After a wild win over the Red Wings on Friday to push to 3-0 on the current four-game home stand, the Hurricanes looked to close out the run at a perfect 4-0 against the New Jersey Devils.
Saturday’s game was a bit tighter and disjointed as compared to Friday’s free-flowing affair versus the Red Wings. The Hurricanes had a decent number of ‘almosts’ early including Jaccob Slavin springing Sebastian Aho and Andrei Svechnikov for a 2-on-1, but the pass did not connect. Dougie Hamilton put a couple pucks on net. And the Hurricanes were also better in the neutral zone. The Hurricanes would score first on a pretty passing play that saw all five players touch the puck. Svechnikov moved the puck to Slavin who advanced and fed Gardiner who passed across to Aho who found Foegele for a pretty backhand finish. After having a goal taken away on an offside call yesterday, Foegele finally netted his first of the season. The Devils struck back when James Reimer was a little slow getting his body across to the post after a shot caromed off the end boards and back in front. The Hurricanes would score next on the power play when Andrei Svechnikov burst in from the left side, put a puck on net and had the rebound find Teuvo Teravainen who finished. Just when it looked like the Hurricanes would exit the first period with a 2-1 lead, Dougie Hamilton took an unnecessary neutral zone penalty and James Reimer had a shot leak through him ultimately to be deposited into the net by rookie Jack Hughes. The Hurricanes seemed to deserve better but exited the first period tied at 2-2.
New Jersey climbed ahead only 35 seconds into the second period on a domino effect of Canes miscues. First, Sebastian Aho was soft on the puck at the offensive blue line. The turnover led immediately to an odd man rush. Admittedly put in a tough position, Jaccob Slavin had a rare tough moment defending off the rush when Nico Hischier used his speed to twist Slavin around and eat him up. Then Reimer sat deep in his net and was slow to react giving Hischier net to target which he hit. The Hurricanes tied the game up at the midway point of the second period when Ryan Dzingel made another pretty passing play to find Erik Haula in front of the net for a quick finish. From that point forward, the ball seemed to be on the tee for the Hurricanes to dial it up, prove they were the better team and collect a home win against a team with a significantly lesser record. But the Hurricanes never really found their game and seemed to mostly muddle through the second half of the game.
The Hurricanes did get to the second intermission but fell behind again on another self-inflicted goal against early in the third period. Miscommunication between James Reimer and Dougie Hamilton led to a turnover, a quick shot and a deflection goal by P.K. Subban. There was nothing much Reimer could have done on the nifty tip, but he obviously played a role in the turnover that led to it. Despite being down a goal and needing to muster desperation, the Hurricanes put only four shots on net in the third period. New Jersey did a decent job of defending a lead with simple plays and not giving up the middle of the offensive zone. An empty-netter sealed the deal for a disappointing loss to end an otherwise good four-game home stand.
Player and other notes
1) Jaccob Slavin
Maybe feeding off of partner Dougie Hamilton, Slavin is playing some of his best offensive hockey as a Hurricane. He had three assists in Friday’s route and had a nice collection of plays with the puck on his stick again on Saturday. The negative in his game was being eaten alive on the Hischier goal.
2) James Reimer
Being a backup goalie is in many ways the toughest job in the NHL. Pro athletes who are trained to compete often have to sit, wait and just practice for days on end before finally drawing into real action. Reimer did play in relief in the game where Mrazek was pulled, but he had not started since October 15 making for more than two weeks between starts. It showed. Reimer just was not sharp, and it played a significant role in the result. On the first goal, he seemed to be stuck in the mud on the end boards carom. He got his pad to the post but was not able to move his body which left the opening. The second goal Reimer allowed was just a bad goal with the puck trickling through him. The Hischier goal was tough to defend with him flying in off the rush, but Reimer again looked just a tiny bit slow not challenging or doing much of anything to reduce Hischier’s chances. And finally the Subban goal was on him and Hamilton on their turnover.
Importantly, team’s must accept an occasional tough outing from a backup because of the challenge of the role. In total, Reimer has been break even or better as backup with phenomenal outings in wins of Washington and Florida. The current trajectory is worth watching, but in total Reimer’s 2-3 record is satisfactory especially when considering that he was driving factor in two of those wins.
3) Warren Foegele
Good for Warren Foegele finally netting his first goal of the season after having a goal wiped away on a offside on a video review on Friday. He has elevated his game playing on the top line that has been productive, so it was nice to see him rewarded on the score sheet.
4) Ryan Dzingel
As a player labeled as a finisher/goal scorer upon arrival, his playmaking and passing have impressed. He followed up a heady playmaking assist on Necas’ goal on Friday with another heady pass on Haula’s goal on Saturday. He continues to be a key component on a third line that is a going concern offensively.
The margin is tiny in the NHL such that even great teams only win about two out of three games. The Hurricanes just finished winning three of four, so despite the disappointing result on Saturday, the trajectory and recent results are still positive.
6) A good and timely reminder
The game also represents a good and timely reminder that past results count for nothing when two teams step on the ice. On paper, the Hurricanes were the better team heading into Saturday’s match up, but the Hurricanes did not do enough to make good on that. Especially with a full month of November of games against theoretically lesser teams, Saturday’s loss is a good reminder that the Canes have to show up and do the work each and every game if they want to continue getting results.
Next up is a Tuesday match up against the Flyers in Philadelphia.