix things up. That said, I do see this as a game where Peters could buy an extra game with his starter with only a 3-game slate this week before a couple days off.
Get the coffee ready. If you want a suggestion for local, potent coffee option potentially pain-soothing qualities, check out my back and forth with local roaster Larry’s Beans on Twitter.
The puck drops at 10:30pm on Fox Sports Carolinas with John, Tripp and Mike.