After a great run of five wins to start the season, the Carolina Hurricanes lost 3-2 to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday night in Raleigh.
At a high level, I think there are two takeaways from this game. First is that the Canes were just inevitably going to lose. The game on Saturday was not the team’s best by an means, but it was not horrible either. Second, the game is a great and timely reminder that winning in the NHL is a nightly battle that is not necessarily determined by talent or who is the better team but rather by who plays better that night with better often measured in level of work. After losing Panarin, Bobrovsky, Duchene and Dzingel from the playoff team from last season, the Blue Jackets are theoretically undermanned for the 2019-20 season. But despite how it maybe looks on paper, I thought the Blue Jackets were the better team on Saturday.
The game had a tentative start to it feeling like a game of cautious ping pong with the two teams taking turns retrieving pucks, working them up the ice and then dumping them to the other end. There was not much for pace or chances in the early going. But at the midway point of the first period, Columbus broke through when the Hurricanes were caught watching the puck a bit and lost track of Markus Nutivaara who scored an easy tap in goal behind enemy lines all alone at the top of the crease. The Hurricanes responded almost immediately on a pretty passing play. Martin Necas fed the puck out of the corner to Ryan Dzingel who then found Erik Haula ready to fire from between the circles. The result was a quick finish and Haula’s fifth goal of the season. The first period would end with the score tied 1-1.
The Hurricanes would strike next when Dougie Hamilton scored to run his goal streak to four games. But in a reversal of the first period scoring, the Blue Jackets would answer immediately when Sebastian Aho took a poor route defending Oliver Bjorkstrand and got walked right around the net to right in between the face-off circles for a high danger scoring chances and finish. The rest of the second period was fairly even, but noticeably absent was the Hurricanes ability to generate offense with the forecheck or cohesively move the puck the ice from their own end.
Columbus would claim a lead early in the third period on a power forward rush up the ice by Pierre-Luc Dubois who seemed to tow Brock McGinn from the blue line in and still finish into a corner to post the Blue Jackets to a 3-2 lead. The Hurricanes tried to push but just continued to struggle with moving the puck from stick to stick. The early third period tally held up for the Blue Jackets, and the Hurricanes win streak ended at five games.
Player and other notes
The third line led by Erik Haula continued to be the team’s best. They had Haula’s goal on a pretty passing play and a few other decent chances.
2) Dougie Hamilton
He cannot seem to miss right now. With his confidence high, Hamilton is looking to shoot whenever possible and is getting results from doing so.
After a strong effort on Friday, Aho’s line had a tougher night on Saturday. As noted above, Aho was beaten on the first Columbus’ goal. The trio was also part of the goal that saw the team watching the puck a bit and with Aho’s man flying around and finding the open player on the back door. All in all, Saturday was a small step backwards for the top line.
4) Shortening the bench
With a close game, Brind’Amour shortened the bench a bit playing Warren Foegele and Julien Gauthier only 8:24 and 8:26 respectively with Wallmark also under ten minutes. In addition, Haydn Fleury mustered only 9:23 of ice time as Brind’Amour shortened the bench a little bit.
Next up for the Hurricanes is the NC State Fair road trip that starts with a game in Los Angeles on Tuesday.