The Rangers came in as the early class of the Metropolitan Division, with a 5-game winning streak and also adding Rick Nash who was returning from injury. It was going to take a great game from the Canes and probably a break or 2 to win a hockey game.
I do not know if it was quite great, but aside from the hibernating power play, the Canes play 5-on-5 was pretty good. In terms of the simple stats like shots, volume of time with the puck, etc. I think it is fair to say that the Canes were better. But as is usually the case with good teams, the Rangers picked their spots when the Canes could not. When the Rangers got on the board twice in the first, the rest of the night was more or less scheduled out to be a struggle.
Strong start and reasonably good effort overall
The Canes had 2 very good shifts to start the game and were the better team right up through the point when the Rangers scored and then immediately scored again. The early turning point was when Ryan Murphy received a pass right between the circles with enough time to check the gun, cock and fire. He actually mostly beat Lundqvist with a shot that was slated for the top corner of the net, but it barely glanced off the top of the knob of Lundqvist’s stick and over the top of the net. The Canes were just better in general early until they blinked for a second and were down 2 goals. First, on what looked like a fairly harmless play, Michal Jordan fell down in front of Ward, but McGinn covered up pretty well leaving the Rangers only with what looked like a harmless point shot. Jordan seemed to stand up right into Ward’s line of vision, and the puck was quickly behind Ward. Then on the next face-off a harmless 2-on-2 rush was defended by Faulk who poked a puck loose only to find it retrieved and quickly passed through him to a streaking Rick Nash who undressed Ward when he cut across the front of the crease to finish. Just like that the Canes were staring at a big deficit and a heavy dose of the Rangers doing what they do best which is strangling the life out of most things offense and leaning on 1 of the best goalies in the game when that did not work out.
Even still, the Canes did push back intermittently and had some good opportunities to climb back into it.
- The Canes skated well and drew 6 penalties on the night but could not convert on the power play.
- The team also hit 3 posts (Skinner twice and Nash once).
- The team also either missed or were stoned by Lundqvist on a few other good chances.
For a 3-0 loss, there is actually a decent amount that the Hurricanes would like to carry forward into the 2 home games remaining this week.
- The team defense was pretty good overall. The Rangers shot total was modest and 2 of the goals were more ‘shrugs’ than ‘oopses.’ The third goal happened when a point shot deflected off Ron Hainsey’s skate and in. And the first goal was mostly a harmless point shot oddly through a screen by a Canes defenseman who was not even defending anyone.
- The Canes generated a pretty good number of ‘finishable’ offensive chances especially when you consider the opponent and that fact that the Canes were down 2-0 early which even more empowered the Rangers to go into clamp down mode.
But a continuing struggle is the team’s inability to both create and finish scoring chances. Today, the creation was decent, but the finishing was 0-for-the-night. 3 posts and a few other high-end chances should be enough to score a few goals. Especially when you are trying to claw back from a 2-0 deficit, 0-6 on the power play does not cut it.
Review of ‘What I’m watching’ preview
1) The team defense was reasonably solid.
2) Peters was surprisingly calm with the line combinations, and despite not scoring, I do not think that was the issue.
3) The team did not really get a ton of help from anyone new stepping up offensively, but then no one else scored either.
4) It’s about shots with traffic, not just shots. The Canes could have been better in this regard, but the lack of scoring was not completely the story of a ton of low-quality chances.
5) The goalies were arguably the difference. Cam Ward was not horrible, and you cannot win with a 0, but Lundqvist saw both more and higher quality chances, put up a 0 and was better than Ward.
Player and other notes
Jeff Skinner and Skinner/Nash/Versteeg. I have not been shy about wanting Coach Bill Peters to put this line back together and leave it for awhile to see if it can help jump start Jeff Skinner. They stayed together on Tuesday and put together an effort that was promising even if disappointing because of the lack of scoring. Checkpoint 1 is Jeff Skinner who got chances. He missed once just high from in close and also hit 2 posts in game in which he totaled 5 shots on goal and 3 more misses (2 of those would be the posts) and a blocked shot. If you promise me that we can get Skinner that many decent shots again, I take my chances that enough start to go in. Nash had another post (his was on the power play) and a shot on goal, and Versteeg had 3 shots on goal. The advanced stats people will certainly sign my petition to give this group a longer look.
Kris Versteeg. Per the comments above, I really liked his game Tuesday. He was active and aggressive and played with a sense of urgency and desperation on every shift. He was the ignition for arguably the Canes best line on the night and could have had a 2 assist night with some finishing help and also drew 2 penalties with his skating with the puck on his stick.
Michal Jordan. His unfortunate chain of events contributed heavily to the Rangers first goal. Past that he was okay in his own end, but I think the challenge with him is the ability to handle and move the puck. He looks better on his natural side in terms of retrieving, receiving and skating with the puck, but the thing that stands out to me is the regularity with which he is a little slow sorting things out in his own end and then predictable such that his passes are regularly received with someone already upon the pass recipient.
At the risk of being accused of voting any and all #6 defenseman off the island (I am already on record as thinking Hanifin could benefit from a stint in Charlotte), I am about ready to chuck yet another rookie into the NHL lineup. Trevor Carrick and Jaccob Slavin (who is actually playing the right side despite being a lefty) are both playing well in Charlotte. Might 1 of them be worth a look?
Joakim Nordstrom. In limited ice time (only 6:43) in his return, he was a difference-maker for a role player drawing 2 penalties.
Cam Ward vs. Henrik Lundqvist. Ward was not horrible by any means, but if you had to pick 1 match up that the Rangers clearly won, this would be it. In facing more and tougher shots, Lundqvist stopped everything whereas Ward gave up 3.
Need to look forward. Tuesday on the road against a good team that is playing well was the toughest game on the schedule for the week. The key is to bring a similar 5-on-5 effort with more finishing and something else on the power play on Thursday and convert it to a win. With 2 home games left, a solid 2-1 week is still possible.