One can easily nitpick the Hurricanes 4-3 overtime win over the Minnesota Wild for its many imperfections just like was possible with Thursday’s overtime win in Buffalo. Especially in Saturday’s game, I do not think the Hurricanes were the better team. There again were break downs that led directly to goals against. And the Canes again blew a lead on the way to overtime.
But for anyone who has been a Hurricanes fan for a few years or longer, one has to love what this team is capable of in terms of just outscoring their mistakes some nights. Gone are the days, actually years, when overtime was something to dread. And gone are the days when there is always an ominous feeling of what could go wrong. No doubt the Hurricanes have had some poor games in 2019-20 just like every other team, but I think the ship has turned in terms of being able to easily muster optimism.
As I said on Twitter shortly after the game ended:
More than anything lately, I think @Canes are just better at scoring goals than the other team. Sure some things need to be cleaned up, but how fun is this after a decade of struggling to score!?!?!?! #LetsGoCanes
— Canes and Coffee (@CanesandCoffee) November 16, 2019
Quick game recap
The game started with another defensive miscue off the opening face-off, but goalie James Reimer had the answer as he did on a few other grade A chances in the first stanza. Reimer’s early play bought time for the Hurricanes offense to rev up even if only intermittently. Four minutes in Joel Edmundson fired from well out and found the net (maybe after it tipped off an opposing player?). Then only two minutes later, Teuvo Teravainen centered the puck from the corner, and the rebound found Brock McGinn in front of the net who made no mistake finishing. The two quick goals seemed to help the Hurricanes get their feet under them. The rest of first period was nothing spectacular, but the Hurricanes seemed to play their way into the game courtesy of the 2-0 lead that held up until the first intermission.
Only 4:27 into the second period, a simple cycling play caught Sebastian Aho watching the puck. His man moved up receive a simple pass and beat Reimer from point blank range. That play would be the beginning of second period that trended poorly. The Hurricanes did regain the two-goal lead when Warren Foegele scored from in close on a nice play that involved both of his line mates Jordan Staal and Ryan Dzingel. Staal carried the puck deep into the offensive zone through traffic. Dzingel provided a passing option when Staal ran out of space. And Foegele made himself available and finished Dzingel’s pass. But Canes stumbled after that. Dougie Hamilton made a bad turnover at the offensive blue line toward then end of a long power play shift. Hamilton managed to slow the rush and Reimer made a great save on a chance, but of the five Canes players on the ice only two (Hamilton and Necas) initially made it back to help defend. The result was a 3-on-2 and then 2-on-1 in the offensive zone for the Wild and a Zach Parise goal on his own rebound. The Wild tied the game at 3-3 on another play that saw the Canes running around a bit in their own end instead of identifying and marking individual players. After mostly a mess of a second period, the Hurricanes headed to the third period tied at 3-3.
The third period was only marginally better. Some combination of solid play and complete luck by Reimer were enough to hold even at 3-3. Reimer made more good saves but also somehow managed to have not one but two shots go through his legs and somehow not into the net behind him. After some stretches of frenetic play, the Hurricanes managed to get to overtime and earn a point.
And as has been the case more often than not, overtime was good to the Hurricanes. This time it was Andrei Svechnikov’s turn to be the hero. Skating in with time to pick a spot, he hit it with a laser that beat Devan Dubnyk to chalk up a second consecutive overtime win.
As has been the case in a few of the Canes wins this season, the formula was not pretty but the Hurricanes managed to outscore their errors on the way to a fun, even if imperfect, win.
Player and other notes
1) James Reimer
A bit like Petr Mrazek’s effort in Thursday’s win in Buffalo, Reimer’s top line statistics are nothing fancy, but he battled and definitely played a role in the win. Put simply, the Hurricanes were not the better team on Saturday, but due in part to Reimer battling throughout the game managed to push to overtime and then claim the second point. The win is a big one for Reimer who played well in his first two starts but had been ‘meh’ or worse in the four games since then.
2) Warren Foegele
He seems to elevate his play when playing on higher lines. Put him in a depth role seemingly for fourth-line pluggers, and he looks like a fourth-line plugger. Put him on a higher line with more ice time and responsibility, and he similarly seems to play at that level. He had a strong game in terms of hounding the puck and being difficult to play against such that his goal was just reward for a broader effort.
3) Ryan Dzingel
Dzingel continues to impress well beyond the one-dimensional goal scorer tag that he seemed to arrive with. He had another pretty pass to set up a goal (has at least three of those so far this season). But what stood out to me was how quickly he has figured out how to support the puck possession game that Staal plays. Dzingel very much reminded me of Joakim Nordstrom on Saturday in terms of understanding where he needed to be/what he had to do to provide an outlet for Staal when multiple players converged on him. On the Foegele goal, Dzingel simply made himself available for a short pass. On other occasions, he recognized when he need to fly across the blue line to get to an open space where Staal could play the puck. Other times he knew where to be to create cycling opportunities on the boards. Not since Nordstrom has Staal had a wing who could read/react/support Staal’s ability to get the puck from the defensive zone to the offensive blue by himself but at some point need puck support to keep possession. Dzingel obviously brings much more offensively, but that part of Nordstrom’s game was an incredible complement to what Staal does so well in terms of puck possession.
4) Jordan Staal
It would not be fair to mention his two line mates without also mentioning Staal who also had a strong game. His line was the team’s best all game. The Dzingel/Staal combination is one that I would not have figured made sense before the season started, but the duo has me intrigued right now.
5) Andrei Svechnikov
His overtime goal was the variety where there was no screen or any passing that forced the goalie to move. It was just the case of a player with room to shoot sizing up the situation and just flat beating the goalie cleanly. That was a pure goal scorer’s goal and worth another point in the standings.
6) Results matter
As noted on Thursday and above for this game, the formula is not great right now, but results trump all else. By finding a way on Saturday, the Hurricanes pushed back to five games above .500 at the 20-game mark and are officially in playoff position at the one-quarter pole. That is obviously a good thing.
Next up for the Hurricanes is a Tuesday match up against the Blackhawks in Chicago.