Among many positive stories for the Canes with a 9-3-0 record through 12 games, quite possibly the biggest that covers it all is that even the lesser version of the Hurricanes right now is a decent hockey team that is good enough to find a way to win.
Early in the season, the Canes were pretty good offensively. Then COVID setbacks saw an undermanned Canes team pulled together, tightened up defensively and pulled out a couple low-scoring wins with defense and goaltending. Then the Hurricanes seemed to lose it a bit defensively. With a stretch of at times shaky defense, puck management and to some degree goaltending, the team just dialed up the scoring to win a few high-scoring affairs.
On Saturday in Dallas, the Hurricanes struggled to generate much for scoring chances in the first half of the game. But the hung around and stayed patient and then struck quickly to climb out to a win. Even when a rare decision-making error by Sebastian Aho let the Stars back into the game late, the Hurricanes still found a way pushing their record to 2-0 in the shootout.
Even the lesser version of this team is a decent or better hockey team.
The Hurricanes started a bit slow but had Nedeljkovic make a few good saves early before the Stars did deservedly climb out to a 1-0 lead. The Stars had the upper hand for most of the game until all of a sudden they didn’t anymore. With little doing offensively and a 1-0 deficit a couple pretty passes and finishes abruptly staked the Canes to a 2-1 lead late in the second period. The Hurricanes would push to 3-1, but struggle to close the game out. A couple late goals by the Stars pushed the game to overtime where the Hurricanes had a slight advantage and edge in terms of puck possession while 3-0n-3 and were a bit disjointed with a 4-on-3 power pay for the last 40 seconds. But Nedeljkovic was calm and patient in making three saves in the shootout with Vincent Trocheck scoring again for the win.
Player and other notes
1) Alex Nedeljkovic
Congratulations to Alex Nedeljkovic on his first win of the 2020-21 season. As he works to establish himself as an option to at least be a #2 goalie for the 2021-22 season, each win is a step in that direction. I would characterize his game as steady through two periods. He made a couple really good saves early when the Hurricanes started slowly and after that just generally was sound. He held the fort long enough for the team to still have a chance despite not getting going until well into the game. He was also incredibly calm in the shootout just mostly waiting shooters out until they had nothing to really shoot at. The one negative is that in consecutive starts, the team could have used just one more big save late to get to overtime or win, so that is worth watching going forward. But aside from dissecting details and evaluating Nedejlkovic initially as a backup, he has given him team a chance in consecutive games and has a 1-1 record to show for it. That is exactly what one would want out of a backup goalie.
2) Other firsts – Jordan Martinook and Teuvo Teravainen
In addition to Nedeljkovic picking up his first win of the season, Teuvo Teravainen and Jordan Martinook both scored their first goals of the season. That is bigger for Teravainen who figures to be in the top half of the lineup offensively but is off to a bit of a slow start with the disjointed beginning after the COVI layoff.
3) The shootout
Gone (at least for now, knock on wood) are the days when the Hurricanes just automatically and always struggled in the shootout. The shootout win pushes the Hurricanes to 2-0 on the season. What a time to be a Canes fan!
4) A rare mistake and maybe a lesson learned
Late in the game, the Hurricanes went from having two points in hand for having to battle through the uncertainty of overtime and the shootout to reclaim the second point when Sebastian Aho had a rare decision-making error. With the chance to try to shoot through a bit of traffic at the empty net and at a minimum deposit the puck on the end boards with time to reset up defensively, he instead got fancy trying a soft pass back to the middle of the ice. The result was a bad turnover at a transition point and a 5-on-2 rush the other way with Aho and Teravainen instantly caught out of position defensively. Aho and Teravainen have both been good late in games and have a propensity for scoring to end games, but this play illustrates the importance of making good decisions when defending a lead late.
5) Andrei Svechikov
He collected only a single scoring point on his pretty misdirection assist to Jordan Staal but easily could have had a couple more on a strong night playmaking-wise with the puck on his stick. He similarly found Dougie Hamilton for a good chance and had a couple other dishes that created decent scoring chances.
6) Pretty passing – Martin Necas and Jake Gardiner
As I have said a few times of late, the Hurricanes ability to make plays offensively makes them dangerous at any time to notch a goal or two even when things are not trending in that direction. In addition to Svechnikov’s pass to Staal noted above, Martinook and Teravainen’s goals were also the result of pretty passing plays from Necas and Gardiner.
Next up for the Hurricanes is five straight at home starting with the first of two against Columbus on Monday night at PNC Arena.