Had you told me before the weekend started that the Hurricanes would collect three out of four possible points in a fairly challenging back-to-back set, I would have happily taken it. I think that is an important starting point for considering the Saturday’s overtime loss to the Chicago Blackhawks.
That said, the Hurricanes most definitely left a winnable point on the table when they started fast, took a 2-0 lead early, had a 3-1 lead past the midway point of the game and also had a few really good chances to put the game away when they were up 3-2. So in that regard, the 4-3 loss and overtime loss consolation point are disappointing.
If pressed to briefly summarize the game, I think it would go like this. Despite playing last night, the Hurricanes got off to a decent start, benefited a bit from facing another backup goalie and played well enough and did enough to win. But in multiple regards, they failed to have a killer instinct and failed to finish.
But getting back to the “results matter” theme that has been featured regularly, the Hurricanes used a tough back-to-back set to climb a game above .500, so in terms of considering the two-game set, it was a success.
Notes for the Carolina Hurricanes 4-3 overtime loss to the Chicago Blackhawks
1) Brock McGinn
I am on record as not being as high on Brock McGinn as some and have questioned whether his ceiling is more than that of a fourth-liner/depth forward. Whether that is right or not will play out over a longer time frame, but McGinn has clearly been playing above that level in recent games. He ranks near the top of the roster in terms of hanging out around the net where goals happen and was rewarded with an early goal for his efforts on Saturday. He also had a big hit early in the game of the variety that can make opposing players play a bit different checking to see if McGinn is coming as they handle the puck. And his pretty backhand goal in the second period to put the Canes up 3-1 was absolutely huge. The game ultimately went another direction, but at the time he scored that goal, the Hurricanes were clinging to a 2-1 lead, and the game was trending in the wrong direction. His goal changed the trajectory of the game at the time and could have been the difference had the Canes finished.
2) Rare tough night for Jaccob Slavin
Also in the category of recognizing both the good and the bad, Jaccob Slavin had a lesser night. Slavin was on the ice for all three goals against and was victimized on the Blackhawks first goal right after the conclusion of a Hawks power play when he was beaten to the back door for a goal against. Most likely is just to chalk it up to the fact that not even great players are infallible 82 for 82 over the course of a long NHL season.
There is one other thing worth noting and watching as the season rolls forward. The game marks the second time that Slavin/Pesce had a tough night against a team with top-end talent on a night when they might have been dragging just a little bit physically. At the end of a long week with heavy minutes against Dallas, Slavin/Pesce was eaten alive by Benn/Seguin/Radulov in Dallas. Saturday represented another physical challenge playing the second half of a back-to-back against some high-end offensive talent.
With Dallas on the schedule again on Monday, the game represents a great opportunity for Jaccob Slavin to quickly rebound and do so against tough competition.
3) Sebastian Aho
I think he has officially reached the mental stage of not scoring. His shot really looks like he is just anxious to get the puck on net and hope something good happens. The other odd development is his seeming preference sometimes to receive the puck leaning backward and shoot off his back foot. His ability to receive pucks leaning backwards and shoot basically while fading away from the target is impressive in terms of agility and skill. And it comes in handy when a pass is behind him, and it is the only to receive and shoot. But over the past few games, he has taken to shooting like that on random occasions when the pass does not warrant it. I would figure this is something that the coaching staff will catch on video and that they will talk to him about being ready to receive and step into a shot which should boost both accuracy and power. Regardless, he really needs (and deserves) to catch a break or two to lift the monkey off his back such that he can just get back to playing cerebral hockey in a positive way.
4) Haydn Fleury
He just continues to be quiet and steady in a good way. He did not so much do anything specific to stand out on Saturday but in a fast-paced game that was a bit frenetic at times, he clicked off shifts largely without incident. Important to remember is the the 15 games he has played this season are all that he has for NHL experience.
5) Failure to finish
The biggest ‘half empty’ story of this game was the Hurricanes inability to close the game out in multiple regards. Simplest is the fact that the team let a 3-1 lead slip away and also could not defend or add to a lead inside of ten minutes, but there are also a couple more detailed layers.
5a) Scott Darling
After a couple solid starts that saw Darling play nearly flawless hockey on nights when the team scored enough for only ‘nearly flawless’ to net a win, Saturday was back to ‘meh’. Through the majority of the game, Darling had what I would characterize as the kind of game where he fights it a bit but hangs in there. These games feature Darling having a normally solid game in terms of first shots but also includes issues corralling pucks, controlling rebounds and tracking shots sometimes. Through more than 50 minutes, he was on his way to playing at a slightly lower level than his past two starts but finally getting deserved scoring support and grinding out a 3-2 win. But then an inopportune goal changed that to push the game into overtime, and another happened in overtime. The third goal had the team in front of him running around a bit and also a mess of traffic in front of the net with a shot coming which is challenging for the goalie. But goalie 101 especially for a big goalie like Darling says to get square to where the shot is coming from and do not leave any holes such that you get beat through you. If a puck deflects up into one of the top corners of the net, you shrug and curse the hockey gods for the bad luck. But Darling was beaten right through the wickets for a goal he would want back. Then to add insult to injury, Brandon Saad had time to pick a spot in overtime, sized him up and also fired right through his legs for the game-winner. The game was reminiscent of the 4-3 shootout loss to Anaheim that similarly saw Darling get beat five hole for a tying goal late in the game and then go on to lose in overtime therefore leaving a point on the table.
5b) The power play
The power play has officially reached capitulation stage. The man advantage went 0 for 4 on Saturday with the most significant opportunity coming with just under ten minutes remaining in the game. The Hurricanes had a chance to put the game away but failed. When Jeff Skinner and Teuvo Teravainen also missed on good scoring chances shortly thereafter, the door was left wide open for the Blackhawks to make just one good play to push to overtime. And sure enough, that is exactly what happened.
In the post-game press conference Peters suggested that there would be personnel changes. I have been on this bus for awhile now. Monday’s Daily Cup of Joe entitled, “Three initiatives seeking a spark” voted wholeheartedly for giving Jaccob Slavin a shot on the power play. I continue to watch with each passing game and wonder how a team that is struggling mightily with the man advantage would not at least try possibly its best defenseman to see if it helps. Could the next practice FINALLY see Jaccob Slavin get a chance on the power play? I hope so and think it might finally happen based on Peters’ comments.
5c) Inability to capitalize on chances
Despite scoring three, the Hurricanes struggles with finishing still somehow managed to rear its ugly head. From point blank range and with open net to shoot at, Skinner fired over the top of the net. Teuvo Teravainen also missed on a good chance. And Elias Lindholm failed to score on a good scoring chance in overtime right before the puck went the other way for the decisive Chicago goal. The chances to win were literally on the Hurricanes’ sticks.
6) A good week!
Possibly lost in the disappointing ending to Saturday’s game is the fact that the Hurricanes just completed a stellar 2-0-1 week. That is obviously a playoff pace and was also enough to boost the team from below to above .500. Here is hoping that the trend continues next week.
Next up is a Monday night rematch at home against the Dallas Stars.