Sometimes hockey can be a game of momentum, and the Hurricanes entered Tuesday’s game against the Florida Panthers with a bunch of it.
The Hurricanes picked up where they left off on Sunday playing well and doing bunches of little things right. But the team also continued to seemingly get rewarded left, right and center. Just 6:48 into the game a seemingly harmless point shot by Jake Gardiner eluded the player in front of him and headed toward the net. As has very regularly been the case this season, the Hurricanes had not one but two players camped out in front of the net. Instead of heading wide of the net to the end boards, the puck caromed off of a Florida shin guard making for a perfect pass onto Jordan Staal’s tape and quickly into the back of the net before Bobrovsky could react. Shortly thereafter, a similar play saw Haydn Fleury do a nice job getting the puck around a defender and to the front of the net where again two Hurricanes were camped in front. This one saw Teuvo Teravainen with a deft spin-o-rama tip which again beat Bobrovsky who had no chance. The Hurricanes would score again when Andrei Svechnikov was thwarted on a breakaway attempt but retrieved his own rebound and fed a lurking Dougie Hamilton who finished into the top corner of the net. The Hurricanes would finish up a busy first period of scoring with Ryan Dzingel infringing upon Erik Haula’s office intercepting another pretty pass from Teuvo Teravainen (I really think it was again intended for Haula) and finish on the power play. The Hurricanes were good but not as dominant as the first period would indicate in the first period, but right now everything they touch is coming up gold.
The Hurricanes would continue pouring it on when Dzingel scored his second of the night on a rebound on a Martin Necas’ shot only 1:31 into the second. Just when it seemed that maybe the Hurricanes were off to the races, the fifth Hurricanes goal seemed be the smelling salts needed to wake up the Florida Panthers. From that point forward the Panthers pushed and back and ultimately were the better hockey team by a margin that increased until the end of the game. The Hurricanes did muster a decent volume of shots and chances intermittently but more than anything the second and third periods were the Panthers dictating play and firing at will with the Hurricanes mostly just leaning on James Reimer to make the 5-0 start stand up without much help. Mackenzie Weeger would score on a goal mouth scramble after Reimer made a couple desperation saves to get the Panthers on the board early in the second period. The Canes would survive the rest of the second period and head into the third period still with a 5-1 lead despite a clear turning of the tide early in the second period.
The Panthers would scratch for two power play goals in the third period and have a couple more unsuccessful bids to pull to within a goal before a Sebastian Aho empty-netter would seal the deal at 6-3. The game was very much a tale of two different hockey games. The first period plus saw an opportunistic and hot finishing Canes team sprint out to a 5-0 lead. The last two periods saw them take their foot of the gas and be outplayed.
At the end of the day, the Hurricanes are perfect 4-0 heading into a home back-to-back on Friday and Saturday that should have PNC Arena hopping.
Player and other notes
1) James Reimer
He has now played a leading role in wins in both of his two starts. I had him in my watch points. After a tough 2018-19 season, Reimer’s rebounding and getting his feet quickly underneath him again with the Hurricanes has the team on a good path to be two deep at the goalie position again in 2019-20 which is critical to having a chance to win every night and not wearing out a #1 goalie over the course of a long NHL season.
2) Haydn Fleury
Giving credit where it is due, Haydn Fleury had a strong game. He did a nice job getting a shot by the defender in front of him and to a place where the Canes net front players had a chance to make a play. Sure enough, Teravainen made a skilled play to finish. Fleury added another assist later in addition to playing a strong game defensively. Florida’s first goal came on a goal mouth scramble. If you watch that play closely, Fleury actually did a very good job boxing out his man who would likely have been first to the puck. The play ended badly only because Gardiner lost his stick and was unable to tie up the second Panther player. All in all, the game was a solid one for Fleury.
3) Andrei Svechnikov
He is still yet to post a goal, but he added two assists to get to six already. He also had two power forward rushes to the net with the puck on his stick, so he also seems to be on the path to a first goal soon. In addition, he continued to bang bodies and dial up the physical component in his game.
4) More traffic
One huge underlying theme of the Hurricanes success is the team’s propensity to have one and often even two players positioned near the top of the crease where goals and goalie distractions happen. I read two things into this. Obvious and first is that the Hurricanes two a man are making a concerted effort to get to the front of the net. The second goal saw Aho and Teravainen who are not stereotypical crease crashers parked in front of the net to capitalize when Fleury played the puck to the front. The other more subtle thing going on is the Hurricanes ability to gain clean entry to the offensive zone and maintain clean puck possession. When constantly battling for the puck on the walls, often all of the forwards who could maybe head to the net are instead occupied with trying to win or keep the puck. If it takes three forwards battling on the wall to win the puck and then send it to the point, there is no one left to be at the front of the net. So while I do think the forward group deserves credit for the effort and commitment to go to the front of the net, I think a key to this success is how well the Hurricanes are controlling the puck in the offensive zone through four games.
5) Too many penalties
The Hurricanes continued a trend of taking too many sloppy penalties, and on Tuesday the penalty kill was unable to just cover it up. Florida scored twice on the power play in the third period. Cleaning this up has to be near the top of Brind’Amour’s list of things to discuss and work on.
6) Jordan Staal
In a somewhat understated fashion, I thought Jordan Staal had his best game on the young season. Even in the middle of a chaotic second and third period, he had a strong game neutralizing a highly skilled Florida forward group.
Next up for the Hurricanes is a home back-to-back with the Islanders visiting PNC Arena on Friday and then the Blue Jackets on Saturday.