On Friday, the Carolina Hurricanes won the second of two home games sandwiching Thanksgiving day. In the process, the team pushed its win streak to three games and pushed up into a three-way tie for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference (as measured by games above .500).
After watching the game after hours again, an abbreviated set of player/game notes follow.
Jordan Martinook’s night
Game in and game out, Jordan Martinook receives Nathan Gerbe-like marks for every game effort and intensity. In addition, his line centered by Lucas Wallmark and also including Andrei Svechnikov has been very good of late. But despite playing well and generally winning the territorial battle, scoring has been tough to come by. But on Friday, the line broke through courtesy of three Martinook goals that led the way to victory. The trio put the puck on net 12 times on Friday. Whereas line mate Svechnikov impressed me most on Wednesday, Martinook did so on Friday and not just because of the scoring. He had two and a half of his one man forecheck shifts that just kept banging bodies until he won the puck. He also filled a different role in stepping in to very emphatically say ‘no’ when a Panthers player started taking liberties with Wallmark who was down on the ice after the whistle. Every so often the hockey gods get it right and reward those who deserve it. That line in general has deserved it for some time now.
He seems to have everything going or him right now. What stands out most is his feel for the game right now. He is anticipating puck movement really well such that even when the puck moves laterally he is still in position to square up to shots. On Friday, he also demonstrated a really good sense for when to play aggressively and challenge and when to calmly wait for the puck to hit him. In addition, hockey is a game of bounces sometimes, and he is winning at that too. Probably the biggest defensive break down that saw a Panther get behind Jaccob Slavin led to a shot that clanged the cross bar. And when McElhinney was fighting off shots early and maybe a bit light on rebound control, nothing found a Panthers’ stick. The most notable play was one where he fended off a shot from one side and literally had the rebound go through not one but two Panthers who were on the back door. Maybe most significant is the confidence of the players in front of him right now. I trust that Brind’Amour will not get greedy in the back-to-back such that Scott Darling or Petr Mrazek will get Saturday’s start but that the team will be right back to McElhinney after that.
Justin Faulk / Calvin de Haan
Against a team with a clear top line, Brind’Amour went old school Bill Peters on home ice and often tried to play a set of five against that line. The defensive part of that match up game was de Haan/Faulk. That says so much about where that pairing is right now which is a far cry from where the team’s second pairing had been over the past two years. In fact, Friday’s usage more or less says that Brind’Amour considers the pairing to be his top pairing right now which I think is justified.
On a different note but also on Faulk, I think he is on the brink of breaking out on the score sheet. His ‘when in doubt, shoot’ mentality is in full force and he has been on target of late. Look for his modest one goal and seven assists to begin to grow.
As noted above, the win pushes the Hurricanes up into a three-way tie (as measured by games above .500) with the New York Rangers and tomorrow’s opponent, the New York Islanders, who are tomorrow’s opponent. After being on the wrong side of the cut line only a few games ago, the Hurricanes are officially right on the fence now 22 games into the season.
Next up for the Hurricanes is a quick turnaround and a return to the road on Saturday night against the New York Islanders.