At the most basic level, picking up a point on the road against a Columbus team that is playing well right now is a decent even if treading water outcome especially given that the Canes are trying to find it right now. But coupled with the 1-3 stretch that preceded this game and the fact that the Hurricanes blew a 3-1 lead to get to overtime, I think it is fair to say that the game continued what has been a negative trend of late.
The game very much reminded me of the 6-3 win over Florida. The Hurricanes were good not great early and parlayed that with opportunistic scoring to jump out to a lead. Then the team proceeded to mostly quit and hope that the lead and the goalie were enough to bank the W. Against Florida, the lead was bigger at five goals and James Reimer played Superman for two periods to make 40 minutes of sub-par hockey mostly irrelevant. But against Columbus on Thursday, the lead to start was only two goals and though Mrazek was good overall, he was not quite at Superman level. The result was that an utterly flat second period squandered to the two-goal lead. To the Hurricanes credit, they did rebound in the third period after blowing the lead but were unable to notch a goal to reclaim the lead. The game represents another uneven effort for a Hurricanes team that has had trouble putting together a full 60 minutes.
Columbus struck first when Jordan Staal turned the puck over at the offensive blue line with a defenseman caught up. The result was a 4-on-1 jail break, a nice pass and a goal for Alexandre Texier. And just like that hopes that the Canes would clean up some of the sloppy puck management with a few days of practice dwindled. But the Hurricanes rebounded quickly. Dougie ‘hotter than the sun’ Hamilton scored only 1:11 later off the rush on a nice pass by Warren Foegele. Ryan Dzingel would score next on a pretty pass in close from Martin Necas. And Sebastian Aho would finally break through with a non-empty-net goal on a tip of a Brett Pesce shot. And just like that the Hurricanes were up 3-1. A continuing positive for the 2019-20 Hurricanes is their ability to put the puck in the net. Whereas in years past the Hurricanes seemed to need 40 shots and some crazy expected goal total of eight to squeak one in, the 2019-20 team makes it look easy sometimes. The Hurricanes were the better team in the first period, but the margin on the scoreboard also featured opportunistic scoring.
The second period saw the Blue Jackets respond and push back and the Hurricanes have no answer except for Petr Mrazek early. The Hurricanes were out-shot 15 to 3 for the period and never really got going. The team seemed to half wake up after Brind’Amour used his timeout, but in total the sleep walked through the majority of the period. Early on it looked like Petr Mrazek was going to repeat Reimer’s heroics against Florida and convert a single period of hockey into a win. But in the second half of the period, the Blue Jackets broke through. An ‘iffy’ line change by the Canes left the defensemen outnumbered off the rush. The result was a chance off the rush that beat Mrazek off his glove and in. Only a few minutes later Trevor van Riemsdyk had a ‘still rusty’ moment. First he was a bit slow mentally adjusting his position at the blue line and then was beaten physically when he could not find the burst to make up for it. The result was a breakaway goal and a 3-3 tie. The period was an odd one for Mrazek who was outstanding for much of the period but then ‘meh’ on both goals. That is how a second period that could have been worse mercifully ended.
To the Hurricanes credit, the Hurricanes did rebound and play arguably their best period of the game in the third period. The Hurricanes would earn two power plays, win the shots battle 12 to 4 and generally have the better of play and scoring chances for the entirety of the third period. But they were unable to crack Joonas Korpisalo a fourth time which sent the game to overtime.
The Hurricanes were mostly under duress from the outset of overtime. Mrazek made a few great saves to buy time, but the Blue Jackets eventually netted the winner when Martin Necas got caught out of position trying unsuccessfully to win a puck at the offensive blue line. The result was a breakaway from the blue line in and a game-winner for Cam Atkinson.
Player and other notes
1) Sebastian Aho!
I am still waiting for the true break through game where Aho plays like a going concern for an entire game, but baby steps count. Hopefully notching his first non-empty-netter of the season will get him going.
2) Jordan Staal
Maybe trying to do too much, Staal had a mixed night. His puck management ‘oops’ at the blue line led to the first goal. He followed that up by taking another obstruction type minor penalty. His game was a mixed bag.
3) Warren Foegele
He only logged 12:19 of ice time, but I thought it was his best game of the season. He had two decent passing plays early including an assist on the Hamilton goal. He was also more noticeable on the forecheck and hounding the puck in the neutral zone which is the core of his game.
4) Andrei Svechnikov
Like his line mate Staal, Svechnikov’s game was a mixed bag. He made some plays offensively, but he also had another game where he was too often content to defend by reaching. He had an offensive blue line turnover that led to a breakaway. He was kind of floating and reaching in the neutral zone when a pass to spring the break for the Jackets third goal went right through him. In total, he seemed to lack the ‘always on’ needed to play a complete game at the NHL level.
5) The first test?
With a 1-3-1 mark in the last five games, I think at the 10-game mark of the 2019-20 season we are facing the first test for the Canes leadership for the 2019-20 season. It is no doubt subjective and also a matter of different personalities, but per my comments on Twitter shortly after the game ended, I do not like the vibe sometimes from Staal during down stretches. The simplest and maybe most powerful thing that Justin Williams did as a later to help effect a change in mentality was forcefully (repeatedly in the early going) saying, “It’s not okay!” I think that was significant for the young team. It’s not cliches like “need to be ready for the next one” or “we need to stick together.” Those are part of it too, but Williams also stayed in the here and now after some losses and said very directly that it was not okay. I go back and forth to what degree he was as agitated as he sounded or if he was adding a bit of hyperbole to make sure the young group got the message, but regardless the result was the same. He made it very clear that it was not okay to just always let the unpleasantness go really quickly. I think we are walking up to Jordan Staal’s first test as captain this season.
And on cue…I think the difference between Staal and Williams stylistically post-game is that Staal is some combination of matter of fact and calmly defeated whereas Williams either was or played up POed.
Don't need recap. Need bit angst and unwillingness to accept it as okay. https://t.co/lzLuUcuJ0M
— Canes and Coffee (@CanesandCoffee) October 25, 2019
Next up for the Hurricanes is a NC State Fair Saturday matinee against the Chicago Blackhawks at PNC Arena at 1pm on Saturday.