I said following the Islanders win that it took a win to make Thursday’s solid effort count. With a loss Friday, it would just have been a split of 2 games with a somewhat backward order. But instead with a solid 3-2 against Colorado at home on Friday, the Canes pushed to 3 consecutive wins and also to within 1 win of break even on the season.
To say that things are going well right now is an understatement especially when you consider the groundswell or things that are going well:
- Cam Ward is playing solid in net game in and game out and giving the team a chance on nights it does not deserve it (like shutout win in Colorado last week) and a positional advantage on most other nights.
- Since Brett Pesce was inserted into the lineup the defense has tightened up, and the team is giving its goaltender manageable games.
- The compete level has been both consistent and high.
- The contributions are starting to come from across the roster.
Player and other notes:
He deserves credit for his unconventional move to start the backup goalie in the first of the back-to-back against probably the stronger team offensively. The Canes emerge from this back-to-back set with 2 wins, with Eddie Lack back on track and with Ward still in a groove. I am not sure what else one could ask for.
Hiding behind a bunch of more headline-worthy story lines is my favorite thing about the current run. It is a small sample size, but the Carolina Hurricanes are starting to score goals because of screens on a regular basis.
- Ron Hainsey’s goal in Detroit was on a perfect Chris Terry screen that turned a harmless shot into a goal.
- Tonight Eric Staal fought and defeated his natural tendency to jump to the side looking for a tip right as the shot is on the way, and lo and behold Justin Faulk netted a power play goal because of it.
- Jeff Skinner’s goal tonight was also a direct result of the fact that the goalie never saw the shot through a perfect ‘goalie eclipse’ screen by Riley Nash.
Screening the goalie is not sexy, but it (combined with scoring on rebounds which ironically also comes from hanging out around the crease as shots are being taken) is a key component to consistent scoring and especially scoring when the other goalie is seeing the puck and playing well.
Good for him getting on the score sheet. Another quiet but positive story line this season has been Jeff Skinner’s improved play without the puck. Even more impressive is the fact that thus far he has maintained it through a scoring drought. In year’s past, nothing caused a Jeff Skinner relapse faster than a little bit of gambling for goals to jump start his offense. That has not been the case so far in 2015-16 which is encouraging. Now if we can just get those goals in bunches too. 🙂
In one of my preseason prediction blogs, I said that Versteeg would beat his career high in assists. His career high of 31 assists is starting to look like too easy of a target with his 6 assists in 11 games despite the team’s slow start offensively.
Eric and Jordan Staal
They were not as prominent in the win as Thursday but were both solid again. Eric Staal is playing as rugged and physical of a brand of hockey as we have seen from him in at least a few years. He was also instrumental on the Faulk power play goal setting and importantly sticking with his screen.
Even when I was ranting endlessly to put him in Wisniewski’s slot, I never expected this much. I did think there was a good chance that he could play safe, serviceable minutes, but his game is more advanced than serviceable in a number of areas. My hope is to write up the defensemen in more detail early next week.
It was hard to say for certain whether he felt better physically or just grinded through it. And that is exactly what I was looking for per my game preview. His goal was huge obviously, and past that he did seem to keep things a bit simpler with Hainsey moving the puck a bit more than typical early in this season. Being hard to tell sometimes if Faulk just had a quieter game or was dragging a bit physically is exactly where he needs to get to for his next step in development in terms of handling even more ice time.
As noted above, Ward is in a groove and trotting out solid outings each and every game recently. Tonight was no exception.
He is playing his best hockey at the NHL level. He notched 2 assists, but the bigger things for me are his decent play without the puck and also his improved ability to pick his spots to carry the puck versus living for another day when that is the best choice.
He is exactly the kind of player that the Canes need to get (and I think will) more of in the system. He brings a high-energy brand of hockey, is difficult to play against and has the potential to be a difference-maker in a limited role. Unlike ‘score or bust’ Canes forward prospects of years past, McGinn slots nicely into a fourth line. The hope is that he will play his way up the depth chart with NHL experience, but even if he does not there is a place for him on an NHL roster.
He had a bit of a learning night and was shut down a bit early (last shift ended with about 10 minutes left) with a bad turnover in front of his net and then sort of floating out of the play that left Tanguay all alone in front of the net for the Avs’ lone goal.
Elias Lindholm went awkwardly into the boards in the corner in the first period. Hopefully the fact that he returned for at least 1 shift in the second period means that he was just dinged up, and it will be a short-term thing. Brock McGinn also blocked a shot at the very end of the game and left shaking either his hand or wrist, so hopefully he is okay.
The power play
The power play did score and was 1 for 4, so the results were actually good. And I am on record above as loving the ‘screen the goalie and shoot’ formula for some offense which is how the goal happened. But overall the power play continued to look disjointed and disorganized. One will not need to attend practices next week to figure out a key component of the ice time.
Next up is another home game against the Lightning on Sunday with a chance to push the record to an even 6-6-0 before 4 days off to rest and recoup.