Tentative plan subject to change for some games is to write up more of a quick hitter version of game recaps. The team website, the News & Observer and some other websites do the standard recap for those who did not see the game and want that first.
Very important is not to over-project a single game, but that said it is a first data point.
At the team level
One win does not a season make obviously, in terms of counting it for what it was, the win was an impressive one. The Hurricanes posted five goals against a team with a reputation for being stingy.
On a night when many played well, I thought Teravainen was the team’s best forward. His early pass to spring Svechnikov on the rush was a bit lucky in that his pass actually deflected off the defender, but that combined with his heady shot to get the puck to the net just as Svechnikov was arriving was an early sign that he was already thinking/processing the game at NHL speed. Add in his power play snipe, and he was my pick for the Hurricanes’ best forward.
Skjei had an odd game. Early on, he looked to be the opposite of Teravainen in terms of finding the higher gear quickly. When he failed to challenge or do much of anything other than back up, he became a pylon on the Isles first goal as they skated around him to the front of the net. He picked up a penalty when he was almost beaten cleanly again. But later in the game he seemed to dial it up twice doing well defending swift Matt Barzal coming at him with speed. With he and Pesce maybe being used a bit more as a top pairing at home, his level of consistency is important.
Of the new additions, DeAngelo was easily the biggest positive. He was mobile and effective on the power play and in general with the puck on his stick, especially in the offensive zone. That could bring a different element to a skilled power play. Hamilton’s strength was more that of a trigger man who also had an incredible knack for knowing when to step into holes to receive the puck for a point blank chance. That will be missed, but Hamilton was not so much a pure playmaker. Equally importantly, DeAngelo was not overly noticeable on the defensive side of the puck in a good way, just staying out of trouble and making plays.
On the other end of the spectrum was Jesperi Kotkaniemi. He had a moment late where he showed off his good release, but otherwise had you told me he missed 25-30 minutes in the middle of the game, I would not have doubted it. Again, it is a single game, but the comparison that comes to mind for Thursday is Julien Gauthier. Gauthier had a knack for making an occasional ‘Wow! This guy is an NHLer!’ play but being virtually invisible otherwise. Time will tell if that becomes a trend worth watching.
His first goal of the season could not have been any more perfect. He helped turn over a puck on the forecheck and then went to the front of the net for an ugly goal. He will score more than his fair share of pretty, skilled goals, but putting up big numbers at the NHL level requires a a bit of grinding with a lunch pail. Hopefully the early reward for doing so seers a positive memory into his habits for the 81 games that follow.
Bear was steady in his Canes debut, but I think his transition to how the team plays on defense is a slower work in process. You can see where his initial instincts are conservative, more old school defense that errs on the side of caution in terms of not letting the puck get behind you. He paused a couple times on chances to pinch in from the blue line and thought better of it, and his natural tendency is still more to defend the middle of the ice instead of challenging the puck at the defensive blue line. Because I think some of his natural reads/instincts are opposed to the Canes aggressive approach, his transition seems likely to take a bit longer. That said, erring conservative and not making too many big mistakes is not a bad place to build from. Interestingly though, he is not a conservative, play the puck forward safely type of player with the puck on his stick. He made a nice pass to spring a forward, and he regularly assesses north-south options when he has time with the puck in his own end.
I thought he looked good early even if the shot volume was low. The first goal against was a defensive breakdown that had a player skating uncontested across the front of the crease. The second goal against saw him come within an inch or two of making a really good save on the second goal. But as the game wore on, he seemed to struggle to track the puck. He had at least two pucks go off his glove to bad places instead of being caught and in general had trouble finding the puck and controlling rebounds. But he got through his first start with a new team and notched a win which should be something to build on.
Next up for the Canes is a road matchup against the suddenly familiar Nashville Predators.