In game 6 of the 2018-19 NHL season, the Carolina Hurricanes finally found themselves on the losing side of the ledger in regulation in a hockey game. The run spanned six preseason games and more significantly five regular season games.
Despite the loss, the game had more positives than negatives. Playing in the second half of a back-to-back against a team that many consider to be a Stanley Cup contender, the Hurricanes were the better team through much of the game and won pretty much every statistical measure except the score board. Put directly, give me 76 more of Sunday’s effort, and I will be happy to take my chances where the wins and losses fall.
Most significantly, the Hurricanes successfully trotted out its Brind’Amour brand of attacking hockey against a good team after playing the night before. And though not quite as dominant, the results were the same in terms of tilting the ice into the offensive zone and winning the shot and possession battle by a sizable margin. Goalie Petr Mrazek played well to boot. The outcome went astray only because the opposing goalie was stellar, and the Canes just could not catch a bounce or two. I guess the one negative is that this is eerily reminiscent of the Bill Peters’ era, but with a 4-1-1 mark through six games, at least so far the results are there.
The game started fairly similarly to Saturday’s win in Minnesota. The Hurricanes attacked the puck with tenacity, and at least initially Winnipeg had trouble moving the puck because of it. Early on, the Hurricanes had the better of the scoring chances with good attempts from between the face-off circles from Svechnikov and Necas twice. Toss in an Aho breakaway and decent shots on net by Foegele and Staal, and the Hurricanes easily could have scored early. But despite mounting an 18 to 6 shots on goal advantage in the first period, the score was 0-0 at the first intermission.
Winnipeg did find its bearings for the second period, and the rest of the game was somewhat more even. The Hurricanes had more good scoring chances in the second period but did also yield more.
Finally, in the third period, a Patrik Laine laser on the power play found the net and staked the Jets to an arguably undeserved 1-0 lead. But true to recent form, the Hurricanes fought back when Sebastian Aho found Dougie Hamilton moving in from the point. Hamilton’s shot clanged the bar, but Micheal Ferland was waiting on the other side to poke the puck off the goal line and into the net. But a compounding break down late enabled the Jets to pull ahead 2-1 with only 2:09 remaining and ultimately win 3-1 after an empty-netter. First, Warren Foegele had the puck on his stick in his own end and uncharacteristically chucked the puck without waiting to find a teammate. The puck was retrieved in the neutral zone by Winnipeg. Lucas Wallmark and Andrei Svechnikov made the decision to change despite the puck not being sent deep enough. The result was a quick transition by Winnipeg and a jail break while the Hurricanes tried to get fresh bodies on the ice. Without enough help and unable to sort things out quickly, a couple quick passes led to a point blank chance and goal against.
Player and other notes
Positive play despite the result
As noted above, the effort was actually an impressive one for the Hurricanes. Minus a small volume of issues with attention detail, the Hurricanes dictated play and played well enough to win. By no means was this game any kind of sign of trouble.
For me, the story of the game from the Hurricanes side was the play of Petr Mrazek. After consecutive starts by Curtis McElhinney, Mrazek returned to the net and played incredibly well. Winnipeg’s shot total of 26 was not especially high, but the quality of shots that Mrazek was fairly high, and he made a number of good saves. Also to note was that in general Mrazek just looked sharper than both of his two previous outings that I graded as ‘meh’ at best. Only time will tell, but this outing has the potential to be a positive building block for Mrazek. I trust that Brind’Amour will seize the opportunity to make sure someone reviews the tape of this game in some detail with Mrazek just to make sure he processes it positively.
After a ‘meh’ outing on Saturday that saw the line do some decent things but also collect four minor penalties, this trio was better on Sunday. The group totaled 15 shots on goal which is impressive in its own right but even more so when you consider their modest ice time of roughly 12:30 each. If you prorate that shot total to a full game, the pace is a tremendous 72 shots on goal for 60 minutes. In general, this line is trending upward. I continue to see Wallmark as the good sound play version of Victor Rask and also have Martinook atop the list of players that I maybe underestimated.
Sebastian Aho again
His night was a bit quieter than Saturday, but he still managed to get on the score sheet with a nifty pass to Hamilton on the Ferland rebound goal.
Better game from Necas/Zykov
I thought both Martin Necas and Valentin Zykov had somewhat better games. Necas found two good scoring chances early and did a better job of moving the puck before he ran out of time. After being too quiet early and in limited action on Saturday, I though he was better on Sunday. He went to and engaged the puck more frequently which was a step in the right direction for winning ice time from Brind’Amour.
Up next for the Hurricanes is another tough road match up against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday.