Recap of the Carolina Hurricanes 2-1 win over the Montreal Canadiens
After a couple days off to digest one of the worst efforts of the season, the Hurricanes were back at in Montreal on Tuesday.
Early on, the game looked like a ping pong match with both teams knocking pucks out of their own end or often settling for dumping the puck deep from the neutral zone. Back and forth the two sides went early on with a limited number of good chances. But things picked up as the period wore on. The Canadiens were actually on the winning side of the shot total, possession and medium to good scoring chances. But after resting for the second half of the back-to-back and having three days off since his last win, Curtis McElhinney was stellar in the first period. Just how well he is tracking the puck right now was illustrated in a short sequence that saw him first track a deflected shot and make the save look routine. Shortly thereafter he faced an even odder test when Justin Faulk accidentally deflecting a centering pass in on net. Instead of the usual knee jerk desperation, McElhinney calmly shifted and calmly received the puck on his pad and steered it to the side as if it was a normal play. And so things went for much of the second half of the first period. With Victor Rask scoring a goal on a tip, the Hurricanes emerged from the first period with a 1-0 lead despite being out-shot and (by a modest margin) probably outplayed.
The second period was a continuation of the first period. The Curtis McElhinney show continued, and even though it was scrambly at the times, the Hurricanes did a solid job competing for pucks and defending in the slot and also cleaning up rebounds. Great goalie play often involves a bit of luck. The greatest bit for McElhinney came when Niclas Deslauriers from point blank range somehow put a puck behind McElhinney but not into the net. Later Montreal clanged the bar late and van Riemsdyk fished a puck out of the net just before it crossed the line. Again, the Hurricanes netted a timely goal on a shot where Carey Price had no chance. After a failed Canes power play maybe boosted the Canadiens, Trevor van Riemsdyk scored off of a Canadiens’ defenseman’s skate. After two somewhat similar periods, the Hurricanes have leveraged two perfect periods from McElhinney and a couple ‘no chance for the goalie’ goalies to climb to a 2-0 lead.
The game plodded along into the third until the Canadiens scored to make it 2-1 with 10:31 remaining in the game. The Hurricanes spent the rest of the game too much trapped in their own end and under siege. But McElhinney continued making save after save. When the dust settled on the third period, the Hurricanes had been out-shot 22 to 2 in the third period and 49 to 22 for the game.
As the game progressed, especially in the third period, the Hurricanes became less and less deserving of a win. But when a team’s goalie is phenomenal and you score first, the game looks easier even when the other team is playing better. Canes fans have been here SOOOO many times. No doubt it was our turn to be on the winning side of a game like this.
Player and other notes
1) Curtis McElhinney
He was phenomenal. The Hurricanes were outplayed by a modest margin through two periods and then completely snowed under for the third period. But McElhinney was the best player on the ice tonight and the deciding factor in a big win. As noted above, he is tracking the puck at an elite level right now as indicated by how easily he fended off some deflections. He entered the game as the team’s starter, and he cemented himself in that role on Tuesday night.
2) Jake Bean
I liked Bean’s game. He did not at all look overwhelmed or in over his head. He did not so much ‘wow’ with his offensive ability as look calm and steady with the puck on his stick. When the Hurricanes went up by two goals, Brind’Amour slowed Bean’s ice time choosing to mostly go with five defensemen defending a lead on the road. But that was a function of the game situation and rest before and after Tuesday’s game than a function of Bean’s play. All in all, I would call Bean’s debut encouraging and a success.
3) Defending the slot
In addition to McElhinney’s play, the other thing that stood out to me was the Hurricanes propensity to pack multiple players into the slot area in the defensive zone to make the prime scoring area constantly crowded and without time and space. That is a stark contrast to the team’s two most recent losses that saw the team stretched out and losing players in front of the net. The puck still made it to the front of the net, but each time there were sticks, bodies and help for the goalie. The third period was a bit of train wreck in terms of puck possession, but even still the Hurricanes fought in front of the net.
4) Trevor van Riemsdyk
Van Riemsdyk had a strong game. He seemed to mesh well with rookie Jake Bean, and then when he took regular shifts in what was largely a five-defenseman rotation he played well. He also saved a goal on a tremendous play deflecting a puck on the goal line with a surgeon’s precision and no margin for error. The odd deflection goal was just a bonus for otherwise strong play.
5) Brock McGinn and Phil Di Giuseppe
In an understated way, I thought McGinn and Di Giuseppe (flanking Victor Rask) played really well in simple way. They battled for and advanced pucks and played a strong workman-like game that the Hurricanes needed to grind out a win.
6) The standings matter
Now very close to the start of December, the Carolina Hurricanes’ win pulled them into a three-way tie for both the last Metropolitan Division playoff slot and also the last Eastern Conference wild card slot (as measured by games above .500). That is a very, very good place to be.
Next up for the Hurricanes is a couple more off days before a home match up against the Anaheim Ducks on Friday.