Shortly after the Hurricanes game ended, I said on Twitter:
Disappointing result obviously, but that really was the game @Canes needed to play after 2 losses.
They were better team (by modest margin)…Couple posts and the odd deflection off McGinn's stick for bar in game-winner from wide angle.
Mostly shrug and move on.
— Canes and Coffee (@CanesandCoffee) February 26, 2021
As much as a third straight loss stings, I think this one clearly falls into the category where you just have to shrug and move on. Either of the Canes two posts could have changed things. And after seeing the replay, what looked like a great shot on the game-winner was more so a fluky deflection off a Canes’ stick that then went bar in. And more significant than the ‘bad bounces’ assertion, the Hurricanes were just the better team. It was not by a dominant margin, but as measured by scoring chances, offensive zone time or most anything else significant (except the scoreboard), the Hurricanes were the better team.
My watch points looked for improvement in two broad areas.
First, I wanted to see a response and push back by the Hurricanes after being outplayed by a wide margin the night before. The Hurricanes easily met this challenge. The team came out playing fast and aggressive and controlled play in the first period. The Canes hemmed the Lightning in their own end for stretches, earned some good chances from it (one of best was Svechnikov’s near miss off the bar) and gave the Lightning very little. The Hurricanes were not as dominant in the latter two periods, but I still think they carried the play.
Second, I was looking to see if the Hurricanes could make some adjustments tactically to better advance the puck from the defensive zone to the offensive zone with possession. In this regard, the bigger story was probably just the team being crisper and having more jump, though the Canes did seem to make a concerted effort to use space to the outside to navigate the neutral zone with a bit more ease.
Other than the result, I would categorize the game in total as a success.
The downside though is that the Hurricanes are now toting a three-game losing streak and are staring at two straight road games against the other top team in the Discover Central Division.
Player and other notes
1) James Reimer
Reimer played well for the second consecutive game. After a run that saw the Hurricanes mostly struggle in net but ironically win games, the netminding has been competent or better for four straight games now despite yielding a 1-3 record. Just like on Wednesday, Reimer gave his team a chance in the third period, but the team was unable to net a tying goal before an empty-netter sealed the deal.
After being too quite in a couple losses, that really was not the case on Thursday. Despite picking up only a single secondary assist (Aho), the duo was dangerous all game. Svechnikov had the pipe early, they both played a role in Pesce’s goal and they also had a couple other really good chances. The next game or two will be an interesting watch point for Svechnikov. He has previously come off his game defensively and penalty-taking discipline wise during scoring droughts. Despite having a strong game overall, he did have the play where he seemed to just stop defending Segachev who capitalized by carving a quick path to the net for a goal. Now in his third year, has Svechnikov matured as a player such that he will just stay the course and double down on doing things the right way?
3) Jesper Fast
After a slow start at least on the score sheet, Fast has picked up the pace. Bumped up to the top line, he had a pretty assist on the Pesce goal and was involved in a multiple other scoring chances. He is playing his best hockey as a Hurricane right now.
4) Brett Pesce
In a season that features ups and downs from other top Canes defenders, Pesce continues to be the team’s best and most consistent defender. The goal was significant obviously, but that was just one of three plays that he was involved in for grade A scoring chances. Combine that with his steady defensive play, and he is also on top of his game right now.
5) Too much grind late?
The fourth line with Paquette and Martinook as the core (and Lorentz in with Teravainen’s injury) continues to play a good old school type of fourth line game. And I am in favor of using four lines to keep players fresh for the compact season. But down a goal late, I question the volume of ice time for the fourth line.
Next up for the Hurricanes is the first of two on Saturday against the Florida Panthers who are the other top team in the division.