After a strong 60-minute effort and win on Friday night against the Ottawa Senators on Friday, the hope was a continuation of the high level of play from that win. The Hurricanes did start fairly strong and hang with a Calgary Flames team that is in playoff position and playing very well right now.
Recap of Hurricanes 3-1 loss to the Calgary Flames
The Hurricanes drew an early penalty and then climbed to an early lead when Jeff Skinner made a pretty pass through the seam to Victor Rask who finished. The Hurricanes drew another penalty shortly after the power play goal, generated a few other good chances and saw Eddie Lack pick up where he left off with his shutout on Friday. The Hurricanes could easily have been up 2-0 when Ryan Murphy beat goalie Brian Elliott only to hit Matt Stajan who accidentally fell into the net after a collision and never saw the puck coming. But along the way in the period small fits of the sloppiness that has plagued the Hurricanes at times this season started to creep up. But the Hurricanes survived the tail end of the first period and exited with a 1-0 lead.
The second period showed why the Flames have been winning of late. The fast and skilled forwards from Calgary dialed up the pace and attacked with and without the puck throughout the second period. Ryan Murphy had a shift where he lost the puck and then his stick before recovering to block a shot. Then Micheal Ferlund got behind Noah Hanifin and Brett Pesce to be sprung for a breakaway by a Johnny Gaudreau pass right up the middle of the rink. Lack had no chance when Ferlund finished off the bar and in into the very corner of the net. Gaudreau then finished himself when a fortuitous bounce saw a puck go right off Pesce’s skate and right back to him. He finished to put Calgary up 2-1. That is how the second period ended.
The third period saw Gaudreau strike again. When Hanifin got caught leaning too far outside, Gaudreau cut back on him and had all kinds of room to just walk right across the top of the circles before shooting and again catching a bit of a break when the puck glanced off Pesce, changed direction and found the net behind Lack.
The game was not nearly from the category of abysmal losses that the Hurricanes have offered a few times, but as I said after another recent loss, the Hurricanes and its fan base are past the point of trying to collect positives from losses.
‘What I’m watching’ check in
If you missed the game preview and care to read the details, you can find it HERE. The watch points are focused solely on using Sunday’s game to continue building for the future.
1) Eddie Lack
In total, Eddie Lack played a decent, even if not spectacular game. The first goal was perfectly placed on an uncontested breakaway. The final goal was a deflection that changed direction making for a really tough chance. This might sound strange, but his game was actually cleaner than his Friday shutout that featured a Justin Faulk save, 2 posts and 3 pucks that got through him but somehow not into the net behind him. But regardless of how you want to rate Friday versus Sunday, my feeling was that Sunday was at least a ‘good enough’ outing which makes for 2 consecutive quality outings which is a step in the right direction.
2) Noah Hanifin
After a strong outing being bumped up into the top 4 on Friday, Hanifin had a ‘growing pains’ type of outing against tough competition on Sunday night. Hanifin was in no hurry to get back to the point after pinching and seemed to get caught watching the puck in the process. When Pesce stepped up to try to pressure Gaudreau with the puck, neither had any chance to catch Ferlund streaking down the middle of the ice. Hanifin had Ferlund get behind him with the puck again at the tail end of the second period but was bailed out by a big Lack save. And then Hanifin got caught way too far to the outside on Gaudreau giving him all kinds of room to skate right across the top of the circles with Hanifin trailing him before firing and scoring.
One positive from Sunday is that Hanifin made the same mistake multiple times which should make for a great teaching/learning day in the film room. He too often has a tendency to try to defend the puck by being straight in front of the puck carrier instead of directly between him and the net. The result with quick players like Gaudreau is that they can use the smallest of openings to burst to the inside and to the front of the net where they are most dangerous. The key is to do the work in the video room and in practice to make adjustments and then to get him right back out on the ice in a top 4 role against tough match ups to keep learning quickly.
3) Ryan Murphy
His game was a mixed bag. He had the 1 play where he lost the puck and his stick simultaneously and things got really dicey before he blocked a shot to help the situation. He also had a play where he entered the offensive zone with the puck only to make a blatantly obvious pass that was intercepted. But aside from the couple ‘oopses’ he actually had a pretty strong game advancing the puck from the defensive zone and neutral zone.
4) Phil Di Giuseppe
I really like his game right now. His style of play reminds me of Justin Williams in that he skates hard and closes space and angles as quickly as he can forechecking in the offensive zone and backchecking through the neutral zone. The result is that he is difficult to play against. In the past few games if there was a stat for “small good plays” like deflecting a pass, taking away a passing lane, winning a puck on the boards, making a pass to at least generate a shot, etc., Di Giuseppe would be among the team leaders since his recall from the AHL. He probably had 6 plays where he put the puck on someone else’s stick to shoot plus the 8 shots he had (4 on net) himself.
Victor Rask: He had 4-5 decent scoring chances including the goal he scored. Just being noticeable was a nice step up for his game and hopefully a start to a rebound down the stretch.
The power play set up: The power play was decidedly more umbrella-like again. The goal happened with Hanifin sitting up top in the middle and Skinner and Rask flanking him on the sides and sort of doing the chameleon thing whereby who is on the other point and who is playing forward on the half wall is situationally dependent. The downside of this configuration is that point outlets oftentimes are not available when a forward goes to move the puck there. But the positive is that it makes for more fluid move and less of a static setup which is harder to defend.
Bill Peters’ shuffling: The game saw a swap on the blue line that started with Slavin/Faulk and Hanifin/Pesce and finished with Slavin/Pesce and Hanifin/Faulk. The game also saw the wings around Staal and Rask changed up as the game wore on. I think we are up to that point in the season where Peters is using the situation to see a bunch of different things to get reads on what works/what does not.
Next up for the Hurricanes is a road game in against Florida on Tuesday.