Coming off a five-day layoff for the team’s bye week, the Hurricanes faced a challenge trying to quickly get back up to speed facing a team that was not on break this week.
In my game preview, my first watch point was whether the Hurricanes would be “rested and ready” or “rusty”. For the most part, it was the positive option. The Hurricanes showed energy and were the better team in the first and third periods and were not bad in the slower second period either.
Out of the gate, the Hurricanes tilted the ice into the offensive end and collected the vast majority of the shots and scoring chances early. Jeff Skinner was buzzing around the net and had multiple good chances in the first period, but it took a power play opportunity for the Canes to get on the scoreboard first. Jordan Staal retrieved a juicy rebound at the side of the crease and quickly made a heady pass to Elias Lindholm tap in goal. But the Red Wings struck next when Ward was beaten from an off angle to knot the game at 1-1 which is how the first period ended. At that point, the positive was the Hurricanes level of play, but the negative was that the team did not really have anything to show for it heading into the locker room.
Detroit seemed to play its way into the game after their goal and played their best hockey in the second period. The Hurricanes pace slowed a bit, and they generated little through much of the second period but did defend reasonably well. The Hurricanes rebounded a bit in the second half of the period and again outshot Detroit, this time by an 8-6 margin.
That left the game to be decided in the third period. The pace picked up, and just like the first period, the Hurricanes were the better team in the third period. Elias Lindholm was again the hero and again on the power play when he finished another chance from in close banking a puck off of the goalie and into the net to stake the Hurricanes to a 2-1 lead. Justin Williams via Brock McGinn would add some breathing room late and push the Canes to a 3-1 win.
The win is a huge one. With the Hurricanes riding a two-game losing streak from before the break and now a couple points below the playoff cut line, the margin for error is small right now. In addition, as I noted in my game preview, the team’s run of poor hockey coming out of the bye week was a nail or two in the coffin of the 2016-17 playoff hopes. So to come out of the gate with a road win is bigger than just the two points earned (though those are big too).
Notes from the Carolina Hurricanes 3-1 win over the Detroit Red Wings
1) Elias Lindholm
His two goals were big but also quite simple. He moved his feet and engaged the puck all game and significantly spent a bunch of time at the top of the crease in the offensive zone. When a player does that, sometimes the puck shows up and he scores.
During the game I tweeted…
Silver lining from Aho being out could be Lindholm seeing time next to Staal. That is where he was when he surged last season. Lindholm has been okay but has yet to reach level from 2nd half of 2016-17. #Canes
— Canes and Coffee (@CanesandCoffee) January 21, 2018
With crunch time here, the spotlights are on the goalies and players like Teravainen and Skinner who seem mostly likely to pick up the slack scoring-wise with Aho out. But Lindholm’s surge in 2016-17 started at about the midway point of the season, and it also started playing on Staal’s line. Lindholm has not been horrible thus far in 2017-18 by any means, but I do think he is a player who has a higher gear. So just maybe reuniting with Staal will spark him, and just maybe we saw it tonight.
2) Cam Ward and the posts
In total, I would describe Cam Ward’s game as “good enough.” Allowing a single goal on 24 shots makes for good top-level statistics. While the one goal against was fine, I would not so much say that Ward inspired a ton of confidence in Saturday’s win. The goal against was a weak one from an odd angle that was the prototypical glove high ‘oops’ that saw him go down a bit early and then get beaten high. That was followed by another shot that beat him short side but hit the post. But at the end of the day, Ward was good enough to earn a win, and we are very much at the ‘results trump all else’ point in the 2017-18 season.
I will wait until tomorrow to try to decide if goalie paranoia is just making me an unfair goalie grader tonight. 🙂
3) Jeff Skinner
Especially in the first period, Jeff Skinner was buzzing around the net like he usually is when his goal outbursts happen. Though he did not score, I think Skinner played the kind of game that will in fact lead to his next scoring binge if he can play with that high level of energy every game and continue to go to the front of the net.
4) Haydn Fleury
Whereas the team in total seemed capable of dialing up to game speed after the layoff, I though Fleury was the player who most noticeably struggled at times. Detroit is a tough assignment for a young defenseman with the speed that they have on the wings. Fleury was beaten early and took an obstruction penalty to prevent a scoring chance. Past that he had multiple times where he had issues with his gap such that he mostly just kept backing up and allowed the player with the puck to push forward and step into a shot without much for obstruction.
5) Brock McGinn is the Robin to Justin Williams’ Batman
After Williams failed to capitalize on a breakaway that could have finished off the game, McGinn’s effort won a puck, picked up a shot for himself and ultimately led to an assist for Williams to redeem himself on a second try. Especially with Rask between them, the line is solid and tough to play against defensively at a minimum and then becomes a plus when they score.
6) Decent game for the blue line
Aside from Fleury who is noted above, I thought the blue line put forward a solid effort against a team with speed on the wings. Hanifin/van Riemsdyk were especially strong being boosted up into a top 4 role with Pesce’s absence and how Peters put together the defense.
7) Results matter
With the Flyers win this afternoon, the cut line for the playoffs moved up further before the Hurricanes played. The win to keep pace was a big one. I continue to think that the goal is to push through the set of four games while getting back up to speed and then using the 12-game stretch with 11 home games to make a playoff push.
Next up is a quick turnaround and a return to Raleigh with a 6pm game on Sunday at PNC Arena against the second best team in the NHL thus far in the Las Vegas Golden Knights.