Thursday night in Columbus featured another slow Canes start. Through 2 periods, the Canes really had nothing going and very little to carry forward except the play of Eddie Lack who kept them in the game. But in a circus of a third period the Canes made good plays offensively, finished scoring chances and got the better of the game once it opened up.
The first period saw the Columbus Blue Jackets outshoot the Carolina Hurricanes by a 16-6 margin. The second period was only marginally better and also saw Columbus rewarded with a 1-0 lead exiting the period. But the Canes found chances early in third and capitalized to the tune of 3 quick goals in a span of only 1:38. First, Noah Hanifin made a crisp pass through the middle of the rink to Victor Rask who beat Sergey Bobrovsky through a screen. Next Jaccob Slavin made a heady aerial flip pass to a waiting Chris Terry who finished with a skilled move on the breakaway. And only seconds later Elias Lindholm turned a relatively harmless whirling shot by Jordan Staal into a goal with a skilled deflection. The remainder of the third period was equally entertaining even if not the soundest by either team. Jaccob Slavin sprang Jordan Staal on another breakaway, Brett Pesce barely missed Nathan Gerbe at the offensive blue line for another. After 2 periods of mostly calm and controlled play in net, Eddie Lack chipped in some excitement with a few sprawling desperation saves to hold on for a 3-2 win.
A few player and other notes:
1) The formula for future success
Before this season I yammered multiple times about the need for the Canes to boost their offense collectively not solely from adding more/better forwards but even more importantly by increasing the team’s ability to attack the offensive blue line with speed. James Wisniewski was added to do just that but obviously was lost before the season really even started. But what jumped out at me most positively in Thursday’s win was how it was the blue line, not the forwards, that jump started the offense and created offense. Hanifin assisted on the first goal. Slavin assisted on the second goal and also set up a Jordan Staal breakaway later. Both Faulk and Pesce had good chances by joining the rush. Pesce also had a near miss pass to Gerbe that would have created another partial breakaway.
THIS is the formula for the Canes future success. Gaining a solid blue line from the current youth will make the Hurricanes better and at least competitive like in 2015-16, but the path to MUCH higher comes if, and possibly only if, the group can also become a catalyst for the offense like it did on Thursday night in Columbus.
2) Ryan Murphy
With Faulk back in the lineup and Coach Bill Peters looking to balance the lines on the road, Murphy started the game and played most of his shifts with veteran Ron Hainsey. His game was very much a mixed bag. He had 2 great plays saving goals in/near the crease. Along the way, he seemed to settle in and handle the puck well with support across from him. But he also just had too many of the medium to big variety of mistakes, especially early. And as a third pairing defenseman, the single biggest job requirement is just staying out of trouble, getting on and off the ice without incident and leaving the game to be decided by the top players on the roster. In that regard, Murphy is still trying to get there on a consistent basis.
Awhile back I had Kerby Rychel (similarly highly drafted forward for Columbus who is not working out) and Ryan Murphy as a potential trade swap. At the time a few people blasted me for giving up too much in Murphy and his NHL experience for a less experienced player. I viewed it more as a sideways swap that added more of the what the Canes need (forward help) at the cost only of a player who slots as a depth defenseman at best. It is a long shot, but could Murphy’s high 19:38 of ice time and pairing with strong help have an ulterior motive to play out this summer?
3) Chris Terry
He continued his strong play during the current try out phase in making a pretty move on his breakaway goal. He also had the misfortune of stopping Justin Faulk’s goal from going in, but if he keeps going to the front of the net, the results will be much more positive than negative. Peters is rewarding him with more ice time (14:55 on Thursday which ranked sixth among Canes forwards) and a gradually bigger role, and he continues to respond well.
4) Eddie Lack
He was calm and controlled early and desperate late. The formula worked. He kept the team in the game for 2 periods when the other team was significantly better. Then he helped survive a third period push by Columbus once Carolina had the lead. He was the team’s best player on Thursday night.
5) Justin Faulk
He nearly scored when he joined the rush in the third period and fired into a bunch of bodies in front of an otherwise open. He also logged 20:46 of ice time mostly without incident after a long layoff which is a great step toward being all the way back. But most significantly, just seeing him back in the lineup was great.
Next up is a holiday weekend at home in Raleigh games against the Islanders on Saturday and the Devils on Sunday.