The Carolina Hurricanes capped off an interesting in the digital world of Canes hockey and the transition to new ownership with an all-important 2-1 win over the Ottawa Senators.
A multi-faceted #PackPNC initiative garnered wide midday coverage from sports and other local news sources, triggered a number of people to share their opinions on the initiative on social media and largely accomplished its objective in filling the majority of the lower bowl for the game. Things started yesterday at the University of North Carolina and North Carolina State hockey game played at PNC Arena where the Hurricanes offered a two-pack of lower level tickets, one for Tuesday and one for Thursday, in the lower bowl for a bargain basement total (not per ticket price) of $10. Then around lunchtime on Thursday, it was announced that anyone with upper level tickets for Tuesday would also be automatically upgraded to lower level tickets. The result was a nearly full lower level and a different atmosphere.
As for the game itself, the start of the game did have an air of just coming out of another break. Though not horrible, the game was a bit sluggish and sloppy early. I thought Ottawa had the better of the play early, but it was not by a wide margin and the Hurricanes defense was sound enough that the chances were the savable variety not the bad break down variety that have plagued the Hurricanes at times during the 2017-18 season. Starting goalie Cam Ward was sound even if not spectacular early and held the fort early, and the Hurricanes seemed to get better as they settled in. The first period ended with Ottawa holding a 10 to 8 advantage in terms of shots on goal, but with the score still set on start at 0-0.
The Hurricanes found a significantly higher gear in the second period. McGinn/Rask/Williams had a strong period forechecking and playing in the offensive zone. Williams spent a ton of time in his office at the top of the blue paint, and McGinn was noticeably physical without the puck banging bodies and finishing checks whenever given the opportunity. Though the trio maybe did not have a ton of grade A scoring chances in the second period, they had a high volume of offensive zone time and also a decent number of times with the puck flying at the net with at least one player in front. So despite not scoring or looking incredibly dangerous, they did plenty of the things that help generate goals.
I thought the Skinner/Ryan/Stempniak was even better. Like the Rask line, they too did a great job of hemming Ottawa in its own end for entire shifts and did a tremendous job of winning or at least contesting pucks on the walls. Their work paid more dividends in terms of decent scoring chances too, and they easily could have had a goal or two in the second. The closest was a Skinner post.
Having two lines going and the others holding their own tilted the ice into the offensive zone and yielded an 18 to 12 shot advantage in the second period. But despite doing more offensively and being the better team for most of the second period, the Canes headed to the dressing room down 1-0 when Jean-Gabriel Pageau shot off of Jaccob Slavin’s skate and through Ward late in the second period.
But after being arguably treated unfairly in a strong second period, the Hurricanes stuck with it and were rewarded in the third period. Only 1:49 into the third period, Sebastian Aho announced his return to the lineup with a big goal. The hockey gods returned the favor when Aho’s shot went off of an Ottawa defenseman’s stick and right through goalie Craig Anderson pretty similarly to the Senators’ second period tally. Next Victor Rask sniped a goal on the power play to finish a pass that Justin Williams dropped into his wheel house off of the rush. From there, the Hurricanes did a reasonable job of still attacking but being reasonably sound defensively. Ward had the answer the few times it was needed, and the Hurricanes hung to grind out an all-important 2-1 win.
Notes from the Carolina Hurricanes 2-1 win over the Ottawa Senators
1) Results above all else
The time when results trump all else is clearly here for the 2017-18 season. For me, this game was very similar to the win over the Red Wings coming out of the bye week. I would not say that the Hurricanes were especially good, but they were solid and kept pushing to grind out a win which in the end is all that matters.
2) Solid night for the blue line
The Hurricanes blue line started off on the right foot coming out of the break. The game was not flawless, but it was largely devoid of bad break downs that lead directly to scoring chances against.
3) Steady night from Cam Ward
He did not need to be spectacular, but with the Hurricanes scoring only twice, he also did not have much margin for error. After benefiting from two shots off the post to his left in the first period, he made a number fairly athletic, what I call “pull a muscle” type saves where he had to go one way and then quickly stretch back the other way. And he allowed only a single goal on 30 shots which obviously check out statistically.
4) Offensive play somewhat better than the headline
The first period was not great, but I thought the Hurricanes deserved much better in the second period. Despite scoring and having a decent night, I would actually rate Aho/Staal/Teravainen as the team’s third best line offensively. That is a positive and hopefully an early sign that the Hurricanes can mount three lines of offensive attack.
5) Hanifin/van Riemsdyk
As noted above, I thought the Hurricanes blue line had a solid game overall, but if I thought Trevor van Riemsdyk and Noah Hanifin played an especially clean game in terms of clicking off shifts mostly without incident.
Next up for the Hurricanes is game two of three against current non-playoff teams when the Montreal Canadiens visit PNC Arena on Thursday night.