Oftentimes I review my game preview after a game is completed, and often parts of it missed the mark.
But today, I think my third point in the game preview cuts through the details of Thursday’s loss and hits the mark on where this team is right now and has too often been in recent years.
3) Dialed up intensity
In games where team has been challenged with adversity it has generally risen to the occasion in terms of dialing up the compete level. But the key is to be able to play desperate when things are actually not desperate to extend winning streaks even on off nights. With three days off, a couple team holiday activities and the approaching holiday season, I will be watching to see if the Hurricanes can negate any distractions and dial things up on the ice at 7pm tonight.
First giving credit where it is due, the Hurricanes did come out with the right level of intensity in the first period. But when not rewarded, they first dropped off task and later seemed to drop off in terms of a ‘find a way’ attitude.
As noted, the Hurricanes started strong. Jordan Staal and Sebastian Aho both had breakaway attempts but did not score. Justin Williams had not one but two tip chances that skittered just wide of the net. And Sebastian Aho and Jordan Martinook had a couple near misses. But via lack of random luck on a couple near misses and a few big saves by Jonathan Bernier, the Hurricanes were not rewarded on the scoreboard. With Niklas Kronwall scoring through a screen on the power play midway through the first period, the scoreboard unfairly showed 1-0 Red Wings at the end of the first period.
The Hurricanes finally received just reward early in the second period when an Andrei Svechnikov laser finally found the net behind Bernier. From there, it is not clear if the team just let up or maybe was still pressing a bit in a tie game, but the second period was sub-par from a Hurricanes standpoint. The team had another bout of being sloppy with the puck and just lacking intensity at times. The game also took on an all-too-familiar ‘just keep shooting at random’ mentality that has become a telltale sign that the team is pressing and very often is a component of a disappointing loss. About midway through the period, Detroit scored its second net front presence goal when Frans Nielsen waltzed right past Dougie Hamilton to park in the shooting and tip a puck into the net minus any hindrance from Hamilton. Detroit would carry that 2-1 lead into the third period.
When the Wings scored their third net front goal early in the third period, the air seemed to come out of the Hurricanes. Whereas the second period was disappointing mostly because of its sloppiness and lack of attention to detail, the third period was disappointing because of the team’s lack of ‘find a way’ mentality. And instead of pushing harder down two goals, the team seemed to fade. The Hurricanes had a couple decent chances to pull within a goal late but never did and ultimately lost 4-1 after an empty-netter.
With the loss, the team is now 1-3-1 through the first five games of a stretch of six out of seven at home. And the team is suddenly back to the .500 mark where it started the season.
With tough opponents at home for a back-to-back on Saturday and Sunday crunch time for the 2018-19 season is officially here.
Player and other notes
1) Continue to need more ugly goals
Justin Williams had two near misses in the first period, so the result could have been significantly different, but in a results business the Hurricanes were outscored 3-0 in net front goals and reverted back to ‘shoot at random’ without enough traffic once they were down in the second half of the game. For a team that lacks a ton of high-end scoring talent, the inability to consistently generate traffic and the ugly goals that come with it are a massive Achilles’ heel.
2) Dougie Hamilton
He continues to struggle. He lost a puck battle on the boards and then let Frans Nielsen waltz right by him across the top of the crease and to where the shot was coming from with no obstruction whatsoever. The result was a tip goal with Hamilton as a spectator. He also chose to keep checking to see if someone coming on a potential icing. Sure enough, because he decided keep checking instead of using his speed to fly at the puck, he ultimately lost the race. The biggest concern with Hamilton is that his struggles lately seem too often to be effort/intensity-related.
3) Andrei Svechnikov
He continues to be a bright spot right now. His goal was a laser of the goal scorer’s goal variety where he just flat out beat Bernier from a ways out.
4) Justin Williams leading the way
He did not get the results for it, but he is one player who did consistently go to the front of net and had two near miss tip attempts in the first period. A slight bounce another way, and this could have easily been a game where we extolled Williams leadership and willingness to do the dirty work to score.
5) Too many missed nets
Another side effect of struggling to score is the volume of times the Hurricanes had decent looks and missed the net altogether trying to be too perfect. The team’s scoring woes are starting to regularly creep into the mentality of how the team plays.
6) Desperately need to find a higher gear
With the team now back at .500 and traditional playoff teams rising, the Hurricanes desperately need to find a higher gear quickly before they find themselves in a traditional spot with a sizable deficit entering January.
Next up for the Hurricanes is a home match up against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday.