After an entertaining and exciting home opener on Saturday night, Tuesday’s Carolina Hurricanes game against the Columbus Blue Jackets was one of those games that can make NHL hockey a tough sell to casual fans. The game was actually a decent one with both teams playing reasonably sounds hockey and both goalies making up for whenever they did not. The result was a 2-1 overtime loss for the Hurricanes that featured some suspense but a whole bunch of raw entertainment value.
Worth noting on a less successful night is that sometimes the other teams are good too. Columbus’ bread and butter is leaning on its blue line and Sergei Bobrovsky to be stalwart defensively, and they are a good hockey team that was successful with that formula against all varieties of teams in 2016-17. So having them tamp down the Hurricanes’ offense is not a shocking event. On top of that, three points out of four in two home games is roughly the pace needed to make the playoffs, so through two games the Hurricanes are on track.
Here are my collection of notes from the game:
1) Jeff Skinner
Albeit only two games into the season, Jeff Skinner had had a quiet start before scoring what will hopefully be his first of many huge goals this season. After a handful of good scoring chances went by the wayside late in the third period, the game felt out of reach despite being a one-goal game. Then Skinner capitalized on a miscue to earn his team a point in the standings and a chance for another. Skinner gloved down a puck intended to be flipped into the neutral zone and quickly finished from between the face-off circles going bar in.
At a basic level, the scoring version of Jeff Skinner plays a ton both with and without the puck between the face-off circles where goals happen. Through two games, Skinner has not spent enough time there and needs to get back to playing out in front of the net.
2) The blue line
The headliner from my ‘What I’m watching’ style preview was the blue line. After what I thought was a rough outing defensively on Saturday, the group in total was better on Tuesday.
Klas Dahlbeck had a couple tough moments but gets a ‘meh’ rating in his 2017-18 debut. He continues to look like a fish out of water at times playing on his off side. The poster moment from Tuesday was the play where Sebastian Aho fed a puck off the boards to Dahlbeck in the offensive zone only to have the pass go right through Dahlbeck for an odd many rush the other way when he had trouble receiving it looking like he had two left feet and an upside down stick.
They were not perfect, but I thought the big 4 on defense were generally good with a more manageable set of ‘oopses’ on Tuesday.
Haydn Fleury’s game continues to be fairly quiet in a good way, as he settles into an NHL role and thus far has not looked to be in over his head doing so.
3) Scott Darling
The one goal that he allowed in regulation was a horrible on a night where there was no margin for error which was unfortunate, but in total, the outing was by far his best as a Carolina Hurricane after two preseason starts and one regular season start.
The game started exactly how one would have hoped and unlike any of Darling’s other starts. He saw a reasonable number of relatively low quality shots early and was able to feel the puck early in the game, build a bit of a rhythm and carry it through the game.
4) The fourth line
They did not score like they did on Saturday, but the fourth line of Joakim Nordstrom, Marcus Kruger and Brock McGinn continues to be a strength. They had a run of ice time in the first half of Tuesday’s game during which they seemed to spend the vast majority of every shift playing on the end wall in the offensive zone. They mustered only a couple scoring chances from the puck possession, but you cannot lose games playing there which is a positive in itself, especially for a fourth line. Kruger and Nordstrom have really good chemistry (possibly from their time together in Chicago) and work well together cycling the puck.
5) Sebastian Aho
He continues to make plays offensively. He put the puck on Jordan Staal’s stick twice for chances from point blank range, once from behind the net on once on his dazzling end to end rush late in the game with the Hurricanes down a goal. Aho could easily have 4-5 assists already with a little bit more finishing help.
6) A mismanaged overtime?
On a night when both Derek Ryan and Jordan Staal were dominant in the face-off circle winning 73 percent each, Peters decided to go with Teuvo Teravainen in the dot for the start of overtime and the all-important face-off to start the overtime power play. He went 0 for 2 which is significant in overtime when having the puck is everything.
I also question the setup on the power play that represented a wasted opportunity to claim the second point. The first unit on the ice for the 4-on-3 was set up with a single point man and and players on each side somewhat similar to the normal 5-on-4 power play. Be it design or haphazard coincidence, but after a timeout to set the plan at an obviously critical juncture in the game, the power play leaned right and almost seemed like the shot it wanted as a one-timer for Noah Hanifin from the right side of Sergei Bobrovsky. On a night when Bobrovsky was clearly seeing and playing the puck well, my last choice for what I would have wanted from the power play would have been taking odd angle one-timers and trying to beat Bobrovsky short side past his glove which was phenomenal all night. That just was not going to happen. Trying to score an ugly goal through a screen from the center via screen, deflection or rebound seemed to have significantly more potential than having Hanifin try to beat Bobrovsky cold.
I was critical of the coaching staff and the team’s seeming lack of a strategy for overtimes in 2016-17. Though the Hurricanes did not score on Saturday, I liked the definitive puck possession focus that maybe could have looked to attack and shoot more but very clearly valued possession of the puck above all else. Tuesday’s moves by the coaching staff left me with less confidence that the in-game coaching for overtime is all that it could be.
What say you Caniacs?
1) What did you see in Tuesday’s 2-1 overtime loss to Columbus?
2) Does anyone else feel like the Hurricanes have left a lot on the table scoring-wise for Sebastian Aho’s playmaking thus far?
3) Which blue-liner most stood out positively or negatively?