In terms of creating a formula for consistently winning, I am not sure much headway was made in Colorado on Wednesday night. But in terms of moving upward in the standings, the Canes 1-0 win in overtime was obviously a success. The game was sluggish, slow and sloppy pretty much throughout until the 3-on-3 overtime caffeine boost kicked in. For the second game in a row, the story of the game on the Canes side was Cam Ward, and this time he was rewarded for his effort with a win. Through 2 periods neither goalie was challenged much, but with no margin for error, Ward’s mistake-free/hold-to-0 was required. When called upon to make a couple big saves in the third period and overtime, he stood on his head. His lunging paddle save late in the third period will be on the news tomorrow, and he also stoned Jarome Iginla on a breakaway in overtime before Victor Rask won the game.
I said after last weekend’s split that the goal for the 7-game road trip did not need to be to make up for the 0-3 start, just to tread water and climb into November with the season still intact. The 2 points earned on Wednesday are an important step in that direction. With a tough back-to-back this weekend, 2 points in the first of 3 out west charts a doable course toward 3 points in 3 games and even opens the possibility of doing better.
In terms of overall team play, the game was not a good one.
- The Canes took too many penalties especially early.
- The puck movement was still sloppy and sluggish.
- Offense was hard to come by.
- The power play was 0-for again.
But for a team that is trying to build confidence and claw its way into the season, you label this positively as a gritty, hard-fought win and appreciate it.
Player and other notes:
He was the story of the game playing mistake-free early and rising up for a couple huge saves when asked late. This marks an extension of a strong game in Washington despite the goal total and runs his streak to 2 solid games.
I thought this was his best game of the year. He did enough when caught in 1-on-1 battles on the walls to win some pucks or at least not lose them cleanly and with a positional disadvantage. He mostly avoided turnovers/mistakes and steered clear of the ‘big oops’ variety of them. And to the positive, he made some pretty good plays offensively with a stretch pass to spring a Canes forward and a couple shots of his own through traffic. He had an assist on the game-winning goal, but his bigger role was actually his poise and patience with the puck just before that keeping safe control of the puck while the Canes got fresh players on the ice and then successfully attacked a winded trio of Avs.
Ron Hainsey/Justin Faulk
They were the duct tape holding things together in first period when it was trying to blow up. Faulk logged 10:08 in the first period including roughly 3:30 on the penalty kill and Hainsey was right behind him. When it was over Faulk had logged 27:24 TOI and 4:06 PK and Hainsey 24:37 TOI and 4:06 PK in a Cane shutout.
He did not get on the score sheet, but I thought he was the best skater on the ice in the third period and did his part to make sure the Canes played as much as possible in the offensive zone late in the game.
He did recover a bit as the game wore on, but at the point when he had a bad turnover followed by an obstruction penalty with 4:16 remaining in the first period, he had already accumulated enough negatives to call it a rough night. He had multiple turnovers, lost track of an Avs player in front of the net for a point blank chance when playing penalty kill and continued to struggle handling the puck.
Good for him notching the game-winner on a nice individual effort. He was also 1 of the penalty killers (3:22 shorthanded TOI) who helped navigate a dicey first period without a deficit on the scoreboard.
The fourth line
Malone/McClement/Terry logged some good shifts and played well enough that Peters was able to use them throughout the game. This kept the ice time pretty balanced at forward which helped late in the game.
He came out of a scary skate cut situation mostly unscathed, and along the way he had another strong game. At a basic stats level, he is not overly impressive, but I actually think he has been very good holding things together while Michal Jordan tries to play his way to a higher comfort level in the top 4 on the right side.
Ability to move the puck
This game was another struggle trying to move the puck from stick to stick. It is no wonder that scoring continues to be a struggle at times with the team unable to move the puck smoothly up the ice or inside the offensive zone when they make it there.
The power play
The power play had a couple better shifts in the middle of the game, but it failed to score again. At least on Wednesday, the power play struggles were offset by penalty kill success that left the Canes break even on special teams.
This is 1 of those games where you happily take the 2 points, commend the ‘stick with it’ attitude and hope for a carry forward of Cam Ward’ strong play but mostly pitch the rest of it in the garbage as you work to build a more repeatable model for wins.