After an odd and somewhat frustrating wasted effort on Monday that saw Canes fans in attendance waste a couple hours only to have the hockey game canceled, Friday was back to good times at PNC Arena. As an aside, the non-game Monday is the first time since November 10 that Canes fans at PNC Arena for a game did not see the team pick up at least a point in the standings. The 9-0-1 with an N/A is a truly incredible run.
Recap from Hurricanes 3-2 overtime win over the Boston Bruins
As far as the game itself, Friday night’s affair was not an easy 1. Give credit to Boston for being as good as any team that the Canes have faced in terms of stepping up aggressively with 5 players to clog the neutral zone but also somehow not allowing anything behind them. But at the same time the Canes were disjointed early on and seemed incapable of moving the puck from 1 stick to another. At the end of the first period the 15-8 shots on goal advantage for the Bruins actually seemed like an understatement, and the 1-0 deficit on the scoreboard was also generous for the Canes.
As the second period wore on, it seemed increasingly likely that this just was not going to be the Canes night. When the Hurricanes’ league-leading power play was dinged for a goal early in the second period, the good guys were down 2-0, showing minimal signs of life and desperately looking for some kind of spark, a break or a single good play to try to jump start things. At the midway point of the second period, that spark arrived in the form of a Jordan Staal shorthanded breakaway attempt. Staal made the most of the opportunity beating former Hurricane Anton Khudobin up over his pad on the blocker side to pull the Canes within 2-1. Despite pulling the Hurricanes within a goal, it really did not spark the team as hoped. The Bruins still outshot the Hurricanes by a 14-4 margin that was even more lopsided than the first period, and the Canes still mostly continued to struggle in terms of moving the puck. But importantly, they closed out the second period with little to offer in terms of quality hockey but still just a single scoring play away from earning at least a point in the standings on a tough night.
Then from the better late than never category, the Hurricanes seemed to awaken during the second intermission. I would not rate the third period as 1 of the best on the season, but the team consistently got pucks through the neutral zone and into the offensive zone such that at least territory and possession-wise the ice finally tilted in the Hurricanes favor. Off what I believe was a set play off of a face-off win, Jordan Staal won a face-off, Elias Lindholm knew exactly where he was going with it and Justin Faulk stepped right into the pass and labeled a shot stepping into it. The Hurricanes were the better team for most of the third period but could not muster a winning goal.
The Hurricanes played a solid puck possession game in overtime that saw Sebastian Aho miss from point blank range early in overtime, but redemption come in the form of a Teuvo Teravainen blast that looked very much like Jordan Staal’s breakaway goal earlier coming straight at Khudobin, maybe freezing him a bit by delaying and then beating him blocker side high.
‘What I’m watching’ check in
You can find the game preview HERE if you missed it and want to catch up.
1) Matching the big line
Brad Marchand did manage a power play tally, but the Hurricanes did a decent job of holding the Bruins’ top line in check even if it was more by virtue of surviving and not outplaying them especially early on. The match ups ended up being a bit different than I expected though. First, Coach Bill Peters reworked the defense pairings (Slavin/Faulk, Hanifin/Pesce, Hainsey/Tennyson) in the front part of the game. He also seemed a bit less ‘group of 5’ focused than in past games mostly rolling 4 lines and not getting too bogged down in which defense pairing played with which forwards.
2) Justin Faulk
I had him as the first star. On a night when much of the roster seemed to stuck in quickly drying cement, Faulk was strong and assertive. He had a key goal to tie the game and also assisted on the overtime winner. He made a number of plays to interrupt passes and played an assertive game in terms of taking away time and space whenever the puck was on his side of the defensive zone. He was bumped up to play with Jaccob Slavin when Peters reconfigured the blue line after the slow start.
I continue to think that Justin Faulk could be the single most important player in the Hurricanes finding a higher gear, and I really like the general direction over the past couple games.
Mark my words. A Hurricanes surge to the next level requires Justin Faulk to be 1 of the team’s best players.
3) 60-minute effort in an ’empty the tank’ game
More appropriate would be to say that the Hurricanes showed up with an empty tank after playing the night before and traveling. Through 40 minutes, the Hurricanes were being beaten to all 50/50 pucks and just sluggish and sloppy in general. Kudos to the team for sticking with it and finding a way, but I would not consider Friday’s formula 1 that I would hope to repeat if the team wants to keep winning.
4) Noah Hanifin
Noah Hanifin was not bad by any means, but he was fairly quiet as far as Boston Bruins match ups go.
Overtime: After being very disappointed with not just the results but even more so the lack of a strategy and understanding for how to win in overtime, I have been impressed in recent games. On Friday night, the Hurricanes did a good job of valuing puck possession above all else, utilizing it to get fresh versus tired match ups and then selectively picking spots for scoring chances. Sebastian Aho had a point blank chance early in overtime, and Teuvo Teravainen’s overtime game-winner had a huge component of fresh versus tired.
Cam Ward: The Bruins were the better team for the first 2 periods. The fact that the Hurricanes were still hanging around despite being outplayed was a credit to holding things together defensively even when hemmed in their own end but also to Cam Ward.
Bill Peters brilliance?: It is possible that things just worked out really well timing-wise, but my hunch is that the Faulk goal was a set play. Lindholm looked like he knew exactly where he was going with the puck on his way to retrieving it, and Faulk seemed to be out a bit wider than usual to help make space and seemed to be stepping into the wide open space even as Lindholm was still retrieving the puck. I would be curious to hear Peters’ reaction to this, but unless someone asked post-game, we will probably never know for sure.
Brock McGinn: I continue to like his game. He is consistently playing with a physical edge but within the context of the game, not a running around out of position way. He is a little bit undersized by NHL power forward standards, but tenacity and pace can go a long way toward making that less relevant in today’s skating NHL.
7 points but with 3 games in hand: That is what separates the Hurricanes from the Flyers who I consider to be the team that they are chasing.
Justin Faulk: Did I mention how critical I think he is to the next leg up in the Canes’ 2016-17 season? And also that signs are there that he might just be finding a higher gear?
Next up is a scheduled (not arena malfunction) 4-day layoff followed by 3 games in 4 days starting with a road game in Pittsburgh on Wednesday night.
Canes and Coffee will be going quiet for a couple days for the holiday weekend. Best wishes for everyone having a tremendous holiday weekend!