More than any of the usual Xs and Os, my #1 watch point for Tuesday’s game was if the Hurricanes could carry forward he spirited, intense and physically engaged effort that they put forward on Saturday to will their way to a win in which the game did not completely go their way.
On Tuesday night in Vancouver, the Hurricanes started okay in terms of driving play, tilting the ice and amassing shorts. The Hurricanes outshot the Canucks 12 to 3 and generally controlled play. But the period was mostly the skating and shooting variety that sometimes works and sometimes just builds big shot totals without a ton of truly great chances. The Hurricanes did muster a few good chances especially off the rush on the power play, but they were also funneled to the outside quite a bit and also left the front of the net clean for and clear for goalie Jacob Markstrom on too many occasions. True to form on too many occasions lately, the Hurricanes carried the first period but but maybe deservedly based on my comments above really were not rewarded enough to puck possession and shot totals. The first period ended at 0.0
At the conclusion of the first period, I tweeted…
1/2 .@NHLCanes were better team & tilted ice in 1st period, but physical edge was mostly missing & play was pushed to the outside.
— Canes and Coffee (@CanesandCoffee) December 6, 2017
2/2 Will be interesting to see if Justin Williams, Brock McGinn or someone tries to re-flip intensity switch coming out of locker room in 2nd. #Canes
— Canes and Coffee (@CanesandCoffee) December 6, 2017
Also true to form for much of the 2017-18 season, the Hurricanes were flat in the second period. Vancouver got onto the scoreboard when a series of small mishaps led to to a Canucks’ goal. First, Jeff Skinner turned the puck over just inside the offensive blue line. Then Noah Hanifin had trouble with the puck at the defensive zone. Then Haydn Fleury got caught flat-footed and just kept backing up such that Derrick Pouliot had plenty of time and space to freely cut across the middle of the ice to pick a place to shoot from with the puck finding the net behind Scott Darling. Vancouver would tally a second goal on the power play when Jaccob Slavin and Brett Pesce lost track of a couple Canucks players who sneaked behind them. One parked at the back door and Thomas Vanek parked in front from where he deflected a shot/pass past Darling who had no chance on the deflection from short range.
The Hurricanes have generally performed admirably in third periods when down, but Tuesday did not hold true to form in that regard. The third period was not horrible but rather ‘meh’ — nothing absolutely horrible, but nothing really good either. When Elias Lindholm and Justin Faulk were in the neighborhood on a Goldobin rebound goal to make it 3-0 Canucks, that was all she wrote. The goal was a fitting way to end the game. The Canucks scored their second goal on the night from within a few feet of the crease, while the Hurricanes strayed a bit from doing similar on Saturday.
Notes from the Carolina Hurricanes 3-0 loss to the Vancouver Canucks
1) Bigger than the single game
Most significant to me was the Carolina Hurricanes inability to build on Sunday’s game. The deeper we get into the 2017-18 season, the more I think the team will need to find a completely different level to push into the playoffs, especially as the Metropolitan Divison in total keeps winning. That comes not from bunches of players making minor improvements, from catching a few more breaks or any other kind of step-wise progress. It comes from more of a transformation. I have written pretty much daily about Justin Williams’ salty Friday night interview and how Sunday’s effort and intensity was just different.
Prior to Tuesday’s game my question was basically whether the Hurricanes could take the higher engagement and intensity level from Saturday and make it part of their every game effort or if it was something reserved for intermittent appearances only when things were desperate.
More succinctly, could the Hurricanes muster some desperate when things were not truly desperate?
Tuesday’s game was just a single measure, and there are always other factors involved, but very clearly at least on Tuesday I think the answer was no.
2) Hanifin/van Riemsdyk
On a more positive note, Noah Hanifin had another steady game defensively even if it was without a bunch of scoring. His game continues to trend upward as he settles back into a third pairing role that gives him a bit less responsibility defensively and frees him to play an aggressive game offensively. The defense in total was not horrible, but the other pairings did factor in goals against, whereas Hanifin/van Riemsdyk had another strong night.
At the other end of the spectrum was Fleury/Faulk. To be clear, they were not horrible, but they did have more than their fair share of issues. For as good as Fleury has been in his rookie season thus far, one weakness that he has at times is sitting back a bit too far defensively which prevents getting beaten all the way to the net but sometimes affords NHL forwards too much time, space and options in front of him. The first Vancouver goal saw him get caught flat-footed and keep backing up such that Pouliot had all kinds of time and room to float across the front of the net and pick a time and place to shoot.
4) Decreasing offense as the game wore on
The Hurricanes had a decent number of what I would call medium grade chances in the first period, but as the game wore on the Hurricanes were less and less of a going concern offensively. My game preview called for a more balanced scoring attack after the recent run by Aho/Staal/Teravainen. The TSA line had as quiet of a night as they have had in awhile, and no one else really picked up the slack.
Next up is another late night for Hurricanes fans with another 10:30pm Eastern match up against the San Jose Sharks on Thursday night.