Thank you to Mark from Three Region NC for help with the Photoshop graphic above and Jamie Kellner for the vast majority of player photos used on Canes and Coffee.
After a 3-day break to recharge before a busy 4-game run before the all-star break, the Canes came out rested, fast and aggressive. Unfortunately, it only seemed to last about 10 minutes before fading away into a sluggish game of back and forth with no progress on the score board. In the first 10 minutes of the game, the Canes had 12 shots, 8 of which were on net but were unable to score. A Hurricanes penalty seemed to flip the power switch to off after that. The Canes mustered only 4 shots (2 on goal) in the second half of the first period and only 1 shot (0 on goal) in the first half of the second period before a power play just after the midway point of the game seemed to jolt the Canes back to life.
The game very much played out like a mirror image chess match with similar styles and a familiarity. Until the Canes prevailed, the game very much also felt like a regression back to early in the season when the Canes mustered plenty of shots but really were not as offensively dangerous as the volume would suggest and just could not buy anything on the score board. But Eddie Lack stood incredibly tall in his first start since becoming the undisputed #1 with Cam Ward currently out with a concussion and stole a win despite his team scoring nothing in regulation. Through most of the game he was just required to be sound and solid, but on the few occasions where something spectacular was needed, he had that too.
As far as Canes skaters go, the compete level was there, but the game was sluggish and limited offensively except for Jordan Staal who had another great game. He was easily the second best Canes player before Eddie Lack even before he won the game by banging in Justin Faulk’s rebound in overtime.
A few player and other notes:
He was obviously the story of the game, but I think the bigger question is whether it can grow to be bigger than a game. After the announcement of Ward going on IR with a concussion, I wrote in some detail about the goalie situation. The full post is HERE, but the shorter version is questioning whether he could get similar results from a similar situation in 2014-15 when he took over for an injured Ryan Miller in late February and led the Canucks to the playoffs. Asking Lack to lead the team to the playoffs is getting way too far in front of things, but I do think it will be interesting to see if he looks comfortable and capable in a #1 role since he is the only the goalie signed for 2016-17 as of right now and therefore the incumbent starter pending whatever happens next summer.
His run as the Canes best skater night in and night out continues to grow. If he had just a bit more sniper in him, he would be dominant right now. Instead, he has to settle for being 1 of the 2-3 best players on the ice most nights without the eye-popping scoring that usually goes with that. But he is doing his job plus some. He is leading the way and contributing in terms of 2-way play and driving puck possession on a nightly basis. And though the scoring is modest it has been clutch with some game-winners including a couple overtime winners.
A little sloppy defensively
Eddie Lack covered up any and all mistakes on Thursday, but the Canes were sloppy with the puck and in their own end against the Leafs. Justin Faulk had Tyler Bozak walk right around him and straight to the net. Slavin and Pesce each had a bad turnover that led directly to a grade A scoring chance with Pesce’s at the offensive power play being the worst leading to a breakaway that luckily found Lack’s glove. Hanifin got turned around on a 2-on-1 and saw a Leaf go straight to the net. And the defensemen also had a number of very good plays 2-on-1 to break up passes that could have created even more danger. At this time of year, you take wins of whatever variety you can get, but unless Lack stands on his head on a nightly basis, Thursday’s game was not the variety that yields wins on most nights.
Here is hoping that the players and staff can fly home quick, beat the worst of the wintry yuck and get home safe. The report during tonight’s broadcast was that tomorrow’s game against the Rangers at PNC Arena is a rain (or snow or ice or whatever) or shine event that will happen tomorrow regardless of weather.