After an incredible 11-game streak of at least getting a point in home games, the Hurricanes finally lost in regulation on home ice on Tuesday night at the hands of the New Jersey Devils. The streak dated all the way back to a November 10 loss against Anaheim to start a 5-game home stand. The home loss prior to that was also a disappointing loss to New Jersey a couple days earlier on November 6.
At the most basic level, the Devils very quickly dragged this game into the mud where it was a sluggish affair with neither doing much more than having and losing the puck and good scoring chances few and far between. The first period saw the Hurricanes generate a decent volume of grade B scoring chances on the power play and a couple more near misses on the penalty kill which was good all night. In between, the Hurricanes were unable to generate much of anything offensively in the first period. In a game where offense was hard to find, New Jersey netted the all-important first goal when Michael Cammalleri attracted a bunch of attention including Ward’s on the far side of the net and then fed Adam Henrique for a quick finish with Ward and much of the Canes’ defense still focused on Cammalleri on the side.
With a 1-goal lead, New Jersey was even more happy to just play a sluggish game with little for offense. The Hurricanes did seem to get going a bit but only late in the second period but despite another power play opportunity and some good chances could not draw even. When Michael Cammalleri finished from an odd angle off of Slavin’s stick, past Ward and off the bar on the far side and in, the Devils had what they needed to steal a road win in the second half of a back-to-back. The Hurricanes did respond when Sebastian Aho finished on a carom off the end boards after Jaccob Slavin got the puck to the net. When Aho turned the puck over in front of an empty net, the deed was done and the streak over after a 3-1 loss.
What was most striking to me was how a Hurricanes team that was last week able to match fast and skilled elite teams was unable to generate any pace or pressure against a New Jersey team that would probably been unable to compete in such a game after playing last night. In the same vein, the Devils completely dictated the way the game was going to be played pretty much throughout.
‘What I’m watching’ check in
The commentary above and the way the game went down saw the negative side of most of what I was watching from my game preview.
1) Return to skating and attacking style of play
As noted above, the failure to do this was the story of the game. The Hurricanes were dragged into and never escaped from a slow and sluggish game perfect for the Devils’ style of play and also back-to-back energy level.
I would not say that any forward line in total was good in Tuesday’s loss, but this line did manage the team’s only goal and maybe the biggest share of a small volume of attacking offensive plays.
3) Predators’ mentality
My thinking was that after beating teams better than New Jersey that this was a game where the Hurricanes needed to aggressively attack, dictate play and seize a win. Again, they just were unable to do so.
Brock McGinn: If forced to give out stars of the game for the Hurricanes on a night when it would have been fair to just leave them out altogether, the 3 would be McGinn, Slavin and Aho. McGinn was a pest and difficult to play against all night either winning pucks or at least slowing New Jersey down. I hate it for him that he did not net a goal on 2 really good chances first cutting in from the side to the front of the net and then with a grade A scoring chance right in front of the goalie. Those plays are the difference between being a great energy line fourth-liner and staying longer in a top 9 role.
Jaccob Slavin: I thought he played a solid game. His ability to move the puck up the ice and at least try to generate some speed in transition was better than the rest of the lot on the blue line, and he also made solid plays defensively.
A silver lining: This game was the first in a long time where I felt like the effort and intensity level could have been significantly better. That has NOT been the case in many games even the bad ones this season. Just maybe this game is a fresh reminder that wins are something you seize not something that just happens.
Still a tremendous run: The stellar 10-0-1 home streak was incredible and inevitably had to come to an end. The trick is to do well on the road and push back to 1 in a row at PNC Arena against Boston on Sunday.
With my target of 5-2 for the stretch that just started, the importance of the tough back-to-back set in St. Louis and Chicago is now amplified. The first of those games is Thursday night in St. Louis.