As I was away for the weekend for higher priorities and just scampered back into town around 3pm before attending Sunday’s game against Anaheim, my context is admittedly not complete for Sunday’s game. But looking at that game by itself, my recap follows.
At the all-important ‘results matter’ top level, Sunday’s game was not a complete loss with an overtime loss point earned. But in terms of what was possible, Sunday’s game was a missed opportunity to earn two points on multiple levels. First, the match up that saw Anaheim play last night and then travel should have been a favorable one for the Hurricanes. Second, even after a slow start on the scoreboard, the Hurricanes had two points in hand late and could not close it out. Finally, overtime and the shootout represented a chance for redemption, and the Hurricanes actually played a phenomenal overtime, but in the end that chance was not redeemed either. I would put Sunday’s overtime loss in the ‘half empty’ category where it seems reasonable to want more.
As for the game itself, the first period had a few of the most common problems for 2017-18. The Hurricanes did okay with puck possession and decent defending in their own end in the first period, but Anaheim’s aggressive forecheck that regularly saw three players in or close to the Hurricanes defensive zone stymied the Canes early. Even when the Hurricanes did have the puck, nothing much productive happened from it. Then to compound the problem, the Hurricanes mostly squandered two power play chances to jump start the offense. The two efforts looked as bad as any from what has generally been a tough season with a man advantage with significant problems even gaining entry to the offensive zone with possession. And along the way, Scott Darling had a tough period getting beaten twice from odd angles with one clanging of the post and also being beaten five hole on a defensive breakdown. In short, the first period was a case study for many of the struggles of the 2017-18 season and seemed destined to end with a 2-0 deficit.
Then it happened. Jeff Skinner crashed the crease and scored an ugly goal that saw his stick fly behind the net and the puck somehow end up in it. And as has been the case for the Hurricanes for awhile now, the order of get goal=>change momentum happened.
The Hurricanes were by far the better team in the second period, and when Justin Faulk scored with 1:27 remaining to take the lead, the game seemed to be trending the right direction.
But more of the Hurricanes 2017-18 problems emerged in a big way in the third period. Below Slavin/Pesce, Peters’ latest try at defense struggled mightily, and Darling was again beaten on a shot he would like back.
The Hurricanes at least held on to get to overtime, and then played one of the best overtimes I can remember but failed to score before ultimately losing in a shootout.
Notes from the Carolina Hurricanes 4-3 shootout loss to the Anaheim Ducks
Blue line troubles below Slavin/Pesce continue
There is a more basic level of just not capitalizing and closing out, but at a more specific level, I think one of two big stories in the game was the Hurricanes defensive struggles below Slavin/Pesce. The second Anaheim goal did feature an inopportune turnover by Jeff Skinner, but it also a train wreck in terms of positioning for Justin Faulk and Noah Hanifin. It starts with Hanifin pursuing a Ducks player on the other side of the ice despite the fact that Faulk was already on him. Hanifin chasing the puck resulted in the puck going around the boards. Instead of Hanifin claiming it in a harmless place in the corner, the puck went all the way around to even with the face-off circles. When Hanifin lost that puck battle, the puck quickly found a Duck right out in front of the net with a prime scoring chance. Like Hanifin earlier, Faulk was wandering around a bit and not defending that player. And bang, Darling was beaten five hole.
Trying to find something that worked Peters demoted Hanifin and replaced him with Haydn Fleury before the start of the third period. The results were even worse. On one shift, Fleury’s overly passive play allowed Duck players to twice step into face and shoot from a prime scoring area. On another shift, Fleury twice turned the puck over in the corner and back toward the net in the process. In total, Fleury did not look even remotely close to being part of the solution to build a sound and steady defense pairing. Important to note is that it was a first try in the top 4 for a young player who will certainly grow during the course of the 2017-18 season, so it is at least possible that he just needs time and the chance to suffer through some growing pains.
I was a strong advocate for adding one more #4/#5 possible defenseman as depth over the summer, but that obviously did not happen. Peters does not have a ton of options at his disposal, but he needs to figure something out fairly quickly.
A night that Scott Darling could have been better
I did not think Scott Darling was sharp at all in the first period. He was beaten twice on odd angle blasts that seemed to be largely a result of missing his angle. In addition, he was beaten through him on the Hanifin/Faulk miscue. He was admittedly in tough spot, but ideally he at least squares up to the shooter, challenges as much as possible and forces the shooter to hit a corner to beat him. Finally, the late tying goal by Anaheim was a back breaker. He was screened by Slavin which is not his fault, but in being slow to get down in time for the shot, he had a second puck find its way right through his legs and into the net. A sounder game on Sunday night from Darling, could easily have been the difference.
Again, I have yet to watch the St. Louis Blues game which I have on DVR, but carrying over from Thursday’s win, I thought Rask looked strong on Sunday night. He had a couple really good chances including the best chance of the overtime which seemed to label for the corner of the net only to be robbed by Ryan Miller.
He scored yet another huge goal on Sunday when he salvaged a poor first period with a late goal. The goal was an ugly one to say the least but very clearly necessary fuel for a higher gear.
The captains carry the mail
Interestingly, the three goals were scored by the three captains. Jordan Staal finished a pretty Sebastian Aho pass, and long overdue Justin Faulk scored what could have been the game-winner on a blast.
The overtime really was as good as any that the Hurricanes have played after checking what my memory bank can serve up. They had the puck for the majority of the extra session, gave up very little when they did not have the puck and had four really good scoring chances, a couple of which seemed labeled for a corner to win a game. Credit to Ryan Miller for stealing a win. Hopefully, this performance can be replicated because I think it is a winner much more often than not.
Next up is three days off before the Hurricanes travel to Colorado to play the Avalanche on Thursday night.