Recap of Hurricanes 4-2 loss to the Ducks
Coach Bill Peters likes to use the word “heavy” to describe a difficult to play against style of hockey. Thursday’s loss to the Anaheim Ducks was a case study in the Canes struggle to play this 60 minutes of this brand of hockey. Against a physical, grinding type of team, the Hurricanes mostly had a tough time of it. Maybe even more so after playing night before, Anaheim’s plan was very simply to force the game to the walls where they had an advantage and leverage it. When the Ducks could get the puck behind the net they forechecked aggressively and took pucks from less physical Hurricanes players. Both of the first 2 goals came after the Canes lost puck battles on the boards and did not defend well. And if the Ducks could not get in early enough on the forecheck, they gave up the defensive blue line, stacked up between the center line and offensive blue and forced the Hurricanes to dump the puck where the battle again occurred on the boards. The Ducks won more than their fair share of the battles there too. In a man against man puck battle kind of game, the Canes were out-manned.
The game actually started okay for the Hurricanes. The good guys had the first 6 shots on goal. But they were still sluggish and unable to do much in the first period exiting it tied at 0-0. The first period was mostly slow rounds of taking turns moving the puck and then giving it up. There were no more than 6-7 even remotely decent scoring chances total in the first period.
The second period was 1 of the bad ones that we have seen a few too many of. In quick succession, Anaheim won a puck from Ryan Murphy behind the net and fed the puck right through Klas Dahlbeck to the front of the net to a waiting Ryan Kesler who finished. The second goal also saw the Dahlberg/Murphy pairing victimized when Murphy lost a puck on the boards and Jakob Silfverberg found a tap in rebound off the end boards when he got behind Dahlbeck, Murphy and Sebastian Aho who seemed to get stuck watching the puck. Then when Brett Pesce lost his footing and the puck at the offensive blue line Silfverberg was off to the races. Pesce made a nice recovery and minimized the shot attempt as best he could, but Silfverberg beat Cam Ward off the far side post and in with Ward appearing to be just enough off his angle.
But as has been the case a few other times this season, the Hurricanes road a goal to a momentum swing and change of fortune. Teuvo Teravainen scored on a nifty deflection of a Jaccob Slavin shot. The Teravainen was followed shortly thereafter by Viktor Stalberg dropping the gloves, and the Hurricanes suddenly had life heading into the third period down 3-1.
The Hurricanes climbed to within a goal when Lee Stempniak put forward a rare instance where the Hurricanes out big boy hockeyed the Ducks crashing into a Ducks player behind the net and separating the puck. Skinner picked it up and quickly fed Victor Rask who finished. From there the Hurricanes fought an uphill battle with the Ducks clogging the neutral zone and continuing to do a pretty good job retrieving and moving dump ins. The Hurricanes had some decent chances but never finished, ultimately losing 4-2 after a late empty-netter.
‘What I’m watching’ check in
If you missed and want to review the preview points in detail, you can find them HERE.
1) Jordan Staal’s line
They were not bad and were not on the ice for a goal against (except Staal for the empty-netter), but they were not able to control the puck and tilt the ice at the level they did last season.
The duo played a good game overall, but Pesce’s 1 unfortunate miscue was costly ending up in the Canes net. Like about everyone else, I continue to love their ongoing development, but part of the next step is to tighten things up just a bit more.
3) More sources of offense
Teuvo Teravainen scored a big goal at even strength which was a positive, but the Hurricanes in total struggled to generate much offensively for two-thirds of the game. Even when the Canes pushed forward aggressively in the third period, they mustered only a modest 8 shots on net.
4) The goaltending
While I would not hang this game on Cam Ward, it was another sub .900 save percentage night, and I think once Brett Pesce caught up and limited Silfverberg’s time and options on the third goal that it could have been saved. I would put this game in the category of borderline ‘good enough.’
Jeff Skinner: While I was not thrilled overall with the Hurricanes ability to compete on the walls and in the trenches in front of the net, I actually like Jeff Skinner’s progress in this area. He is regularly going to dirty areas on offense and has become much better at using his lower body strength and low center of gravity to step into opponents on the boards instead of the old ‘swipe and go’ attempt from years past. His pretty assist was a positive as well of course.
Lee Stempniak: He was the other player who most showed some desperation and physical willngness throwing his body around a bit despite not being cut from a big, power forward type of mold. His aggressive forecheck sprung loose the puck that Skinner fed to Rask for the second goal.
Murphy over Nakladal?: I question Bill Peters’ decision to go with Dahlbeck/Murphy and leaving out the more physical Nakladal against the rugged Anaheim Ducks. Two of Anaheim’s goals immediately followed puck battle losses on the boards by Dahlbeck/Murphy and the duo had a hard time in general.
No one rose up: As noted above in my ‘what I’m watching points, I did not think Jordan Staal or Cam Ward were horrible, but sometimes a team needs someone to rise up and be a hero. Neither candidate to do so was really the difference-maker that the Canes needed on Thursday night.
After a loss to start the 5-game home stretch, the next game on Saturday against the Washington Capitals looms even larger.