Against a tougher test on Thursday, the Canes were again up to the task. I would not make too much of an October win against a team that played the night before and traveled, but staying grounded aside, Thursday’s 3-0 win against the Boston Bruins would be a candidate for the best win of the season. (I also thought running away with six goals against a usually stingy Islanders team on opening night was impressive.)
The Bruins were the better team out of the gate, but the Hurricanes seemed to get an energy burst upon scoring first in the second half of the first period. A lucky carom off a defenseman and an empty-netter stretched the win to 3-0 in a pretty evenly played and hard fought game.
My notes follow
Staal’s line continues to be the team’s best. Not sure if he woke up salty or just dialed it up for the Bruins, but Staal played with some extra bite and meanness to his regular physical play. Shortly after the game ended, I compared the trio to the Canes BBC (Battaglia/Brind’Amour/Cole) line from way back in the 2002 NHL playoffs. Like that line, Staal’s line is big, physical and every second determined. The result is that if they can get the puck to the back wall in the offensive zone, the result is an absolutely miserable shift for the opponents, trying to win the puck back and advance it. The line is scoring right now, but even with modest point production, the current iteration would be a plus on a nightly basis because of their ability to tilt the ice and spend very little time defending.
2) A change in tactics for Brind’Amour?
Historically against the Bruins and also other higher-end teams, he has preferred to match up Aho’s top line against other teams’ top lines and play scoring line against scoring line. In addition, Brind’Amour generally is not nearly as stubborn as some coaches in terms of playing match ups. Thursday’s game was a bit of deviation in both regards. Staal’s line spent most of the night matching up with the Bruins’ top line of Marchand, Bergeron and Pastrnak, and Brind’Amour seemed more intent than usual in terms of playing the match up game. Certainly there is an element of Staal’s line being his best right now, but more interesting is watching if Brind’Amour is shifting a bit in terms of having more of a dedicated checking line (that can also score) than he has in the past when his leaning has always been balance over having a specific checking/shutdown line. This will be something to watch as the season progresses.
3) The blue line gets in the goal column (Tony DeAngelo)
In my Daily Cup of Joe article from earlier this week that noted a couple areas for possible improvement, blue line scoring was on the list. On cue, Tony DeAngelo scored the blue line’s first goal of the season shooting through a Jesperi Kotkaniemi screen and into the back of the net. As long as the blue line is doing its part to advance the puck, trigger some transition hockey and getting pucks past first defenders when given the chance in the offensive zone, exact goal totals are not the be all and end all. But especially come playoff time when it becomes harder to score, every contribution helps. So collecting a few goals here and there is meaningful in terms of bigger tasks ahead.
4) Closer than it looked
By no means to I intend to discount a quality win, but the 3-0 margin is a bit misleading for anyone who did not see the game. The game was pretty even throughout, and the Canes three goals included a puck that went off a defenseman and in and also an empty-netter.
5) Frederik Andersen
From the broken record category, Andersen had another strong game with the shutout. He is making it look easy right now.
6) Not enough finish
I thought the third period was mostly a mess with the Hurricanes taking a slew of penalties and making some errors giving Boston every opportunity to climb back into the game. On Thursday, strong penalty killing, Frederik Andersen and a bit of luck made it a non-issue, but the season-ending (start of it anyway) game four against Tampa Bay in the playoffs last year is an example of how quickly things can unravel if you make mistakes and leave the door cracked open for a good team. Amidst the ton of positives in the 6-0-0 start, the Canes have on a few occasions now closed out wins with lackluster finishes. That too is still an area for improvement despite the success so far.
Next up for the Hurricanes is the first back-to-back of the season with a home match up against the Chicago Blackhawks on Friday night at PNC Arena.