I recognize that the ‘half full’ version would be that the Hurricanes gained 1 point, but with the Hurricanes sitting 4 points (adjusted for games played) below the playoff cut line and by my and others’ estimation needing to win 4 of 5 games on the current home stand, 1 point against the league-worst Colorado Avalanche to start the home stand just is not enough.
The result is not incredibly surprising. I hinted at my concern about this game in the Thursday Coffee Shop polls and many readers agreed. Teams coming out of their bye week have largely struggled with a 3-9-1 record (and I think 1-1 is actually from 2 teams coming out of the bye week playing each other). So in the sense that the Hurricanes had trouble getting going and lost to the Avalanche at home, I do not think this game is as much of a catastrophe as it might seem. But in terms of needing every point possible and leaving a winnable point on the table, it definitely hurts.
Recap of the Hurricanes 2-1 overtime loss to the Colorado Avalanche
The Hurricanes started a bit how one might have expected coming out of the bye week. Colorado was better early and tilted the ice to Cam Ward’s end. The Hurricanes were a sluggish and sloppy and lacked NHL game pace. But Cam Ward was sharp early and made a good saves to keep his team in the game. The Hurricanes did get better as the period wore on and seemed to at least get up to game speed, but Colorado scored first when Justin Faulk and Ron Hainsey were victimized off the rush. First, Justin Faulk sort of weakly swiped across at the puck at the defensive blue line. When he missed the Avalanche entered 3-wide off the rush and then skated freely right across the top of the circles. Hainsey then fell leaving Tyson Barrie a chance to fire a blast from between the circles. But a fortuitous goal by Jeff Skinner in the waning moments of the first period got the Hurricanes at 1-1 to finish the first period positively. Following the cliche, “it’s never a bad idea to shoot the puck,” Skinner beat Avs’ goalie Calvin Pickard from an impossible angle on a shot that deflected off and Avalanche stick.
The Hurricanes found a higher gear in the second period but still just were out of sync in many regards. The Hurricanes did begin to generate more chances but were unable to finish, but they also continued to be an intermittent mess in terms of defense, moving the puck from stick to stick and sorting things out defensively. The positive continued to be Cam Ward who made save after save to give his team a chance. As has been the case at other times during the season, many of the Hurricanes’ best scoring chances came off the rush while shorthanded.
Despite another sloppy period, the Hurricanes came really close to pulling out a regulation win twice in the third period. First, Jeff Skinner actually finished on a nifty backhand right as Lee Stempniak was being whistled for slashing. And a goal mouth scramble saw the Aho/Staal/Lindholm line almost bang home a goal from close range twice on the same shift. But it was not to be. The game remained tied at 1-1 and the period ended ominously with Faulk getting caught up too far and flat-footed in the neutral zone with the puck coming at him. He took a tripping penalty and then failed to even try to chase down the play sending the Avs in on a 2-on-1 rush that saw the puck glance off of Ward’s stick to preserve the point for getting to overtime. The Hurricanes’ penalty kill was stellar for 2 minutes in overtime, but things still ended badly when Victor Rask was pick-pocketed at his offensive blue line springing Matt Duchene with the puck to feed Mikko Rantanen for the game-winner on a 2-on-1 rush.
Half empty definitely says the Hurricanes let an important point get away. Half full says that the Hurricanes actually did better than most coming out of the bye week, and that they might have faced the only opponent possible to convert Friday’s effort into anything.
‘What I’m watching’ follow up
If you missed it and want to catch up, you can find the game preview HERE.
1) An aggressive, attacking mentality
The Hurricanes never really did get their feet under them to be able to push too hard. The effort level was not actually horrible, and the team did seem to play hungry in the second half of the game once their legs were going. But the sloppiness was just too much to overcome.
2) Offense across 3 lines
I would say that the Hurricanes received sporadic offense across 2 lines. None of it was really sustained, but the Staal line managed a few good shifts here and there, and the Skinner/Teravainen/Stempniak line had Skinner’s goal and also some near misses with Teravainen missing the net off the rush and also whiffing on what could have been a good chance. The McGinn/Rask/Ryan line did little offensively.
3) Matt Duchene at PNC Arena
He had a good night creating the chaos that saw Hainsey on his butt for the Barrie goal and then making the steal and pretty pass on the overtime game-winner. He also had a couple times early where he picked up a head of steam that backed Hainsey up while he stormed toward the net for a decent chance.
4) Cam Ward
He was incredibly good. The team in front of him on Friday was at least as bad as the 1 that lost badly in Dallas on Saturday. Give Ward huge credit for stealing a point and even giving his team some kind of chance to undeservedly steal the other.
Adjusting the schedule for the bye week: About halfway through the 30 teams taking bye weeks, early returns suggest it is incredibly difficult for teams coming off a bye week to get up to speed playing against teams in a more regular schedule rhythm. Players are accustomed to breaks for the All-Star break and the Olympics, but the key difference is that every team takes the breaks at the same time, so playing field is even. For the 2017-18 season, the NHL should consider scheduling that a team coming off its bye week plays another team coming off its bye week. That would create an even playing field and give teams a game and probably at least 2 practices to get up to speed.
Phil Di Giuseppe and Andrej Nestrasil: Both are playing well in Charlotte. Important to note is that I do not see these depth players as potential miracle workers, but I do think it could be time to reach to the AHL to see if 1 or both of the 2 can help bring another dose of hunger and spark a line at least short-term.
Another tough night for Hainsey/Faulk: Most of their tougher outings have been on the road, but they were front and center in a couple of the plays that cost the Canes on Friday. The first goal was the epitome of the duo’s troubles this season. Defending skilled players in the defensive zone, they allowed ample time and space for the opponent to just work them over. Faulk sort of stepped up at the blue line but just weakly swiped across at the puck carrier and missed. When he did, that left plenty of room for Iginla to coast in then just skate freely across the top of the circles with an easy passing lane to Barrie. Barrie then had all kinds of time to receive the puck, tee it up and beat Ward cleanly from close range with no impediment to his shooting ability with Hainsey being pushed back and then falling down. Faulk’s miscue at the end of regulation very nearly cost the Hurricanes the 1 point in the third period and also offered an overtime power play.
Time to flip the dial to desperate: Aiming for 8 points minimum out of 10 during the home stand and already losing 1 in the first game, I think we are officially at that point in the season when the Hurricanes desperately need to win.
Next up is a home match up at 7pm on Sunday against the Toronto Maple Leafs. IMPORTANT: Though the original schedule and tickets say 7:30pm, the game has been changed to a 7pm start so plan your arrival accordingly.