Tuesday’s game in Columbus was certainly one that teeters on the fence between good and bad and offers a decent argument for either half full or half empty.
On the positive side, the Hurricanes collected one out of two points on the road which is playoff pace per my math that says a team must win two-thirds of available points at home and half of available points on the road. Further, the opponent in the Columbus Blue Jackets was a tough one as the division leader and a team that has not been a favorable match up for the Hurricanes of late.
On the negative side, after going 1-2 at home last week, the Hurricanes have a couple points that they need to make up, and the schedule was favorable to do just that on the road on Tuesday. Columbus played, traveled and was delayed such that they arrived home in Columbus at about 3:30am with the Hurricanes players comfortably nestled away in bed hours ago. Further, the back-to-back spared the Hurricanes another match up with perennial Vezina candidate Sergei Bobrovsky in favor of backup Joonas Korpisalo. So if ever there was a night to capitalize on extenuating circumstances and seize a road wn in Columbus, the hockey gods set up as well as they could for Tuesday.
As disappointing as leaving a point on the table is, I lean half full for Tuesday. The goal on the road is to break even and the Hurricanes did exactly that on Tuesday.
Quick game recap for the Hurricanes 3-2 shootout loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets
As for the game, Columbus seemed to loosen up just fine and were actually the better team in the first period. Josh Anderson was a one man offensive dynamo. He scored early on a tap in from the blue paint when he found space behind Jaccob Slavin on the back door, but his better offensive plays were actually off the rush where he was dangerous seemingly every shift he played in the first period.
With the Blue Jackets surprisingly pushing pace early, the Hurricanes defense again exhibited some of the coverage issues that have plagued the team of late. In addition to Slavin losing Anderson on the back door for a goal, Noah Hanifin and Trevor van Riemsdyk allowed a Blue Jackets player behind them for a rush in alone, a Haydn Fleury pinch led to a 2-on-1 rush and Slavin was nearly beaten again by Anderson off the rush but recovered well and managed to trip him up at the side of the net. In the middle of a fairly fast-paced first period, Derek Ryan fed Noah Hanifin on the rush for a goal. The play was a very heady one by Hanifin who had the smarts to quickly get the puck on the forward’s stick to handle the puck and then he used his speed to push pace and be available for a pass and finish.
Per my ‘what I’m watching’ preview, the first period left me pleased with Scott Darling who had no chance on the back door goal against but not pleased with the return of the defensive coverage sloppiness.
The second period looked like it was played in mud. Columbus had the better of play and scored when Zach Werenski joined the rush and finished as a secondary option. The Hurricanes forwards struggled all night to sort things out and identify assignments covering the fourth and fifth players coming behind the rush as secondary options. Despite having the better of play, the Blue Jackets slowed in the second period, but the Hurricanes were at least equally stuck in the mud and unable to generate anything offensively.
The third period seemed to finally see the Hurricanes gain a physical advantage playing rested against a team that played and traveled the night before. The Hurricanes tilted the ice into the offensive zone, pushed pace and attacked. They could easily have had multiple goals and pulled out a win but had to settle for a Brock McGinn tally to push the game to overtime.
The overtime session was a wild one that saw a good handful of quality chances both ways. The best for the Hurricanes was probably a Justin Faulk blast that went just wide on the first shift. After that, the teams traded possession and chances and Darling was solid. Whereas the Hurricanes won Sunday’s overtime in two tries, the reverse was true on Tuesday. Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen who scored on Sunday both missed on Tuesday, and Columbus was 2-for-2 for the win.
Notes from the Carolina Hurricanes’ shootout loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets
From the preview
1-Goaltending: Scott Darling rebounded and had a strong outing in net. He had no chance on the first goal and was beaten only once after that despite being tested reasonably well. He was a positive for the first time in the past three games, could rightfully have picked up a win and hopefully can use the game to chart a new trajectory upward.
2-Pace, pressure and skating: The Hurricanes did finally realize a noticeable physical advantage in the third period, but maybe were outplayed in the first period and played to sluggish stalemate in the second period. Ideally, the team would push play from beginning to end, but I would not call Tuesday’s effort a complete negative.
3-A continuation from the blue line: The first period featured a reversion to defensive sloppiness when Columbus stretched the ice on multiple occasions for odd man rushes. Be it because the Hurricanes tightened up or possibly just because the Blue Jackets ran out of the gas, the Hurricanes were much sounder in the second and third periods.
He continues to be a bright spot in a depth forward role. He played only 9:58 but scored an absolutely huge goal to get the Hurricanes to even midway through the third period and on their way to at least collecting a point in the standings. He is suddenly tied for fourth on the team with six goals and on pace for a whopping 23 goals despite playing limited minutes in a limited role, receiving minimal power play time and even being a healthy scratch for a few games. His scoring that far exceeds reasonable targets for his slot and role helps offset some of the other things that continue to be slow offensively.
I thought he had a strong game. My favorite part of his game is when he identifies a small opening or angle with the puck on his stick and exploits it by skating into it. He had a few rounds of that and was also active and aggressive defensively.
Ditto for Justin Faulk. He too had a strong game defensively. He led the team with 26:16 of ice time, was physical when given the chance and was also sound defensively and not in the middle of any of the first period break downs.
Next up for the Hurricanes is a quick trip home and a couple days off before a back-to-back set that starts against the Rangers in New York on Friday and finishes at home against Florida on Saturday.