The game recap title for Saturday is of course the exact reverse of Friday. After a disappointing loss on Friday, the Hurricanes put forward a better effort on Saturday. They controlled the puck for stretches of the game and won the stat shots/possession battle throughout. But a few too many defensive mistakes coupled with the continued inability to put the puck in the net had them looking at another loss very late into the third.
Then it happened. Goal mouth chaos at 6-on-5 for the last 30 seconds saw the puck bounce and turn and wobble until it finally landed right on Jeff Skinner’s stick just to the side of the net. He deftly pulled the puck skillfully from backhand to forehand and stuck it in the open part of the net for a game-tying goal with 3.3 seconds remaining on the clock. When the Canes ran their record to 3-0 in overtime, Skinner’s tally charted the course from a disappointing loss and 0 points to an exhilarating victory and 2 points in the standings. Around Skinner’s goal was another Justin Faulk power play blast and a nice shot by Jordan Staal to win the game in overtime.
The win was a big one in many respects:
- The fan base. It is no secret that attendance is struggling right now. Putting up back-to-back stinkers at home to run the home record to 1-5 is obviously not a great recipe to improve in this regard. Instead, anyone who had the gumption to stick it out to the end was rewarded with a fun win.
- The week. With the win, the Canes salvaged a ‘treading water’ week with a 1-1 record. If the team wants to push up the standings, it ultimately needs to win more than it loses, but at least the team did not dig a deeper hole this week.
- The team. You can see some of the players pressing a bit with some of the misses on Saturday with a decent volume of scoring chances. Hopefully this relieves the pressure a bit especially for Jeff Skinner but also for others.
My preview featured 3 things:
Cam Ward. One cannot fault 2 goals against, but with the Canes scoring woes it almost was not good enough. The second goal was on a backdoor which usually is not the goalie’s fault, but with a soft shot, he actually got over in time and just did not make the save. But I think maybe the bigger story is how much of a microscope the Canes scoring woes put the goalies under, and in the end Ward’s 2 goals against was good enough for a win like it should be on most nights.
Who plays with whom and does it work? Ugh. The line shuffling has moved to the blue line which has been mostly sound and stable. Saturday Peters tried Liles/Faulk and Hainsey/Pesce. One cannot make a direct cause/effect, but the Canes defense featured a bunch of defensive mistakes that they somehow survived. Faulk had a bad turnover and an unforced delay of game penalty. Hainsey had a couple turnovers. And Liles had a couple head-scratching bad turnovers. At forward, the line shuffling yielded exactly 0 goals. Faulk’s blast was on the power play. Skinner’s goal was in the ‘all scorers report to the ice 6-on-5. And Jordan Staal’s goal was in the 3-on-3 overtime.
Better effort. Though they almost did not get rewarded for it, the Canes effort was much improved on Saturday.
A few player and other notes:
To say that his goal was huge is an understatement for the reasons listed above. Here is hoping that he can use it to jump start his scoring on a longer-term basis.
When you point out at that ‘he was more noticeable’ and claim that as a victory, it says just how far he has fallen. But perhaps it is a start. He was more engaged around the puck and more physical on Saturday. In a recent blog, I compared him to Jeff O’Neill saying that the physical part of the game can be an ignition switch for him.
Too many mistakes
Shot-focused stats are the analysis du jour these days, but very often hockey games are decided by a couple big plays, often mistakes. That was very nearly the story on Saturday. The Canes controlled play, possession and shot totals, but were horrible in terms of playing a sound brand of hockey. As noted above, the reshuffled blue line had a rough night in terms of making bad mistakes in bad places.
Justin Faulk importantly with Eric Staal
Faulk struck again with his league-leading fifth power play goal. Not to be missed was the fact that it was through a screen with Eric Staal again in front of the net. (I think the screen was likely the Ottawa defender who was with Staal, but the point is the same.) He is doing this more consistently and it is consistently leading to goals.
His game was actually quieter on the score sheet (only 1 assist) on the score sheet than some other recent games, but he played a phenomenal game and was a key to driving possession. He won 15 of 19 in the face-off circle, was good carrying the puck through the neutral zone and played his usual brand of sound positional hockey in all 3 zones. Peters leaned heavily on him for 21:45 of ice time which was second only to Eric Staal amongst Canes forwards.
Next up is a tough matchup against the New York Rangers and Henrik Lundqvist.