In my game preview and also my Daily Cup of Joe for Tuesday, I asserted that the next stretch of games could be critical for the Hurricanes 2018-19 season. As such, Tuesday’s game was a big one kicking off a stretch of five out of six games at home.
After a fun win over the Maple Leafs during Thanksgiving week, Tuesday featured a reversal of fortune with a 4-1 loss.
The game started with the Hurricanes still seemingly recovering from the trip out West last week. Toronto dominated puck possession, shots and most everything else early in Tuesday’s contest. The shot total was 14 to 3 late in the first period when the Hurricanes had four minutes of power play time and closed the gap slightly. The Hurricanes were sloppy with the puck moving up the ice such that they regularly returned it to Toronto and spent chunks of the period hemmed in their own end. Petr Mrazek stopped 14 of 15 shots and made at least three really good saves in the first period to keep the Hurricanes in the game. Toronto did score once when Dougie Hamilton failed to clear a puck and then lost track of Tyler Ennis who finished a rebound.
The second period started the same with the Hurricanes unable to advance the puck to the offensive zone with possession for the first four minutes of the period. But a fiery shift from the fourth line seemed to wake up and spark the Hurricanes. The result was a burst of better play and eventually a tying goal by Justin Williams. Off the rush on the power play, Sebastian Aho carried the puck and attracted a ton of attention at the blue line and then somehow played the puck through the congestion to Justin Williams who swooped in and finished. At that point, the Hurricanes seemed to have put the slow start behind them. But the Hurricanes gave it back barely over a minute later when Dougie Hamilton scored on his own net trying to break up a centering pass. The second period was somewhat better but still saw the Hurricanes exit it with the same one-goal deficit.
With the Hurricanes within a goal in the third period, the Maple Leafs struck again. This time, Dougie Hamilton lost a puck battle just inside the offensive blue line. The result was a fast 2-on-1 the other way. Calvin de Haan was unable to take away a passing lane of the rush which resulted in a back door pass and tap in goal for Patrick Marleau. The Maple Leafs would again be opportunistic offensively to run their lead to 4-1 with another goal off the rush. When Hamilton wandered a bit too far to the right side of the crease, Mitch Marner had a passing lane to find John Tavares for another goal from point blank range.
On the negative side, the refrain was a familiar one in that the Hurricanes generated very little offensively 5-on-5 and were shut out at even strength. From a glass is half full perspective, the Maple Leafs are a very good team, so the loss is not the catastrophic variety.
Player and other notes
1) Dougie Hamilton
Dougie Hamilton’s game was an utter train wreck. He was on the ice for all four goals against and was right in the middle of the mess on all four goals against in addition to taking a minor penalty. As I said on Twitter after the game, I think a silver lining could be that this game represents a capitulation point for Brind’Amour trying (unsuccessfully so far) to force Slavin/Hamilton to work. By the end of the game, Brind’Amour had reunited Slavin and Pesce.
2) Power outage returns
The Hurricanes had a decent number of shots, but this was another game where the quality was lacking. The team desperately needs to find more offense at some point.
3) Penalty kill still strong
On a positive note, the penalty kill was perfect again going 4 for 4 on the kill.
4) Micheal Ferland back on the shelf?
Micheal Ferland made it through only one period in his return. It is not certain that the upper body injury this time was a concussion, but that sure seems like the lowest probability bet.
Next up is a road battle in Montreal on Thursday.