On Thursday night at PNC Arena, the Carolina Hurricanes for the third straight time. To add salt to the wound, all three of those losses were to Metropolitan Division foes who were below the Hurricanes in the standings. Right now, the Hurricanes are doing everything within their power to assure that the battle for playoff and wild card spots within the division is a dog fight that includes as many teams as possible.

But as I said on Twitter shortly after the game ended, I think Thursday was much more positive than negative.

Other than the result on the scoreboard, the first period was easily among the team’s best on the season. If graded without consideration for scoring, I think one could make a case that it was the team’s best.

The period was reasonably even early on, but as the period wore on the Canes gave the Rangers fits trying to move the puck out of their own end.

The forecheck regularly coughed up pucks.

The Hurricanes kept things simple and shot whenever possible.

And they even did a good job of getting bodies to the front of the net.

The result was arguably the team’s best sustained pressure of the entire season. There were stretches during the latter half of the first period where the game looked like a shooting gallery. Henrik Lundqvist was phenomenal, but the Hurricanes were also just unlucky not catching a break or a carom that found twine. The period ended with the first of a few Canes defensive miscues posting the Rangers to an undeserved 1-0 lead and with the Hurricanes mounting a massive 47 shots with 22 shots on goal against only six shots on goal for the Rangers who collected most of those very early in the period. Just when it looked like the Hurricanes would exit the first period disappointingly tied at 0-0, the situation went from bad to worse. The play started when Jordan Staal took a questionable route to defend his man behind the net which left a wide open passing lane. Then Dougie Hamilton was caught roughly in the right place but not really doing much. The result was a quick pass to Artemi Panarin who finished from point blank range.

The second period was not as one-sided but still saw the Hurricanes with the upper hand, Henrik Lundqvist playing Superman when necessary and the Hurricanes pushing pretty hard to score. Finally 14:32 into the second period, Hamilton scored on a nifty tip of a Jaccob Slavin point shot to tie the game at one goal apiece. But again the Rangers scored a deflating goal late in the period. And again it was Hamilton who was loosely defending a player in front of the net who would score. This time it was a tip with Hamilton there but not really engaged with the power play goal scorer Brendan Lemieux. The result was a 2-1 deficit for the Hurricanes heading into the third period.

After a lackluster third period on Tuesday against the Flyers, it was going to take a much better effort to dent Lundqvist at least once if not twice and at least get to overtime. But the Rangers delivered a dagger only 1:15 into the third period on another tough defensive play by the Canes. Jake Gardiner lost a puck battle on a dump into the Canes defensive zone. Then from a harmless starting point all the way in the corner, Pavel Bushnevich cut an unobstructed path all the way down the end line and to the front of the net with an unimpeded scoring chance. It was as if Gardiner quit on the play after losing the puck, and there was no one else to offer resistance. The Hurricanes found life late when a Sebastian Aho bad angle shot took a lucky bounce of a defenseman’s skate and into the net to pull the Hurricanes within a goal at 3-2. But the Hurricanes were unable to muster a tying goal, and the Rangers ultimately won 4-2 after adding an empty-netter.

I think the entirety of the game can be summarized in three bullet points. The Hurricanes were very good in terms of mustering sustained pressure via intensity and won the battle in terms of possession time, shots and scoring chances. The recent troubles with attention to detail with defensive zone covered reared their head in a big way leading to the loss. Only Henrik Lundqvist and puck luck kept the Canes from scoring four or five goals.


Player and other notes

1) Eetu Luostarinen

Luostarinen had a strong NHL debut. He drew a penalty in the first, avoided defensive coverage issues and was noticeable in his consistency engaging the puck in all three zones. He played regular shifts through two periods before Brind’Amour shortened the bench a bit in the third. Luostarinen finished with 9:21 of ice time. In terms of decision-making, his game reminds me of Wallmark bursting on the scene last year, but Luostarinen brings much more in terms of puck engagement. He paired well with McGinn. The duo played a simple game but had a decent number of chances in limited ice time.


2) Dougie Hamilton

Hamilton giveth with the deflection goal, but he also taketh away with a tough game defensively losing track of players right in front of his own net for two quick goals that were the difference. He had seven shots on net and more that were not on net but were dangerous chances into traffic. Hamilton scores 10 out of 10 for the offensive part of his game. Not sure how harsh I want to be with a number rating, but his defensive play was pretty much the reverse.


3) Dzingel/Aho/Necas

With Erik Haula out of the lineup and the Canes struggling to score, Brind’Amour put Aho between Dzingel and Necas. The results were favorable with the two speedy wings buzzing around just like they have all season. Especially if Haula is out again on Saturday, I will be curious to see if Brind’Amour sticks with this new combination.


4) Warren Foegele

Aside from not being able to finish on a couple of the Canes better chances for the night, I really liked Foegele’s game. He seemed to find his higher gear in terms of just being disruptive and difficult to play against especially in offensive zone. He was engaged behind the net and when not doing that battling in front of the net. Add a bit of finishing, and he would have been a difference-maker on Thursday.


5) More good than bad

Per my Tweet above, I really think that Thursday’s loss had far more positives than negatives. The sustained pressure and productive puck-hounding in the offensive zone were welcome arrival. Only the defensive zone lapses stand out as a meaningful negative in this game.


6) But results matter

But results matter, and the Hurricanes have now lost three start and are 4-6-1 after their 5-0 start. I posted a poll Thursday afternoon asking about the urgency after two losses. That urgency level will only increase for Saturday.

Next up for the Hurricanes is a home and home set against the Ottawa Senators starting with a match up in Ottawa on Saturday.


Go Canes!

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