After climbing back positive with a fun but horribly messy overtime win on Tuesday night against the Flyers, Friday saw the Canes starting a back-to-back set both at home to close out the seven-game home stand. The range of possible outcomes entering the weekend goes from pretty darn good if the Canes go 2-0 to finish 5-2 all the way down to pretty dismal if they lose both to go 3-4.
With the team’s most complete/solid win since the five-game road trip, the Hurricanes pushed to 4 wins with a chance to reach 5-2 with a win on Saturday. And just like that the roller coaster has turned back upward.
Recap of the Carolina Hurricanes 3-0 win over the Arizona Coyotes
The game started with the Hurricanes having an early advantage in terms of puck possession and shots. An early power play did absolutely nothing for the first 90 seconds but then caught fire in the last 30 seconds generating a pop up shooting gallery and at least three good scoring chances in a quick flurry. The Canes did not score on the power play, but there did seem to be some carry over in terms of momentum. The Hurricanes would score first when Andrei Svechnikov won a puck on the wall and in a single motion turned to put a puck right on Warren Foegele’s stick between the face-off circles. Foegele made no mistake beating Antii Raanta to put the Canes up 1-0. Arizona would push late in the first period, but Petr Mrazek had answers early (and late too), and the Hurricanes emerged from the first period with a 1-0 lead.
The game was free flowing and opened up in the second period. The period featured a boatload of shots, but both goalies were sharp such that none of the medium-grade chances were likely to find twine on Friday night. The Hurricanes did find the twine though when Lucas Wallmark tipped a Dougie Hamilton shot-pass to put the Hurricanes up 2-0. A dazzling goal by Martin Necas highlight reel goal with 10 seconds remaining in the second period seemed to be the dagger to start to put the game away early. If you missed the game, do yourself a favor and have a look at this goal that reminded simultaneously of Noah Hanifin’s effortless skating and Jeff Skinner’s every which way ability mobility-wise. Then he finished with a sick backhander up into the corner of the net after circling it. The Canes had 15 shots in the second period but also allowed 14. But significantly, the Hurricanes were much lighter on the breakdowns that have plagued them even in wins recently. So the result was Mrazek having at least a decent chance to play expected shots and track the puck which was all he needed on a good night in net.
The third period was mostly the good kind of boring when your team has a 3-0 lead on home ice. The Hurricanes played a very safe station to station game taking every chance to move the puck out of their own end and every chance to get the center line and play the puck deep. The result was a game of ping pong that saw the puck go back and forth with not too much doing offensively at times. The Hurricanes had only one shot in the third period but also allowed only seven when the Coyotes were trying to pull out all stops.
The win was the most impressive of the home stand at least as measured by sound play that has been elusive even in many wins for the 2019-20 season. And with goaltending faltering a bit and Tuesday featuring a really tough effort in net for Reimer even with the win, Mrazek’s effort could not have been timed better.
Player and other notes
1) Petr Mrazek
I had goaltending in my watch points simply because it has not been a strength for a number of games now. A better effort by the defense made it such that Petr Mrazek actually did not have to be spectacular to post a shutout. But at the same time he did have to make some tough saves and deserves credit for being perfect. What stood out to me was how sharp he was. His rebound control was as good as it has been so far this season. Further, I think the greatest strength of peak version Petr Mrazek is his ability to read plays and seemingly always be waiting in the right place. That has been missing a bit of late with Mrazek more sitting back and trying to react a half step late on the play. Best guess is that Brind’Amour will stick to the natural order and come right back to Reimer on Saturday especially with the chance for him to rebound, but if there was a case to be made for riding Mrazek in both halves of the back-to-back Mrazek made it.
2) Lucas Wallmark
He continues to score goals at a torrid pace. He scored a goal, had five shots and won 64 percent of his face-offs on a solid night. With six goals in the past 11 games, Wallmark is the current flag bearer for improved depth scoring.
The fourth line in total is playing well right now with a knack for getting pucks deep, forechecking and/or keeping pucks in the offensive zone such that they can neutralize even the occasional tough match up by mostly avoiding having to play too much defense. Wallmark and Necas are scoring. The result is good balance right now which shows up in the ice time. As is regularly the case, Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen led the forwards in ice time, but even as top man Teravainen had only 18:02 of ice time and Aho 17:48. The lows were Jordan Martinook and Brock McGinn who had 12:30 and 12:45 respectively. Wallmark, Haula and Staal (the three centers behind Aho) were within a range of just over two minutes. Not having to push top forwards for 22-23 minutes as in years past will hopefully keep players fresh down the stretch.
4) Sebastian Aho
This might seem like an odd observation on a night when a scorer did not appear on the score sheet, but I think Sebastian Aho is starting to find the second gear that is usually a part of his extended scoring bursts. He was quick on a couple short races including tipping a puck out of the defensive zone on the penalty kill and then racing to retrieve it for a breakaway. He was also buzzing around the offensive zone. Timing would be great for his next scoring surge and more significantly for him to find a stretch where he is dominant on a nightly basis.
Next up for the Hurricanes is the home stand finale for Whalers night on Saturday against the Los Angeles Kings.