The Carolina Hurricanes now have 2 wins in 9 tries but have won 2 out of 3 versus the Detroit Red Wings and were actually the better team in all 3 games. The third and final game of the season series did not feature the same dominant effort as the first 2 games. But minus a ton of offense, the Canes played arguably their tightest game defensively avoiding big miscues for scoring chances against and just generally not giving up much. Detroit was pretty stingy too which made for a cautious back and forth type of game without a ton of great scoring chances. In recent times, it very much the feeling of a game in which 2-3 mistakes would tilt a pretty even game to the opposition. Instead, it was a mistake by Wings’ goalie Petr Mrazek that staked the Canes to a 1-0 lead, and the Canes never returned the favor on the way to a 3-1 win.
In a game without much for scoring chances, 2 key plays were instrumental in the Canes win:
- Victor Rask pressured Petr Mrazek into a bad turnover when he came out too far to play the puck. When Mrazek’s clearing attempt went out Rask’s chest, he was looking at and did not miss an empty net.
- On what otherwise would have been a pretty harmless shot from the blue line, Chris Terry set exactly the kind of screen that the Canes do not get often enough. Mrazek never saw Hainsey’s shot because of Terry, and it whistled right by him into the net.
On a night when the Canes were pretty good defensively and free of big mistakes that ended up quickly in the back of their net that was enough. Eric Staal added an empty-netter after Riley Nash worked hard to win a puck and get it out of the defensive zone with less than a minute to play.
Player and other notes:
Road trip back on track
The Canes are now 3-3-0 through 6 games of a 7-game road trip. If they want to be a surprise playoff contender, they will need to make up for the 0-3 start and push up above break even, but that is for later. I think a reasonable goal for the road trip was just to emerge without significant duress and with the season still intact. Even if the Canes lose on Thursday, that will still be the case.
The Canes forwards overall competed hard and made things tough on the Wings. Victor Rask and Chris Terry had the most significant plays offensively. But I still think one could make a case that for the second consecutive game Riley Nash was the Canes best forward. Stats-wise he assisted on the empty-netter to seal the win, won 64 percent of his face-offs and led the forwards with 2:35 of shorthanded ice time on a perfect night. Off the score sheet, he was a pest on the puck all night, made multiple good plays backchecking and defending in the defensive zone and just generally played great hockey shift after shift.
John-Michael Liles/Brett Pesce
He continues to play his best hockey as a Hurricane player doing the heavy lifting with a rookie partner in the second pairing. He is back to his strength from pre-Toronto days as a player who is comfortable with the puck on his stick. Pesce played another great game of simple hockey and left the heavy lifting to his partner who was great.
Michal Jordan/Ryan Murphy
I have been hard on Jordan, so it is important to give him credit where due. Taking a relatively inexperienced #6/#7 type defenseman, dropping him into the top 4 and putting him on his off side is just a ton to ask, probably too much. He looked much more comfortable on his natural side. Murphy also had a solid game carrying the puck and staying out of trouble defensively.
He continues to be solid defensively without the puck but is also struggling handling the puck at times. He got better as the game went on, and in a game without a ton of offense, saying his game-winning goal was huge is an understatement.
Justin Faulk has reached the level whereby 25 minutes of solid ice time is so much expected that it is an afterthought in writing player notes. That in itself says how good he is.
Bunch of defensively good/competitive ‘meh’ at forward
Other than the plays that led to the scores and Riley Nash, none of the forwards really stood out to me. They were not bad. They competed well. But it was more of a workman-like effort than great hockey.
Jordan Staal clocked in at 13:37 of ice time and Jeff Skinner at 13:05 ranking them ninth and tenth amongst the Canes forwards. The Canes earned a win tonight with these players in lesser roles, but each will need to be play more significant roles for this team to be successful in the long run.
The Canes are not clicking on all cylinders, but they continue to tread water and survive which sometimes is good enough.