After what was mostly a good game in a season-opening win against the Red Wings, the second game of the set was a step backwards for the Hurricanes. The first two periods were rough to say the least. I think the root cause of all that failed the Hurricanes through two periods and in general the game was just sloppiness. The game very much looked like the bad version of a fairly common preseason game where the ability to move the puck from stick to stick just was not there.
The result was mostly a disjointed effort to move the puck out of the defensive zone or through the neutral zone with any pace or cohesion.
Brett Pesce and Brady Skjei generally defended okay in their own end, but the two seem to be out of sync in terms of know where to be and how to support each other when the other has the puck. Skjei has multiple times eaten pucks on the boards behind the net in the defensive zone. And Pesce has uncharacteristically been using risky outlets to get the puck moving north/south including a turnover to the middle of the ice on Saturday.
After a generally solid game on Thursday, Jake Gardiner and Haydn Fleury had a tough night on Saturday. The Red Wings first goal saw both of them sort of in the right place to defend a pass from behind the end line to right between the circles. But both seemed a bit lost in terms of taking away the passing lane to the front of the net that led to a bang bang play and a goal. Fleury added to the woes by handing off the puck at the offensive blue line for an uncontested breakaway and then again sort of just hanging out defensively in front of the net instead of identifying and defending the eventual goal scorer for the Red Wings’ second goal.
The forwards in general
The forward group in general mostly looked disjointed. The choppy ice conditions were definitely part of it, but there was also an element of just being out of sync. Even Aho and Teravainen seemed a bit off after a strong showing on Thursday.
Minus Jordan Staal
It is hard to say if Saturday’s weak effort had to do with missing captain Jordan Staal, but the team definitely missed him in the face-off circle. Face-offs can be a bit overrated, but a deficit in this facet of the game can be significant in terms of puck possession which it was on Saturday.
Bigger picture perspective and positives
So in total, Saturday’s game was not a good one. But as I said on Twitter shortly after the game ended, I think one must allow for teams to have one or two games early where it just looks like preseason…because in terms of games played, it is. Time will tell if giving up points to Detroit is as bad as it was in 2019-20, but starting the season 1-1 will not be catastrophic by itself if the Hurricanes can tighten things up again fairly quickly.
I actually liked Svechnikov/Trocheck/Necas early in the game. Trocheck can match the pace of the kids, and the trio can play the type of style where they pressure the defense simply by forcing them to do everything at high speed. The trio seemed to fade after a fast start and did not finish the game together. Nonetheless, I hope Brind’Amour returns to this line and gives it some time. Vincent Trocheck also scored on a power play deflection.
Of Canes players looking for a fresh start in 2020-21, all of Niederreiter, Dzingel and Trocheck have scored which is a positive.
A lot of it has been on the power which has a bit more room to maneuver with the puck, but Martin Necas is gradually becoming more comfortable playing with the puck on his stick. He still has a tendency to move laterally without first checking to be certain of the path ahead which can be dangerous. (Hopefully coaches are working with him on that.) But in general, Necas’ increasing confidence with the puck on his stick bodes well for him starting to generate more scoring chances from his skating ability for him and his line mates.
His game still seems a bit off too, but with his goal on Saturday he is up to three points already counting his empty-netter on Thursday. Being able to produce some offensively even in down times is the hallmark of a great scorer.
What say you Canes fans?
1) Given the odd start to the season, are you willing to accept a preseason-ish game or two as just part of ramping up? Or was Saturday’s game a sign of bigger problems?
2) What stood out to you as the biggest factor in the Canes struggles on Saturday?
3) What positives can you find sorting through the wreckage?