A painfully familiar story
The Canes did pick up a point in an overtime loss, and there were some redeeming points from the game again. But at the the end of the day, the Canes lost and repeated a number of common story lines yet again.
- The Hurricanes outshot, outchanced, out-everythinged the opponent except for the all important scoreboard.
- We can debate whether Ward should have given up 0 or 1 or 2 or 3, but at the end of the day, the other goalie saw higher volume and higher quality of chances, gave up less and was better.
- The Canes inability to finish even good chances has reached the level of maddening.
The game featured a strong start (that makes 3 in a row) and an incredibly good first period for the Hurricanes. They dominated up to the first TV timeout at about the 12-minute mark led by strong shifts from the third and fourth lines. Though they did not score, they clearly tilted the ice and seized momentum. Then just like one would hope, the Canes rode the momentum to earn a power play and quickly scored on it. Then they followed up with another quick goal by the fourth line which was the team’s best on the night. The rest of the first period was not as dominant, but the Canes got the better of the rest of the first period and gave up about nothing. Cam Ward then got beat on a pretty harmless shot from an angle (shot was from face-off circle) when his angle was a bit off leaving room right over the top of his glove hand. I think that goal was a turning point in that it gave the Wild just enough from the first period that was not good for them. When it was all said and done, the shot totals were 19-5, and Minnesota had 1-2 decent scoring chances but emerged still in a hockey game and with the last goal.
As 1 would expect from a good team, the Wild pushed back hard in the second period. The Canes struggled mightily to move the puck when the Wild starting sending 2 to Canes with defenders with the puck on the wall effectively skating right through both logical passing lanes. The result was a second period that saw the Canes hemmed in their own end for much of the period. Even still, the Canes did a decent job with damage control under duress and defended in their own zone. Despite controlling play, the Wild managed only 8 shots, but did net the tying goal in the process.
The third period saw the Canes rebound a bit and get the better of things in the period, but after a slow start Dubnyk rebounded, and the Canes continued struggles in finishing also played into a 0-0 period.
When regulation ended, the game felt like it should have been a 3-1 win for the Canes. The chances were there offensively even with the slower second period, and 17 shots on goal with only a few good chances against feels like a 1 GAA for so many other teams in the league.
Even still, the Canes picked up a point and toted their 3-0 overtime record into the extra hockey. But as luck would have it, a perfectly good round of 3-on-3 hockey was foiled by a Minnesota penalty. In all seriousness, the Canes had the better chances early in overtime and did everything but score on the 4-on-3 power play before finally losing after the power play expired.
“Frustrated” would best sum up post-game interviews by Bill Peters, Justin Faulk and Kris Versteeg. I think Justin Faulk summed it up when he said, “We still have to find ways to win these games.”
Player and other notes
Jeff Skinner. I called for a break out game from Skinner with Nash/Versteeg. Right up until the point where the puck needed to go into the net for him, I thought he was very good. He had 2 more posts to go with a point blank tip that just hit Dubnyk and a couple other good chances. He drew a penalty in the overtime. He had 7 shots on goal and 3 more misses/blocks plus 4 takeaways on the score sheet. In terms of doing what he needs to do in terms of style of play, he has been there both of the 2 games this week. I would much rather have that versus Skinner not getting chances or coming close, but at the end of the day, the Canes struggling offense needs him to start finishing.
Noah Hanifin. After 2 games in the press box, he had a decent return to the ice. He was victimized a bit on the second Minnesota goal when he was generally in the right place at the front of the net but never did much of anything to contest any of the 3 players who touched the puck before it ended up behind Ward. But overall, he played a safe and sound game, and he and Murphy earned Peters trust such that they received a healthy helping of ice time down the stretch in a 2-2 game. All in all, it was a net positive return.
The fourth line. Despite limited ice time, the line was the Nestrasil/McClement/Nordstrom line was the most noticeable and aggressive. They were dominant and helped establish momentum on their first shift, drew the penalty that led to Faulk’s power play goal and scored shortly afterward playing a huge role in staking the Canes to an early 2-0 lead. The Nordstrom pass back to Murphy that was bobbled into a quick rush and Minnesota’s second goal was unfortunate, but they were still easily a net positive.
In trying to sit some players and reconfigure the other lines, Peters seemed to completely lose track of how he got there. First, the fourth line saw less ice time. Then he broke them up. Why not drop the couple players who were not getting it done, build 2 lines from the other 9 players and leave the fourth line together? Instead, McClement and Nestrasil saw only about 4 1/2 minutes of ice time after a good first period and were ultimately separated from Nordstrom who moved up. How about just sitting the players who were invisible and picking spots for the fourth line that was buzzing and competing?
Liles/Pesce. They probably struggled the most when the Wild made a minor adjustment to their forecheck for the second period being more aggressive on the puck and sending 2 to basically say “we are taking away the easy short first pass – figure it out.” Even still, they kept most of the mistakes to the smaller variety and defended fairly well in front of their own net.
Cam Ward. This was a game that was there to be won 2-1. The first goal against was from just inside the face-off dot. From that angle, you should be able to take away the short side and at most give up the top corner of the far side and know that is what you need to defend. That is where Ward was beaten when his angle was off a bit. He was not horrible. It was not all his fault. But the other goalie was better, and asking for a 1 GAA was not unreasonable this game with only 17 shots against in regulation and only a handful of decent chances.
The missing. Chris Terry was quiet and saw very little ice time in the second half of the game. Elias Lindholm logged 20 minutes but did not do much to stand out in the process. In my Daily Cup of Joe from 2 days ago, I voted to give not 1 but 2 of the hot hands from Charlotte a chance. You can read that HERE. I continue to vote for that.
Victor Rask. He is fairly quietly taking the next step up. He continues to be very good in the neutral and defensive zones knowing when and at what angle to go to players/pucks. He has been utterly dominant in the face-off circle. And via a decent combination of big plays and small plays, he continues to contribute to more scoring plays than last season.
Justin Faulk. I like the fire in Justin Faulk’s belly. He was under control but clearly irritated in the post-game interviews. That is how it should be when you are up 2-0 and then snooze and ultimately lose. He now has 6 power play goals. Here is hoping the Canes can figure it out soon, but if not he is building 1 of the stories worth tracking if the wins-losses in March do not matter.
The Flyers have been losing, scuffling and grouchy the past few days. That should make 2 of those for the start of Saturday’s Hurricanes vs. Flyers match up on Saturday in Raleigh.