Thanks to everyone who came out to Bond Brothers to watch the Canes game on Thursday night. It is always a pleasure to meet other passionate Canes fans in person and also to watch Canes hockey in good company.
Unfortunately, the results of the game were not as positive. The Hurricanes entered with an impressive five-game point streak but saw it left in Brooklyn after suffering a 6-4 defeat. The game mostly followed the path of wild Hurricanes/Islanders match ups from last season. After falling behind 3-1 in the first period, the Hurricanes surged back with three unanswered goals in the second period. But then Islanders returned the favor in the third period to climb to a 6-4 win.
At the most basic level, the Hurricanes had a tough night in terms of having too many breakdowns and also netminding on a night when the offense was good enough to win.
Notes from the Carolina Hurricanes 6-4 loss to the New York Islanders
1) Early defensive breakdowns were costly
The Islanders jumped out to a two-goal lead early due in large part to a couple of errors by the Hurricanes defensemen. First, Trevor van Riemsdyk pinched too far up the wall at a time when the Isles had possession of the puck. A quick chip pass sent two Islanders players off to the races for a 2-on-1. Noah Hanifin did his primary job to take away the cross ice pass but was not able to close on the shooter who beat Scott Darling. Shortly thereafter, the Hurricanes power play surrendered another prime scoring chance against and a goal. On the opening face-off of the power play, Jaccob Slavin slid too far to the wall anticipating a chance to keep the puck in. A quick pass to the middle of the ice was just too easy in springing Cal Clutterbuck who rushed up the ice alone for a breakaway scoring chance. He too beat Darling off the rush. The final breakdown featured the Hurricanes penalty kill running around mostly chasing the puck without identifying players to defend or passing lanes to take away. The result was a quick succession of passes that found the Hurricanes chasing and ultimately a tap in goal for the Islanders.
Important to note is that the defense including the blue line has generally been solid of late, so with a rebound on Saturday, it would be fair to write Thursday off as an off night.
2) Scott Darling had very few answers
No doubt, the players in front of him did not offer the type of first period that could help him ease into the game, but Scott Darling had very little for answers on Thursday. Both of the first two goals featured defensive breakdowns that put Darling in a bad spot. Against middle/bottom of the roster forwards, I think Darling could have made things tougher by challenging a bit and forcing the player to shoot before ready and also be bigger and take away more net. Instead, on both plays, Darling seemed to just wait, allow the shooter to dictate and then ultimately get beaten. Then the first period scoring concluded when Darling just flat out missed on a shot he saw, actually gloved but then saw the shot deflect off the leather and into the net.
After the second period concluded with the Hurricanes storming back for three goals and a lead, I commented that it was nice to score and give the goalie some breathing room and margin for error. But when the Isles stormed back in the third period, the margin for error and more was erased. The game-winner saw Darling get beat cleanly from the top of the face-off circle from a bit of an angle. The replay makes it hard to tell to what degree Darling was screened, but nonetheless he was beaten from out to post the Islanders to a 5-4 lead before an empty-netter made for a 6-4 final.
As with the blue line, the netminding including Darling’s has generally been a strength recently. Thursday was below ‘meh’ in my estimation but not something that completely erases what has generally been a positive of late.
3) The power play
The shorthanded goal against maybe negates it, but it is worth noting that the power play scored for the second consecutive game. The common factor in both goals has been Elias Lindholm parked directly in front of the opposing goalie. “Parked” is the key word. He did not sort of float by. He did not start in front of the goalie but hop to the side looking for a tip. He parked right in front of the goalie such that Greiss lost his view of the puck, and it ended up behind him and in the net. He did tip the goal and get credit for it, but it was not because he was taking the easy way out by standing off the to side of the shot.
In total for the game, the goal scored was wiped away by the one that came from Slavin’s miscue. But in terms of looking forward, scoring in consecutive games is progress, and Lindholm (and others at times) parking directly in front of the goalie has the potential to yield gains going forward.
4) Jordan Staal
Jordan Staal continues to play his best hockey as a Hurricane, especially on the offensive side of the puck. Aho’s goal was a play of beauty. Despite having the outside track to a puck on the boards, Staal quickly put a shoulder into the Isles player, separated him from the puck and quickly turned away and made a nifty short pass to Teravainen who found Aho on the back door. Possibly lost in the wild 10-goal affair is the fact that Staal continues to play incredibly well in all three zones. He spent a decent chunk of time trying to slow John Tavares who did not get on the score sheet, and he made some plays offensively too.
5) Couple-game context
Any game that does not yield points in the standings is unproductive in terms of chasing a playoff berth. But over the course of a long 82-game NHL season, viewing games as part of chunks can be significant. The disappointing overtime loss to the Blackhawks was somewhat made right when the Hurricanes beat the Stars on Monday to convert it into a lesser part of a five-game point streak. Similarly, with a back-to-back set on Saturday and Sunday to wrap up three games in four nights, a quick bounce back can again make things right. Best guess is that Peters goes back to Ward for the first half of the back-to-back just like he did last weekend. Here is hoping the results are similar.
Next up is another road game against the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday.