Still minus four regulars in COVID protocol, the Hurricanes arrived on time against a Dallas Stars team that had started the season 4-0. Vincent Trocheck scored twice early, and the Hurricanes never looked back. The 4-1 final score might actually understate how dominant the Hurricanes were. The good guys completely unplugged a Dallas Stars that came in playing well with a 4-0 record and two lopsided wins. The game was an absolute clinic in controlling play to minimize the need to play defense under duress and also defending well in the limited times it was needed. The Stars went minutes on end without mustering a shot on net let along a decent scoring chance. Despite being down by multiple goals, the Stars managed only five total shots on net for the second and third periods combined. The game was easily one of the most impressive games in recent memory.
The only negative was that the game was marred by a couple Hurricanes injuries. Petr Mrazek left with what seemed to be an arm or wrist injury after being banged into by Max McCormick in the crease. Shortly thereafter Max McCormick went awkwardly into the boards on a questionable hit and left in pain favoring what seemed to be his shoulder. In the post-game interviews Martin Necas made a comment about Mrazek seeming to not be that bad, but no official prognosis was offered for either player.
Player and other notes
1) Absolutely impressive
Especially considering that the Stars came in playing well, I cannot overstate how impressive this win was. It was not just the case of the Canes scoring in bunches or the Stars making a bunch of mistakes. More so, it was about the Hurricanes controlling play and completely shutting Dallas down. Following up a strong effort on Thursday too, early indications are that the Hurricanes might have found a higher gear not just a random great game that happens over the course of the season. It will be interesting to see if the team can extend the run of incredibly strong play.
2) Martin Necas rising
Through three games, Martin Necas collected only a lone assist on the score sheet. His play had been fine, so there was no real reason for concern, and the scoring total figured to be the randomness of a small sample size more than an indication of trajectory. Nonetheless for offensive players, production is an important measurement. Fast forward two games and Martin Necas now has four points in five games for a 65-point pace over 82 games. And his path to four points has been a pretty one. On Thursday, he deftly finished on the rush on a pass that was up off the ice. On Saturday, he added two heady, skilled playmaker type assists that would have made Teuvo Teravainen proud. First, he handled from behind the net and fed a perfectly placed and timed pass to Vincent Trocheck for a quick finish. Then later on the power play, he threaded a pass through the seem to give Ryan Dzingel an opportunity to shoot on a goalie who was still trying to get across. The past two games have been a showcase of what the ceiling can be for Martin Necas who is still developing.
3) Vincent Trocheck
With two nice finishes early in the game to start the Canes off and running, Trocheck vaulted a team-leading four goals in five games. He also added a power play assist later to get to six points which also ties him for the team lead in points with Andrei Svechnikov. Prior to the start of the season, I wrote about four different ways how Vincent Trocheck, the second line center position, the second line scoring or something similar would be critical to Hurricanes becoming deeper and taking a next step up. Without splitting hairs about details, Trocheck has been incredibly product so far with a massive 100ish-point pace over 82 games. That is obviously tremendous production. The one thing to watch is that his start is a bit like Erik Haula’s in that his offensive has not so much been from driving a line’s production. He has two goals and an assist on the power play and another assist on an empty-net goal. So he has yet to set up a line mate at even strength (non-empty net). Scoring of any kind is a positive obviously, but after a similar start Haula’s production dissipated when there really was not a ton going on at even strength with his line mates. I would say that Trocheck has looked good 5-on-5 and that his first goal today was a pretty play with Necas, so that part might be coming too.
4) Jordan Staal as Teuvo?
With Teuvo Teravainen out of the lineup, Jordan Staal has taken it upon himself to be the playmaker extraordinaire. He had the pretty saucer pass on the overtime game-winner on Thursday. And on Saturday he managed to get a pass through a bunch of traffic to Trocheck for his second goal.
5) Ryan Dzingel
Earlier this week I wrote about Ryan Dzingel playing well but not scoring much. On cue, he notched his second goal of the season on a goal scorer’s goal. In quick succession, he managed to receive and control a cross ice pass and quickly shoot into the top half of the net. With the small quantity of games played, scoring paces can change quickly, but Dzingel’s two goals in five games makes for a productive 33-goal pace in 82 games.
6) Brett Pesce and Jake Gardiner
The Hurricanes defense was solid to a man on Saturday night, but I still think that Gardiner/Pesce have been the team’s best since COVID juggled the lineup and defense pairings. They were incredibly good against a Dallas Stars team that had been scoring in bunches until Saturday.
7) Sebastian Aho and Andrei Svechnikov
Saying that Aho and Svechnikov are pretty good together is a ‘well duh’ comment at this point, but what jumps out to me is how productive they are off the rush. Both players are capable of making skilled plays while in high gear. And both players have incredibly good hockey smarts in terms of decisison-making on when to pass or shoot, what angle to take without the puck and when/how to slow a bit to make timing work and when to pressure with speed. Svechnikov’s goal had all of that on display for Aho. Svechnikov won the puck in the neutral zone and fed it forward but actually fell down as he did so. Aho had the hockey sense to push forward at first to back up the denfenseman to make space for him to gain the blue line but then also have space to use when he slowed down to wait for Svechnikov. The Aho feeding Svechnikov through traffic and Svechnikov receiving and finishing while picking up speed (not slowing down to handle the puck) just shows the skill that both have.
Next up for the Hurricanes is a quick turnaround for game two of the set against the Dallas Stars at 5pm on Sunday at PNC Arena.