Recap of Hurricanes 4-2 loss to Red Wings
The final score of 4-2 in favor of the Red Wings was not abysmal or anything worse than the other losses, but in my assessment, I think the wheels truly came off in the first period in Detroit on Tuesday night. In a season full of bad breakdowns, the first period might have actually set a new high. The first goal against was all of the Hurricanes problems wrapped up in a single goal. Somehow the Hurricanes defense lost track of hot sniper Thomas Vanek right in between the circles where he received an uncontested pass with time to pick a spot. Then Vanek actually failed to pick a spot and instead fired the puck right into Cam Ward’s pads giving him a chance to make an early sigh of relief type of save. Instead, the puck trickled through Ward’s pads and into the net.
The defense broke down horribly. The goalie had a chance at a very makeable save but failed. The Canes were losing.
The remainder of the first period was pretty much a dumpster fire. A blocked shot at the blue line caught an interchange of Phil Di Giuseppe in the defense spot up top and slow to react when Jakub Nakladal’s shot was blocked. Dylan Larkin was in alone from the far blue line and beat Ward. The third goal against saw Ron Hainsey give a Detroit player all kinds of space off the rush. There was an element of bad luck when the goal went off Brett Pesce and into the Hurricanes net, but Hainsey backing off made it almost like a 2-on-1, and the shot again went right through Ward and into the net.
The period also saw another 2-on-1 that Faulk defended well, a second 1-on-0 breakaway when Teravainen fell down at the offensive blue line on the power play and another play that saw a Red Wings player open in front of the net.
To their credit, the Hurricanes did push back in the second period when they capitalized on a couple of Red Wings’ miscues. First, Jordan Staal picked up a loose puck and was in alone for a goal after 2 Red Wings collided at the blue line. Then Victor Rask squeaked a puck through Petr Mrazek who never got square to the shot and the puck go off him and in. But as has been the case too often in 2016-17, the Hurricanes just could not find the couple key plays that they needed. The Red Wings pushed up to 4-2 and survived the remainder of the game despite a decent push by the Canes in the third period.
Like most of the other losses, the stretch where the Hurricanes were bad was bad enough to decide a hockey game.
With the loss, the Hurricanes finished the season-opening road trip with a 1-3-2 record and roughly a 3-point hole relative to a 95ish-point pace that it usually takes to make the playoffs.
‘What I’m watching’ follow up
1) The Hurricanes netminding
First, in Ward’s defense, the defense in front of him was atrocious, especially in the first period. But Ward was not good either. Because of the location of the shot, it is maybe too much to call the first goal a soft goal, but if Ward does goalie 101 and challenges the shot, leaves not holes and forces Vanek to hit a corner he does not do so. Instead, Vanek fires the shot right into Ward’s pads except that the shot went through it. The Pesce goal was mostly bad luck but again found a hole through Ward. And part of an NHL goalies job is to make some saves that are tough especially when the team needs it. The Hurricanes just are not getting enough of these saves right now which partially explains the Hurricanes .850ish save percentage now through 6 games.
2) Slavin and Pesce
The duo was separated for this game, but the 2 continue to be on the higher end of the Hurricanes struggling defense right now. Ideally, Pesce stays upright and punches the centering pass on the third goal back into the corner, but having the puck go off him and in is at least partially just bad luck, as he was in the right place and doing the right thing. Slavin similarly steered clear of the flaming wreckage more so than most.
3) Aho with Staal
Jordan Staal had a solid game including his goal. Aho did not stand out, but he also looks comfortable and capable in his recent second-line role.
4) A cleaner game defensively and taking care of the puck
As noted already, this was a failure on Tuesday and is in a dead heat with the goaltending for the biggest Hurricanes problem so far in 2016-17.
A few other notes
Positives: There were a reasonable number of neutrals, but on the positive side, I have maybe 3-4 players – Jordan Staal, Victor Rask, Teuvo Teravainen late in the game and probably not too much else.
Martin Frk: My prediction very early on was that Frk would eventually be cut and see waivers again. It might not be until Ryan Murphy’s return forces a roster move, but I think my original assessment is becoming increasingly likely. He is below average in terms of mobility, has yet to provide an offensive spark which is theoretically his strength and has now been defensively unaware in the middle of 2 goals. On Tuesday, it was peeling off to defend what would have been a relatively harmless pass instead of trying to take away the shooting lane on Detroit’s fourth goal.
Teuvo Teravainen late: Teravainen shows as a skilled and heady hockey player on the power play. But at even strength, he has been nearly invisible for long stretches and even really entire games. Through 5 games he had only 1 goal and no assists at even strength. In the third period of Tuesday’s game, Teravainen had a tip in goal that was waived off and either had or was at least around the puck much more. Hopefully, the increased engagement level is a sign that he is getting comfortable in his new environment and becomes a trend not just a single data point.
Next up is the home opener on Friday against the New York Rangers.