First and foremost, the Carolina Hurricanes have started the 2018-19 season with a three-game point streak.
Second and not insignificant, the team offered great sports entertainment and fun for a home crowd.
A deeper dive into the game itself is an interesting one. As noted above, the entertainment value was high on Sunday. But the game was largely a mess on both sides in terms of attention to detail, soundness of play and especially goaltending. But the Hurricanes deserve credit for pushing back in the face of and early deficit and some adversity and also just sticking with it and finding a way to win. The team’s ability to find offense/scoring from diverse sources is also a positive sign for a team that needs to score more but is not deep in terms of proven NHL scorers.
The short version of a recap in chunks is as follows:
- The Rangers had the upper hand early in terms of pace and jump. Coupled with two defensive break downs, the Hurricanes were down 2-0 quickly. First Jaccob Slavin stepped up in the neutral zone without enough forward help coming up the ice. The result was a 2-on-1. When Trevor van Riemsdyk failed to take away the pass and Petr Mrazek was unable to get his stick on a centering pass right through the crease, the back door goal was an easy on. Then in a learning moment, Martin Necas got caught looking at the puck for just a second which was long enough for a Ranger to score from alone in front of the net.
- Then the Canes quickly pushed back. A pair of pretty passes from Justin Williams found power forwards Warren Foegele and Jordan Martinook both within a step of the crease to finish and tie the game at 2-2 which is how the first period ended.
- The level of play then somehow dropped in the second period as a sloppy game of shinny broke out. The period featured a combined seven minor penalties, loose play in the neutral zone and chances for both teams. When Jordan Martinook scored his second goal of the game late, the score was 4-4, and the game was set to be decided in the third period.
- After New York struck first in the third period, the Hurricanes took advantage of ‘iffy’ goaltending and the generally loose play to pour on four goals including an empty-netter to win going away by an 8-5 tally.
- The second and fourth lines carried the mail. Foegele/Staal/Williams accounted for three goals, and Martinook/Wallmark/Svechnikov accounted for three more.
To be honest, other than the offensive outburst and the ‘can do/stick with it’ attitude, I am not sure there is a ton to keep from Sunday’s win. The Canes had a rough night in terms of defensive coverage and attention to important details. Though he was the better of the two goalies, Petr Mrazek had a tough night. And the volume of sloppiness in terms of defensive play and unnecessary penalties was really high.
But if this team plays its way into games in April that matter and needs every point it can get, these two points will count just as much as any other.
Buried under the scoring outburst, Justin Williams had easily his best game of the season. His three assists were all the variety where he made the play. From behind the net, he made perfect feeds to Jordan Martinook and Warren Foegele twice for bang-bang finishes as long as they could find a hole in Alexandar Georgiev which was not hard to do. Both of the first two primary assists came in the first period when the Hurricanes were down and needed to decide if they were going to push back just get buried. Williams led the push back.
He was absolutely phenomenal on Sunday night. In addition to the headlines that were two goals and an assist, my notes also include killing a penalty 1v2 in the offensive zone, at least two turnovers caused by his speed and aggressiveness on the forecheck, drawing a penalty, two near miss centering attempts a tip on a point shot. On a night when others rose up too, Foegele was still the best.
Necas had a learning night, and in a fast game was too often in the middle of the mess defensively. He was distracted by the puck for just a second in the defensive zone, and his guy scored from right in front of the net. Then he again lost his man in the defensive zone which led to a jail break in close and a wide open passing lane to the back door for a tap in Rangers’ goal. He logged only a team low 7:32 of even strength ice time. One silver lining is that he did follow up one of the errors with an assist to get on the score sheet, but Necas is very much learning on the job right now.
He was right behind Foegele in Sunday’s game. His goal and assist were obviously valuable contributions on the stat sheet, but equally significantly, he is one of the players who just brings it every shift and contributes in small chunks on a regular basis. Of all of the newcomers on the roster, he is the player I most underestimated. Coming in, I had him pegged as a serviceable fourth-liner who more than anything was brought in as a way to clear the slate on Marcus Kruger. I expected some physicality when in the lineup but figured Martinook for the team who ideally gets pushed down to the #13 role and out of the lineup. He is still a fourth-liner, but he is a 2018 fourth-liner who brings enough in terms of skating and puck skills to contribute and do more than finish checks.
Mixed into a fun game was the chance to see Andrei Svechnikov score his first of what will hopefully be many goals in a Hurricanes uniform. The goal was a deflection not his trademark snipe but a pretty goal nonetheless. He was part of a fourth line that tallied three times.
Ironically, both of his line mates were better than him in Sunday’s win, but that is because both had phenomenal games and not because Staal stumbled. He finished in alone when given the chance. I really like where his game is right now.
I graded Mrazek tough even though he only gave up two goals in his start on Thursday. Sunday was tougher. The first goal was not his fault once the pass got across, but once the defenseman forces the play that deep the goalie needs to take away the pass across himself when it is going right through the blue paint. For me, the biggest thing with Mrazek through two games is how uncomfortable he looks in terms of awareness of where the net is. He has had too many episodes of wandering out of net unnecessarily and also seems to be off his angle regularly when trying to challenge shots.
Game #4 and already round #1 of goalie management for Rod Brind’Amour
It would be nice if the goalie position just worked for once, but that just is not how it works in Raleigh. (Something something…Jofa bucket mask in practice to break a curse…)
Brind’Amour gets his first round of the challenging goalie management game starting now. Curtis McElhinney was the better goalie in the first weekend of play, but at least on paper he does not figure to be the guy who will lead this team throughout the year. So on Tuesday, does Brind’Amour go with his best? Or does he stay the course with the theoretically more likely player to be a full season answer? If I was coach, I think I stick with the plan and come back to Mrazek on Tuesday. The team has a back-to-back set on Friday and Saturday after that which is the normal time to get McElhinney back in net and then go from there.
I mentioned it up above, but it deserves repeating. The Hurricanes are now 2-0-1. Points matter obviously, and the Hurricanes are off to a great start in that regard.
Up next is another home game on Tuesday against the Vancouver Canucks to close out a quick four-game burst to start the season.