An important starting point is to note that the Hurricanes had a successful road trip finishing up at 2-2. No doubt, a big win on Saturday would have been better, but following my playoff math that says a team has to get half of the points on the road and two-thirds of the points at home, the Hurricanes played at a playoff pace on the road trip and also have in total for the season.
As for Saturday’s 4-3 loss to the Dallas Stars, the Hurricanes started slow which ultimately cost them. But after falling behind 4-0 by the midway point of the game, the Hurricanes admirably pushed back, but it was already too late.
Especially early, the game featured some of the troublesome elements from the significant rough patches from the win over Edmonton on Tuesday. The Hurricanes handed over possession of the puck too often trying to just clear its own zone or get it deep for a line change. And also like the Edmonton game, the Hurricanes offered almost no resistance to the Stars flying through the neutral zone and attacking the offensive blue line.Finally, the face-off woes from the Edmonton also returned with the Hurricanes winning only 40 percent of the draws.
The Benn/Seguin/Radulov line represented the best three players on the ice each time they hopped over the boards, and better than any other team the Hurricanes have faced thus far, the Dallas Stars did an incredibly job converting speed in transition into scoring chances largely by creating man advantages in small spaces via puck support from forwards working as a tandem or often a defenseman joining to make a 4-on-3 advantage.
Notes from the Carolina Hurricanes 4-3 loss to the Dallas Stars
For as good as they have been all season, they had a fairly tough night against Benn/Seguin/Radulov. In the first period, Pesce was on the ice for the first goal that saw him and Trevor van Riemsdyk both just keep backing up, allowing too much room and ultimately a goal. Pesce also had Radulov blow right around him early in the second for another mostly uncontested scoring chance. Slavin was victimized by a heady play by Seguin who occupied Slavin and then pulled up to freeze Slavin such that he could basically hand the puck to a speeding Radulov who went mostly uncontested to the net. Slavin also lost track of a Star players on the penalty kill for a shot off the side of the net from point blank. At a more general level, the Stars did not really try to use last change to steer Benn/Seguin/Radulov away from Slavin/Pesce and at least on this night, they did not need to do so. I would not say that they were horrible, just that the other team’s best players were better than them on this night. The key is to look forward and just get right back to work in the next game.
It ended up being too little too late, but Skinner’s goal with just under 10 seconds to go in the second period was another of the kind of goal that can make a difference. Sure enough, it seemed to spark a team that was mostly defeated, and it almost helped propel the Canes back into a game that seemed to be over only a few seconds earlier. His hand eye coordination on both goals is completely off the charts. On his first goal, he managed to play a puck off his skate, to his stick and up over Bishop from very close in where there did not seem like there was enough room to do so. The second goal saw him cleanly play the puck just as it was reaching the ice but was bumbling around and not settled. From watching him for many years now, I actually do not think he is quite playing at his top gear when he is dominant on an every shift basis. That just makes his five goals in six games even more impressive.
I really liked his game. He was right in the middle of it when the Hurricanes were gradually dialing up the intensity level late and also got on the score sheet on both of Skinner’s goals. The game was easily his best of the season, and I would rate him only behind Skinner who gets extra credit for scoring two goals in terms of making a positive difference on Saturday night. He is only two games deep playing with Skinner/Ryan, but at a minimum he has been the best player in this slot and has earned a chance to continue to run in this slot. Finally, though his game and skill set are a bit different, McGinn reminds me of Nathan Gerbe a bit in terms of his every shift consistency for intensity level.
The fourth line
In the same vein as Brock McGinn, I continue to like the fourth line. They were mostly stapled to the bench in the third period in favor of players with greater potential to score, but up until that point, I liked their game again.
The power play
The final Hurricanes goal was not a power play goal, but it followed a power play that generated a couple good chances and built the offensive momentum that led to the goal. The power play in general still continues to look a little bit slow and disjointed at times moving up the ice and gaining the offensive zone. And both units can be a bit too static and therefore easy to defend at times. But along the way, the power play has been building some momentum in the best way possible – scoring goals. And short of doing just that to tie the game late, I thought the final power play also had the right level of desperation and came close to scoring a couple times.
Four goals against is not great obviously, but I liked the way Darling kept competing and was still around to give his team a chance to try to steal a point late.
Continuing to improve
The Edmonton and Dallas games this should make for a decent set of tape for the video scouts and coaches to break down to tighten up the neutral zone play a bit.
Next up for the Hurricanes is a return home against the red hot Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday night.