I had kid toting duty that got me home after the game started, so the Rod Brind’Amour ceremony is still waiting on my DVR. I will chime in on that at another time maybe.
The first two-thirds of the Canes game in Philadelphia seemed to take all that was wrong with the Canes 2015-16 season offensively (power play struggles and inability to finish) and add a brand new layer of defensive problems in the form of a rash of defensive breakdowns. At least in most Canes losses, the team has outshot and outchanced the opponent and failed only because of inability to convert. And in most of those games the defense has been decent.
The first 2 periods on Monday seemed to feature the worst of all worlds with Eddie Lack and a single heroic Brett Pesce penalty kill shift as the only silver linings.
Then suddenly out of the blue, the Carolina Hurricanes suddenly woke up during the second intermission and stormed back ferociously. They scored twice and could easily have added another goal or 2 in regulation to win going away if not for a couple misses and a couple stellar Neuvirth saves. But when Brett Pesce capped off another stellar game banging in a back door rebound enabling the Canes to exit regulation at 2-2 with a point in hand was a fine place to be after playing only 1 period of hockey.
Sadly, the overtime was aborted before it even started when the referees made a bad penalty call on Victor Rask only a few seconds into overtime and the Flyers scored soon thereafter.
If the Canes were playing a run of great games and mostly winning, perhaps this is a game you accept as ‘the bad one’ and rejoice over surviving it and still picking up a point in the standings. But with the Canes have been mostly struggling, getting the raw end of the extra overtime point of late and needing to string together a few wins, it has a bit of an empty feeling despite the comeback and a couple of good stories.
A few player and other notes:
1) Eddie Lack
He was the story of the game from a Hurricanes standpoint. The Canes were largely a train wreck in front of him defensively. He faced 36 shots which is a decent number, but more importantly, I would give the Flyers chances a total quality rating of 9 or 10 out 10 with a penalty shot, multiple odd man rushes and just generally Flyers running free for 2 periods. Lack was beaten only at point blank on a nifty passing play and point blank shot, and a breakaway rebound tap in after he made a very good save on the first shot only to have the defenseman (Faulk) not tied up the Flyer coming through the middle.
What was most striking about Lack’s game was that it was not the ‘survival mode’ variety of a good game like his first win against the Islanders. He was assertive and confident. Early on he was steering easy saves to the 2 corners and controlling rebounds. He made great instinctual decisions on when to get out and challenge all night.
I rate this game second only to Cam Ward’s 1-0 overtime win in Colorado for Canes goalie outings this season and hope that Bill Peters rewards him with the next start on Wednesday.
2) Brett Pesce
The layers of goodness in his game just keep growing. I was thrilled when my hair-brained idea to give him a shot in the top 4 happened and actually mostly worked, but the maturity of his game is far beyond my or anyone else’s wildest dreams. After a goal, assist and a first star in Sunday’s win against Los Angeles, he followed it up with another huge game. He had a character defining shifts blocking 2 shots (the kind that do not hit shin guards and instead hurt) in a penalty kill shift in the second period. Then he made no mistake in finishing on a back door rebound to tie the game at 2-2 late in the third period. He had 23:06 of ice time which matches his rise up the depth chart.
3) Justin Faulk
He had a rough night. He had a lackadaisical turnover on his first shift and struggled throughout. He took the penalty that led to the Flyers power play goal. He was the defenseman back on the shorthanded 2-on-1 goal who failed to defend the front of the net. Lack did his job making the first save, but Giroux skated right past an unaware Faulk for a tap in goal. He also had his second consecutive game in which he chucked a pass straight up the middle of the ice to be intercepted by a player at the blue line for an immediate scoring chance. Sunday’s ‘oops’ to Kopitar helped the Kings come back. Lack bailed him out with a big save on Monday.
The telltale sign of impending struggles for Justin Faulk has been the same since his rookie season. When he does not skate with the puck on his stick and instead tries to make long first passes from near the end line, it means 2 things. First and most obvious, it means turnovers are on the way like the past 2 games. More subtly but equally importantly, it is a sign that he is a bit leg-weary which impacts other areas of his games. Thus far in 2015-16, Faulk has quickly rebounded from low points like Monday, so here is hoping he quickly puts it behind him on Wednesday.
4) Brad Malone
He continues to do his job. He was physical and noticeable early. I am not 1 who cheers when anyone gets hurt, but physical play is part of the game, and it was a clean hit. And the team needed someone to try to stir up some kind of energy.
5) The wheels have officially come off the power play
Camouflaged by a couple Justin Faulk blasts on Sunday, the wheels officially came off the power play only a day later. The power play yielded a shorthanded goal, a penalty against and multiple good Flyers scoring chances while yielding nothing for the Hurricanes. The shorthanded goal and the drop pass directly to Claude Giroux were the low points, but the inability to even enter the zone were just as frustrating. Jay McClement saw power play time as a net front presence and possibly to send a message to a few other players.
6) Did Bill Peters draw up a point?
I am reasonably certain that the game-tying goal was exactly what Bill Peters drew up right before it happened. If you get a chance, watch the replay and let me know if you agree. Here is what I saw. First, the goal did come on a face-off win immediately following a timeout and some white board work. Rask won the face-off back fairly cleanly which is what you need to execute a planned play. Lindholm picks the puck up, and even before he feeds it back to Hainsey, Pesce breaks to the net. At the point when Pesce broke there is no way he could have for sure read that Hainsey would get the puck and shoot. In fact, the standard play from there is for Hainsey to quickly feed the puck across to Pesce for a shot while the forwards try to get to the front of the net for a screen, deflection or rebound. It was late in the game with a 1-goal deficit but it was also 5-on-5 which makes it even more unlikely that it was simply Pesce reading the eventual play and jumping forward aggressively.
The key for me was watching how early Pesce left. I think it was too early for it to simply be a great ‘read and react.’ It was a great play and worth a point in the standings regardless, but I would be curious to know if Peters also deserves some direct credit for this 1.
Next up is a Thanksgiving Eve match up at home against the Edmonton Oilers sadly minus Connor McDavid in their only visit to PNC Arena this season.