When a team is near the bottom of the standings looking up, every point is critical, so in that regard, the Canes let 1 of 2 get away tonight. But overall, if the Canes surge in the standings and miss the playoffs by 1 point, this will rank nowhere near the top of points you really should have had.
The compete and effort level was very good, and as much as any game this season, the Canes willed their way to the goal they needed in the third period to at least get to overtime. When you also consider the challenge of it being the first game back in the Eastern Time Zone after playing their way up and back down the time ladder, I think there are more positives than negatives despite ultimately losing in overtime.
It took Jeff Skinner only 1 good scoring chance to get on the score sheet with a pretty goal to stake the Canes to a 1-0 lead that held up until the first intermission. The Flyers scored 3 in the second period offset by another Jeff Skinner goal to enter the third period up 1 goal. I was very impressed with the Canes third period. Elias Lindholm missed ona point blank chance when his stick was tied up at the last minute, and the Canes just continued to push throughout the final period. Jeff Skinner reached the hat trick level for the second time in only 3 games to pull the Canes even ultimately get the team to overtime with a point in hand. The Canes ultimately lost in overtime, but with the point, the team was a very respectable 2-1-1 in a 4-game road trip that went from east to west and back to east again.
A few player and other notes:
I do not watch enough Flyers games to judge them in detail, but I thought both teams had a strong intensity and pace on Tuesday. For me, the game felt a bit like an important March game between 2 teams pushing for the playoffs. I guess that makes sense because both teams are pushing right now to rise up enough to be playing games that matter in March.
I noted him as 1 of my ‘what I’m watching’ in my game preview. He did not disappoint. Each of his 3 goals required going to the net. Each was a mediocre chance at best turned into a goal by a phenomenal individual effort. And each was needed to win a point. The hot version has had some incredible scoring runs, but his 9 goals in 6 games must be somewhere near the best of his runs. Most impressive was what he finished. It was a varying combination of incredible plays. For the first goal, he was pretty well defended and simply used the smallness of gap between himself and the defender to make for enough of a screen to zip a shot right through Michael Neuvirth. The second goal featured Skinner going deep into the hard hat area right in front of the net to skillfully bang a puck out of midair and into the net. His final goal was arguably the most impressive. He made a nifty move to buy himself room to the middle of the ice, but when he got there it was crowded with a collection of Flyers and well defended. At the point where Skinner shot the puck, he really had no opening to shoot, but like the first goal found a way to get a puck right through a defender and in this case up into the top corner of the net. Shorter version is that Jeff Skinner is red hot, had an absolutely phenomenal game on Tuesday and was easily the first star from a Hurricanes standpoint for singlehandedly providing enough offense to earn a point in the standings.
Phil Di Giuseppe
Di Giuseppe has been more quietly playing a very good complementary role to Skinner. He scored a pretty goal on a Skinner assist on Saturday and returned the favor with primary assists on 2 of Skinner’s goals on Tuesday. The first was a nifty pass from inside the defensive zone to spring Skinner 1 on 1. The second showed a heady awareness. At the offensive blue line, Di Giuseppe had a chance to put the puck on Skinner’s stick and made a simply but heady to play to get the puck to the hot hand and then run just enough interference to create room for Skinner when they changed lanes after the pass. Sure Jeff Skinner is a part of it, but Di Giuseppe’s 4 points in 6 games has NOT been simply riding along as a passenger. He has made plays.
In general, I view the 3-on-3 overtime format as being a newer, shinier version of a coin flip to decide the game. There is a bit more of an actual hockey element to it, but it is still very much a crap shoot when a missed shot or even face-off win somehow leads to an odd man rush. This said, I thought the Canes might have missed on 2 chances to go back to a pretty successful formula. Faulk’s shot at the end of the first shift was a low-percentage 1 that led to a face-off and reset when it might have been possible to instead retreat to the neutral zone or Lack and then attack fresh versus tired. But it is hard to fault Justin Faulk from taking a shot to try to win a game as good as he has been shooting the puck. The same thing happened again just before the Flyer’s goal. Might the Canes have had a second opportunity to retreat and refresh? Possibly.
His game was a strange version of a mixed bag for me. On the positive side of the ledger, I do not think one can fault him too much for what he gave up. The Voracek goal was a deflection from in close. Lack arguably had some chance on the Schenn goal, but it was in close, off the rush and right off the bar and in. The third goal was mostly an unfortunate bounce off him, off his defenseman (Slavin) and in. And when the pass got across on the overtime-winner, Lack had little chance. So I guess you could say that he did not give up any soft goals and did not have too much chance on the ones that beat him. But at the same time, he continued to struggle mightily with rebound control and even just finding the puck a few times in the first half of the game. Some of this can be attributed to the volume of bodies that the Flyers send to the front of the net, but there was room for improvement too. Back to the positive, he held the fort and made a few really good saves when called in the third period to give his team a chance. So while I do not think you can fault Lack too much for the 4 goals against, this game was not the cleaner game for which I keep hoping. With the back-to-back this weekend, I would go back to standard goalie use and give each goalie a start.
All in all, Tuesday’s overtime loss did not extend/improve the road trip success, but it did not give it away either. The key is to quickly stop any kind of slide and start again on the push to get back to break even and above. The next chance is at home against the Florida Panthers on Friday night in Raleigh.