In the team’s 2020-21 season opener, the Hurricanes won by a 3-0 margin that overestimated how safe the game was pretty late into the game but maybe actually matches the level of play.
By no means did the Hurricanes have an easy time with the Red Wings. The Wings forecheck created problems intermittently, and aside from Aho’s line, the Canes chances were fairly limited. But in a shortened season where getting points early matters even more, the game was an acceptable start with two points in the standings and a number of positives.
Rather than writing a recap, here are thoughts and evaluations of the game in bullet point format.
Not counting the empty-netter by Svechnikov with part of that group on the ice, the trio of Aho, Teravainen and Niederreiter were easily the Canes best. Niederreiter generally had a strong game doing what he needs to do. He did some work winning pucks when he needed to and otherwise spent a ton of time between the face-off circles waiting for the puck to show up. His goal was a pretty one getting the goalie to move a bit and then exploiting the small opening just created. He could have had a hat trick with a couple other chances and a couple other pucks that nearly found him near the crease, but the fact that he was active and did score is a positive first step for the season. Aho and Teravainen who was unusually trigger happy (in a good way) also had strong games.
Little else offensively
The downside was that there was little else offensively Dzingel’s goal came on the power play. I struggle to think of a single decent scoring chance for the fourth line. Svechnikov/Staal/Necas did not generate much offensively. Necas had a couple lower quality shots to try to beat the goalie and Staal shot into the goalie from in close early. Other than the empty-netter, Svechnikov was mostly a non-factor. Same can generally be said for the second line. Had you told me that Trocheck and Fast did not play, I would mostly have believed you. It is early, but attempt one to build lines for depth scoring was not partcularly successful.
Defensive zone coverage
The single biggest positive for me was the Canes defensive zone coverage. The final score and shot totals suggest a lopsided game. But the Red Wings were actually reasonably effective hemming the Canes in their own end for stretches and pressuring. But the Hurricanes were good defending in their own end even when pressured such that shots allowed were minimal and only a few were dangerous.
Start of a rebound?
As I said on Twitter, one game does not a season make. But the goals by Niederreiter and Dzingel were significant in that they could help both players capitalize on a fresh start and gain some confidence early in the season.
He continues to add a physical edge that the team does not generally get from the other defensemen. The Canes defense has size and the ability to win puck battles, but none regularly send opponents tail over teakettle like Skjei does. Having a few players who can do that changes the game for opposing players to play a bit more cautiously in terms of moving laterally in busy spaces for fear of missing a truck coming at them.
Especially with the shortened season, getting off to a decent start is even more important. And if my suspicion that Detroit is still a year or more away from competing for the a playoff spot, then capitalizing on two games against the Red Wings to start the season is even more important. So whether you rate Thursday’s win highly because of the shot advantage and Canes having the upper hand or a bit less because the game was tight, the two points is 100 percent of what was possible which is a great start.
Next up for the Hurricanes is what will be the typical second of two this season with another game in Detroit on Saturday.