Recap of Hurricanes 4-1 loss to the Devils

As I said in the preview, Sunday’s game was a pivotal one in a few regards. With a win, the Hurricanes would have had a solid winning week at 2-0-1. With a loss, it becomes treading water at 1-1-1. A win could also have pulled the Hurricanes back to break even on the season at 4-4-3. Instead, the Hurricanes are again 2 wins short of getting back to where they started. A win would also have been the team’s first winning streak of the season.

But it was not to be.

The game started okay. The Hurricanes were not great out of the gate, but neither were the Devils. The Hurricanes survived 2 power plays for New Jersey, and though fighting the puck a bit in terms of rebound control, Eddie Lack played his way into the game without being scored upon in the first period. The first period overall was some combination of buttoned down and just not dynamic offensively. But the Hurricanes exited it at 0-0 and with Lack getting up to speed which was a positive.

But New Jersey struck twice early in the second period and had what they needed to play their style of hockey with solid defense and opportunistic offense. The Hurricanes missed on 3 power plays in the second period and never really found a second gear on a lackluster night. The Hurricanes 34 shots were misleading in terms of how dangerous the team was offensively. Devils’ backup Keith Kinkaid, playing in only his second start of the season and first since October 28, was flawless allowing only 1 goal when the game was mostly in hand. The Hurricanes lone goal came in the third period when Andrej Nestrasil showed slick hands pulling a rebound off the boards on a Noah Hanifin shot to in front of the goal line and lifting over a lunging Kinkaid’s pads into the top half of the net. The Hurricanes seemed to get a burst of energy and pushed after that but never found the back of the net again. A New Jersey empty-netter made the final 4-1.

 

‘What I’m watching’ check in

If you missed it before the game, you can find the full game preview HERE.

1) The goaltending

Eddie Lack was not horrible in the soft goal kind of way that has plagued the Hurricanes goalies this season, but the goalie at the other end of the rink who is also a backup was better, and Lack’s 3 goals against on 20 shots is not great. Not knowing what to expect after a long lay off, I was optimistic when Lack survived the first period without being scored on, but that came to an abrupt halt with 2 quick goals in the second period.

2) Hopefully sound hockey

In a season with some atrocious stretches of defensive hockey, Sunday’s effort was not the worst, but the Hurricanes did leave a couple openings that the Devils charged through to get the lead they needed and settle into a buttoned down game.

3) Jordan Staal, Justin Faulk and Jeff Skinner

Jeff Skinner did not find the score sheet but did have his moments offensively. The lack of depth scoring right now magnifies things when the top line does not get on the score sheet. Jordan Staal’s game was okay. He also picked up an assist on Nestrasil’s goal. And his puck possession game is rising up at times, but the every shift ice tilting dominance from last winter continues to prove elusive as Coach Bill Peters tinkers with line mates trying to find a combination that works. I would put Justin Faulk roughly in the same category as Jeff Skinner as not being bad but not doing anything to really drive a win either.

 

Positive notes

Andrej Nestrasil: He had his best game of the season. He scored his first goal, was constantly around the puck and put up a big 8 shots of goal. Here is hoping that he can use Sunday’s game to launch his 2016-17 season.

Jordan Staal: I think he is really close and maybe just short getting on the same page as his line mates in terms of controlling the puck in the offensive zone.

Jaccob Slavin and Brett Pesce: Pesce was on the ice for empty-netter, but otherwise the Hurricanes top duo was not on the ice for a goal against.

Noah Hanifin: Hanifin had a strong game offensively picking up an assist on Nestrasil’s goal when he got a shot through and adding 2 more shots on goal and 5 more attempted shots.

 

Other notes

Ryan Murphy and Noah Hanifin on the defensive side of the puck: He had a tough night. The first New Jersey goal was a painful reminder of partners Murphy and Hanifin’s ongoing learning on the defensive side of the puck. Murphy steps up at the blue line but has the puck get behind him for a partial 2-on-1. Hanifin skates his way out of the play as Murphy actually recovers but completely misses the passing lane. The result is somehow a play in which 2 defensemen are both back but somehow both leave a passing lane right across the front of the goalie for a quick goal. The third New Jersey goal saw Hanifin and Murphy both again sag back off the puck instead of attacking which gave the New Jersey a chance to swerve around then fire at will off the rush.

Peters trying to build around Jordan Staal: I could see Peters trying desperately to build something around Jordan Staal in this game. Peters used Staal for a big 21:17 of ice time despite it being the second half of a back-to-back, had a couple stretches where he used Staal’s line every other shift (partly around commercial breaks) and went fishing for line mates that might work. Especially with a run of home games coming, finding a Staal combination that works could go a long way toward solidifying the defense against the opponents’ top line by playing puck possession far from where they can score.

Power outage: On a night when the Hurricanes could really have used a power play goal out of the 3 tries in the second period to climb back into the game, the power play continued its recent goal-less streak.

 

Next up for the Hurricanes is a rematch against the New Jersey Devils on the road except this time most certainly against starting goalie Cory Schneider.

 

Go Canes!

 

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