In Monday’s Daily Cup of Joe, I wrote about Andrei Svechnikov:
But at the point where Svechnikov is not boosting scoring for Staal’s line, I think it is time to redeployed to maximize his scoring. If the slot that Svechnikov holds right now is going to be light on scoring, there are plenty of other options. Though I do think it makes the Canes offense a bit top-heavy, I think timing could be right to put Svechnikov with Aho. Aho seems to be finding a higher gear, and Svechnikov could get a boost in terms of scoring chances by playing with him right now. Svechnikov had a pretty goal on Sunday to start February strong, but he scored only two goals in eleven games in January. Perhaps timing is right to try to maximize what he can bring offensively.
And in that same article, I wrote about James Reimer:
With another win on Sunday, James Reimer continues to play well in net. Could that coupled with four straight road games see him become the Canes starting netminder? Brind’Amour will not make any formal announcement on such a shift, and both goalies will continue to play anyway. But thus far in 2019-20, Reimer has taken a heavier share of the road games and has outperformed Mrazek in those games. Reimer is 8-4-0 on the road with a 2.54 goals against average and .919 save percentage. Mrazek is 4-6-2 with a 3.00 goals against average and .897 save percentage. If Brind’Amour is going to lean a bit more in Reimer’s direction, timing could be now. Again, this is not suggesting that there will be some kind of formal announcement from Brind’Amour. There is no need for that. But it will be interesting to see who starts on Tuesday and also just how things play out in net over the coming weeks.
Both of those themes featured heavily in another bounce back win for the Canes on Thursday night. Andrei Svechnikov had two goals and an assist in addition to a couple really good chances to notch a hat trick. And with Sebastian Aho’s two tallies, even the hesitant Rod Brind’Amour will certainly go top-heavy with Teravainen/Aho/Svechnikov again on Saturday.
And James Reimer continued to be the better of the two goalies, especially on the road. Though Brind’Amour with help from his goalie coach has generally been stellar doling out goalie starts, I questioned him stubbornly in my opinion going back to Mrazek again on Tuesday. Reimer’s top line numbers were not overly impressive on Thursday, but one of the goals against was an odd deflection by Aho and the other caromed in off an unmarked Coyote at the side of the net. I feel like Brind’Amour keeps hoping that Mrazek is about to find the same hot streak that he found at this time last season, but I think Thursday’s win could finally be the tipping point that shifts Reimer into the 1A role for as long as he deserves it.
Interestingly, Thursday’s game started a bit ominously. The first period was not bad, but it was not great either, and the Hurricanes did not generate a ton for chances. And when Arizona scored the period’s goal on an odd seemingly intentional deflection by Aho, the period ended negatively at 1-0.
When Arizona struck first again in the second period, the Canes were down 2-0 and seemed to be entering soul-searching time. The play featured a pair of Canes haunting problems with Justin Williams taking an avoidable offensive zone penalty and the Canes penalty kill losing track of a player right in front of the net like it did twice in the Tuesday loss to St. Louis. But instead of wilting, they responded courtesy of a couple simple but effective hockey plays. Andrei Svechnikov scored twice from a total of eight feet by parking himself in the crease area, waiting for the puck to show up and then whacking it home. In between the two Svechnikov goals Jaccob Slavin scored a prettier goal stepping up into the face-off circle to receive and finish a pretty pass from Ryan Dzingel. The Canes took but survived a late period penalty to emerge from the second period with momentum and a 3-2 lead.
The Andrei Svechnikov show continued in the third period when he twice burst up the middle for breakaway chances. Neither finished his hat trick, but the first was an impressive play that highlighted so a good checklist of Svechnikov strengths. First, he had a burst of speed to receive a puck streaking up the ice and split two defenders. Then he showed the power forward strength to hold off a defender who was draped over him on the way to the net. Then despite being defended, he managed a good scoring chance off the rush. Then he finished it all by showing his great agility and skating ability stopping to retrieve the rebound instead of floating past the end line. Finally, he fed a pass to Aho who finished. The play was a nice showcase play for Svechnikov and also put the Canes up 4-2. But as has been the case lately, the Canes failed to tighten things up with a lead, and Arizona scored again when the Canes became a bit puck-focused and Jake Gardiner lost track of a Coyotes forward who was all alone at the side of the net. I would not say that the Canes finished strong with a couple other break downs and a late offensive zone penalty against, but they did finish. Aho sealed the deal fulfilling his regular role as the empty-net finisher to give the Canes a much-needed 5-3 win.
For those who want to bask in a big win, do so and skip my final segment at the bottom.
Player and other notes
1) Andrei Svechnikov
My game preview called for heroes and leaders in a big game. Andrei Svechnikov was exactly that. As noted above, there was not much fancy or even necessarily skilled about Svechnikov’s two goals, but they were incredibly timely and what the team needed desperately. His line with Aho and Teravainen collected four goals and could easily have had a couple more. A subtle but pretty need subplot is how well-rounded and aware Svechnikov’s game is for such a young age. On Staal’s line which mostly has lacked a true playmaker, Svechnikov has had more of a tendency to play with the puck on his stick to create for him and his line mates. With Aho and Teravainen who both like to play with the puck on their stick and distribute, he quickly settled into more of a net crashing role and/or looking for space to receive and finish. In addition to being skilled, Svechnikov possesses the ability to complement whoever he is playing with.
2) Sebastian Aho
Svechnikov was the first star, but Aho also had a strong game offensively. He has had some ups and downs defensively and otherwise, but in the four games since the All-Star break, he has been good offensively. Like Svechnikov, Aho spent a good amount of time around the net where goals happen.
3) James Reimer
As noted above, he continues to oscillate between good and stellar. A couple caroms kept Reimer’s numbers from being overly impressive on Thursday, but he continues to give his team a chance or better on a regular basis. I have been of the mind to shift the pendulum more toward Reimer for some time now. I have to think Brind’Amour might finally be getting there too.
4) Trevor van Riemsdyk
Filling a top 4 slot alongside Jaccob Slavin, Trevor van Riemsdyk had arguably his best game of the 2019-20 season in an elevated role. He logged a huge 21:07 of ice time topping his previous 2019-20 high of 17:56 on Tuesday and marking only the third time he has been above 17 minutes. For his effort, he picked up two assists, was plus 3 and most significantly was solid defensively in a top 4 role.
5) The naysayer
Not to be underestimated this time of year is the importance of getting two points any way possible. And that rings true even more so after a rough outing like Tuesday.
That said, I think that Caniacs will awake Friday possibly making more of Thursday’s win in terms of righting some wrongs. Unfortunately, I think this win was more about overcoming issues than correcting them. The Canes again dug a hole and had to climb out of it. The team also took multiple offensive zone penalties one of which proved costly with a power play goal against and the other which was late in the game and could have been catastrophic. And the third period once the team was up two goals was a bit of a mess despite ending well. Up 4-2, Jake Gardiner got caught watching the puck a bit, such that a Coyotes player ended up alone at the side of the net on his side of the ice for a goal against. Five minutes later Brett Pesce thwarted a 2-on-1 when Gardiner got caught up ice. Five minutes later Gardiner got worked over stopping and starting in the offensive zone by the speedy Garland. Then inside of five minutes Lucas Wallmark managed a boarding penalty on the forecheck to give the Coyotes another great chance late.
The result was a good one, and that trumps all else. And there is a chance that positive momentum comes from that result. But the part of me looking for improvement in quality of play is much less enthralled than the part of me counting points in the standings.
Next up for the Hurricanes is a chance to build on a win with a match up in Sin City against the Golden Knights on Saturday.