Recap for Hurricanes 4-3 loss to Flyers
A regular problem for the 2016-17 reared its ugly head again on Sunday and fairly quickly turned a 3-2 Hurricanes lead into a 4-3 loss. The game marked the fourth time in only 8 games that the Hurricanes scored 3 or more goals but still lost. The primary culprit was a familiar one. With a lead, the Hurricanes lack of attention to detail cracked the door open for the Flyers who then burst through it to claim a win.
Playing a Flyers’ team that played and traveled the night before, the Hurricanes were the better team early. Five minutes into the game, the Hurricanes had a 4-1 advantage in terms of shots on goal and had the better of the play. But Michael Neuvirth was good early, and the Flyers seemed to find their skating legs at that point and were actually the better team through the rest of the first period. The Flyers’ Shayne Ghostisbehere scored a power play marker that seemed to deflect off of Brett Pesce and past Cam Ward late in the first period to get the Flyers on the scoreboard first. Justin Faulk answered with a wrist shot from the point through a Lee Stempniak screen early in the second period to knot the game at 1-1. Radko Gudas then scored from the blue line at the wall on a fairly harmless looking shot that found traffice and a place in the net behind Cam Ward. The Hurricanes struck back with goals by Jeff Skinner (surprise, surprise) and Viktor Stalberg finishing the second of 2 breakaways that he earned with his speed on Sunday.
Stalberg’s goal boosted the Hurricanes to a 3-2 advantage at roughly the midway point of the game and unfortunately set the stage for another series of mistakes to cost the Hurricanes a winnable game. First, a relatively harmless neutral zone turnover by Sebastian Aho escalated quickly when Ron Hainsey did not take away the passing lane to the front of the net on a Flyers’ player in the corner and Justin Faulk got to the front of the net but failed to find Claude Giroux who received a pass right between the face-off circles and beat Ward from in close. Another series of errors gifted the Flyers a shorthanded game-winning goal in the third period. Victor Rask again made a fairly harmless turnover in the offensive zone but did a decent job slowing down and tying up the Flyers player in the neutral zone. Noah Hanifin then gets mesmerized by the play watching Rask do a pretty good job defending the player with the puck as he drifts over to the boards putting him out of position when the puck suddenly is won and passed across to a streaking Brandon Manning who beat Ward off the rush 1-on-none. And with a 1-goal lead in the third period, the other players on the ice need to have significantly more urgency to get back on defense to help out just in case it is needed.
After a feel good win in Friday’s home opener, Sunday was a return to the struggles from the 6-game road trip.
‘What I’m watching’ review
1) Same brand of hockey as Friday
I would not put the Hurricanes breakdowns on Sunday into the same category as a couple of the road debacles. The size and volume of the mistakes was actually less, but the result was the same. The team’s attention to detail needs to be better with a lead in a game like this.
2) Cam Ward
While I do not think it is fair to hang Sunday’s loss solely on Ward, I also think it could be fair to expect another key save or 2 which in the NHL is the difference between 2, 3 or 4 goals against. Neuvirth was better, and Ward was not great.
3) The Skinner surge
Jeff Skinner continued his scoring ways notching another goal and also an assist. He continues to be the team’s best player and do all he can to lift it up.
4) Justin Faulk
Overall, I thought Faulk’s game was fine and the assertiveness from his game on Friday carried over. And he netted a goal. So on the whole, I would say it was a solid game for Faulk. But the play that saw him defending the front of the net but not finding Claude Giroux or the passing lane to him for the tying goal is what separates good defensemen from elite top pairing shutdown defensemen. I still like the general direction of Faulk’s game.
After a solid 60-minute effort in Friday’s home opening win, Sunday’s loss to the Flyers was a regression back to some of the issues from the road trip. Was it just part of the inevitable roller coaster road of a long NHL season? Or as a it a sign inconsistency is an Achilles’ heel for this team. Tuesday’s road match up with the Senators in Ottawa is the next chance to track the story line.