In my game preview, I called this a perfect trap game when I said:
The game sets up as a perfect trap game in the first game back home and against an opponent that is lower in the standings.
The game preview also said:
As noted above, if this turns out to be a pause and exhale game after a successful road trip, the probability of winning plummets. I will be watching out of the gate to see if the team can muster the appropriate level of intensity.
The pause and exhale maybe did not occur right of the gate but rather after the Hurricanes were up 2-0, they seemed to back off instead of smelling blood and moving in for the kill in Thursday’s 5-3 loss to the Flyers.
Recap for the Hurricanes 5-3 loss to the Flyers
The game started auspiciously enough with the Flyers turning the puck over on the side boards. Teuvo Teravainen ended up with the puck on the turnover and quickly fed Sebastian Aho who shot through the wickets of goalie Brian Elliott for an early lead. Only 1:20 later on the power play, Teravainen fired through Elliott to stake the Hurricanes to a 2-0 lead less than five minutes into the game. At that point, the ball was on the tee. Brian Elliott was leaky and struggling to track the puck. The timing was right to push even harder, chuck as many shots as possible at the net, climb to a sizable lead and mostly wrap up a win by the midway point of the game. But as feared in the game preview and noted above, the Hurricanes instead exhaled and paused. Warren Foegele had the right idea peppering Elliott with three consecutive shots on the next shift. But in the final 15 minutes of the first period, the Hurricanes mustered only two shots. Instead of making a bid to chase Elliott, the Canes gave him time to collect himself. And along the way, they opened the door for the Flyers who ran through it. First, Jake Gardiner was beaten to the near post for a point blank goal by Claude Giroux on a heady centering pass from behind the net. Then later, Ivan Provorov fired through a maze of bodies on the power play to find the back of the net. Despite the false start, the Flyers escaped the first period tied 2-2.
To the Hurricanes credit, the team did push again in the second period posting a shots on goal advantage of 19 to 4 and drawing two penalties. Philadelphia scored shorthanded early in the period. With a rare defensive zone face-off on the power play after an icing, the Hurricanes did not have a face-off center on the ice and paid for it. (I originally faulted Brind’Amour for not adjusting, but with it being icing, he had no choice.)With Teravainen against Giroux, the result was a Giroux face-off win that was a perfect pass right off the draw. Morgan Frost received in his wheelhouse and fired a laser right by Petr Mrazek for a 3-2 Flyers lead. Though the Hurricanes clearly had the upper hand throughout the period, I thought they were pushed a bit too much to the outside in the period. And despite the shot advantage, The second period would end with Nino Niederreiter taking a penalty and that same 3-2 score despite a strong period from the Hurricanes.
The Hurricanes would tie the game early in the third period when Brock McGinn swept a backward pass across the top of the crease aiming for Jordan Martinook who was calling for the puck but fortuitously finding Lucas Wallmark instead. Wallmark finished to tie the game a 3-3. But Claude Giroux was the best player on the ice on Thursday, and his line was the best line. They scored again, when Travis Konecny won a race and a puck on the end wall. When Teravainen and Edmundson tumbled, the play quickly turned into a 2-on-1 in front of the net and Giroux made no mistake.
I think this game was a learning event/reminder. Had the Hurricanes had more of a killer instinct after going up 2-0, there is a good chance this game would have been over by the end of the first period. Instead they paused and let the Flyers back in.
Player and other notes
1) Claude Giroux and company
Very often the deciding factor in NHL games is which team’s best players are best. Claude Giroux was the best player on the ice by a wide margin. He had four points. Travis Konecny had too incredibly heady plays behind the net that led quickly to goals in front. That group decided the game.
2) Jake Gardiner
After a couple quieter games in a good way, Gardiner struggled again on Thursday. He was the player trailing behind Giroux for the bang in goal that gave the Flyers life. More generally, he struggled with the puck on his stick to the tune of too many wish passes/clearing attempts that resulted in turnovers.
3) More from Wallmark
In his second game since it was announced that Erik Haula was back on the shelf, Wallmark had a big goal that pulled the Hurricanes even in the third period. So far so good for Wallmark moving up the depth chart to fill the gap.
4) Small tactical stuff for Brind’Amour
I get that Brind’Amour is not focused on match ups as other coaches, and I generally like his balanced approach that does not fixate 100 percent on every single math up. That said, with a 2-0 lead, I would err on the side of caution with match ups at home. He got his third pairing caught on the ice against Giroux and company (maybe because of timing of a change), and that cost the Canes and gave the Flyers life. The margin between winning and losing is small in the NHL, and I think Brind’Amour could possibly have used home ice to his advantage to try to button things down a bit with a 2-0 lead on home ice with the last change. Let me finish by saying that I am a fan of Brind’Amour as a coach but will also call it like it is.
5) Martin Necas
He is still raw as would be expected for his age and does fair particularly well in tight spaces on the walls, but his game is growing by leaps and bounds as he becomes more comfortable using his skating ability to navigate to space and buy time. I think Brind’Amour is right to let him continue acclimating to the NHL as a wing after his struggles as a center in 2018-19, but long-term I think he is the second playmaking center that the team needs.
Next up is another home game against the Florida Panthers on Saturday.