After a couple recent Canes/Panthers match ups that featured a torrid pace and higher-end hockey, Sunday’s game between the two teams was mostly oddly pedestrian. The first period had an odd plodding pace to it pretty much throughout the period almost like a game of ping pong with each team trading the puck back to the other after a short turn. Part of it was that both teams defended well and were well aware of the danger of its opponent at transition points, but I think there was also an element of both teams just being a bit sluggish and sloppy at times.
Amidst the slow-ish first period, Vincent Trocheck continued to torment his former team with his fourth goal in four games. The power play marker came on a heady pass by Andrei Svechnikov finding him in the area at the side of the net that has become his office with the man advantage. That goal would be the only one for a ‘meh’ first period that saw only nine shots on goal between the two teams.
The second period started similarly but did see the Canes find a couple bursts of more aggressive play. Nino Niederreiter would finish off the rush on another passing play made by Martin Necas to put the Hurricanes up 2-0. But the Panthers would claw back to within a goal when MacKenzie Weegar found a hole through James Reimer on a screened shot. The Hurricanes seemed to find at least intermittent bursts of energy in the second half of the period but failed to extend their lead.
But the Hurricanes found yet another quick and deadly burst of scoring early in the third period while killing off a carry over penalty. After winning a puck in the defensive zone, Jaccob Slavin found Jordan Martinook with a quick stretch pass. Martinook made the heady play to defer to Aho who made no mistake sniping a goal from between the face-off circles off the rush. Barely over three minutes later, Warren Foegele scooped up a puck coming off the boards in the neutral zone and scored on a contested partial breakaway. Suddenly the Hurricanes lead was stretched to 4-1. Florida would score at the midway point of the third period but never get any closer as the Hurricanes won 4-2.
Player and other notes
1) Multi-dimensional offensive talent on display
One of the things that jumps out about the Hurricanes young offensive talent is the players’ ability to both score and generate grade A scoring chances for others. Martin Necas has scored a few big goals this season (two overtime game-winners are front and center), but of late he has been a playmaking binge. His ability to carve a way through the middle of the ice with speed with the puck on his stick led directly to the Niederreiter goal. Svechnikov similarly shows a great ability to create scoring chances for others with his pass on Trocheck’s power play market being today’s example. Meanwhile, Aho showed finishing ability burying his chance on the rush. There are players who have either a passing or a finishing skill set, but a common trait of true top-tier players is the ability to make great decisions on what will generate the best possible scoring chance.
2) Vincent Trocheck on the power play
Trocheck continues to show an incredible knack for what to do when playing low/at the side of the net on the power play. From that position, he generally has the option to make himself available for a pass at the side of the net with the ability to survey and find a passing opportunity to the front of the net, push out from the end line to be in position to receive/shoot or go to the front of the net for a screen or tip when the puck is on the opposite side. Most recently, he has been productive scoring out front receiving same side passes from Svechnikov on both occasions, but he has also been a regular for tip goals or screens and also knows when to just make himself available for a pass to create time and space.
3) Sebastian Aho time to heat up?
We are approaching the point in a normal season when Aho, who is traditionally a show starter at least in terms of goal scoring, heats up. By no means has Aho been bad scoring just under a point per game, but he has a higher gear. With three goals and two assists in four games so far including a goal and an assist in Sunday’s win, he might be heating up. He also won 14 of 19 in the face-off circle and led the way with a shorthanded goal that helped the Hurricanes win the special teams battle 2-0 which was the difference.
4) Time to recharge
After Thurday’s win, the Hurricanes had a rare two days off which netted the team a day off from practice or games. This week, the Hurricanes remain at home for the front part of the week and play only three games which means they again get two days off heading into the weekend. With 11 days at home and only four games during that stretch, the Hurricanes will hopefully recharge for the grind ahead. Timing is probably very good, as the Hurricanes looked to be out of gas in the third period in a couple games last week.
Next up for the Hurricanes is a two game set against the Nashville Predators starting on Tuesday night in Raleigh.