Jordan Staal night
On a positive note, the tribute to Jordan Staal on the night of his 1,000th NHL game was well-done. The Carolina Hurricanes have had their ups and downs during Jordan Staal’s tenure with the Hurricanes and even with him as a captain, but like other Hurricanes greats he is very clearly the type of player that the Canes hockey community can be proud to call one of their own. Timing for his ceremony is absolutely perfect with the team still on the rise, Staal himself at the top of his game again in 2020-21 and the team he leads sitting at the top of the NHL standings. Here is hoping that his pinnacle matches that of another all-time great Canes two-way center who preceded him some number of years ago.
The Detroit Red Wings as Canes kryptonite
My tweets from the last pair of Canes versus Red Wings match ups not look like a horrible forewarning.
On March 14, I said:
Maybe it is random or maybe that they can match pace and are not overwhelmed like other teams can be at times?
— Canes and Coffee (@CanesandCoffee) March 14, 2021
At that point, I got a few comments and maybe online odd looks, as the Hurricanes won that game to go to 3-1 against the Red Wings on the season.
Since then, the Hurricanes have lost three straight against the Red Wings (with one in a shootout) to run the season record to a very modest 3-3-1 against a Detroit team that is 15-23-6 for the 2020-21 season and is 26th in the NHL.
As I said on Twitter after Monday’s loss, at least the Hurricanes do not have to worry about facing Detroit in the playoffs. But the one thing I keep thinking about is if there is something for other teams to go to school on. There is an element of randomness to it, but I do also think that the Red Wings do two things well that neutralizes the Hurricanes’ strengths. First, especially at the forward position, the Wings skate well such that they do not struggle as much to match speed/pace with the Hurricanes especially at transition points. The other thing the Wings do well is aggressively defend the puck especially outside of their defensive zone. Some teams are aggressive deep on the forecheck but then retreat a bit in the middle of the rink to try to be safe against the rush. The Red Wings, somewhat like the Hurricanes, tend to step up and challenge the puck in all three zones. When it is working, the result is that they force the Hurricanes into a disjointed effort advancing the puck.
Random game and player notes
1) Sleepy starts
The tone and the outcome for the game were set in the beginning of the first and third periods respectively. Following the ceremony before the game, the Hurricanes came out surprisingly flat. Detroit had the better of play early and continued to buzz around the net just like in Saturday’s loss. James Reimer made some good saves early to keep the sluggish start from showing up on the scoreboard. Then a slow start in the third period decided the outcome. A sleepy first shift that saw Dougie Hamilton and Jaccob Slavin both sort of in the right place in front of the net but unable to defend a passing lane (Hamilton) and a player unguarded at the side of the net (Slavin) saw Detroit go up 1-0. The Canes took a penalty challenging the goal as offsides, and then Brady Skjei added the next error flipping the puck over the glass for a 5-on-3 power play. Detroit scored again (5-on-4) to go up 2-0. In general, the Canes just looked disinterested to start both the first and third periods which ended up being the difference.
2) Tough night for Jaccob Slavin and Dougie Hamilton
The top defense pairing was right in the middle of a bunch of messes in Monday’s losses. They were front and center for the first Detroit goal as mentioned above. They also lose 1-on-2 when neither could win the puck or defend on the empty-netter to end it. And the duo also had two other breakdowns that led to Red Wings in alone for scoring chances.
3) Brady Skjei to the box
Also part of the short-term blue line funk is Brady Skjei taking the aforementioned penalty that factored into the Canes demise. He has now collected four minor penalties in the last three games which is not a good trend.
4) Truly sub-par effort
I usually try to sprinkle in a mix of positives and negatives even on down nights. That is challenging for Monday’s loss. Even in losses, the Hurricanes have had incredibly few true stinkers — this game was one though. The Red Wings were the better team, and the Hurricanes really were not great at anything. The power play was slow and sloppy. The Hurricanes had too many defensive breakdowns as noted. And they just looked out of sync.
But even good teams are bound to lay a few eggs, so having one game no matter how bad is not by itself something to overreact on. But it is worth watching the next couple games to see if the Hurricanes can quickly rebound and re-find a higher gear.
5) Couple small positives
I thought Vincent Trocheck generally had a strong game. Unlike most of the team, he played fast and had a decent number of near misses in terms of scoring and/or creating higher-end scoring chances.
James Reimer also played well. He held the fort early and in general gave his team a chance late on a night when they probably did not deserve it.
Nino Niederreiter scored another big goal on a pretty snipe off the underside of the bar/net. It did not result in anything, but when he scored to make it 2-1, he gave the Canes a chance to steal a point or two late in the game.
6) The curse of Haydn Fleury?
The Hurricanes spent nearly a decade in a rumored curse placed on the team and its netminders by a once loved but later shunned Arturs Irbe, before finally emerging from the curse’s crushing weight. With a trade deadline slight of Haydn Fleury, is it possibly we just witnessed the first effects of the newest curse?
Next up for the Hurricanes is a good test against a Nashville Predators team that has clawed its way up into the final playoff spot in the Discover Central Division and should be desperate for points to maintain that position.