In the aftermath of a wild Saturday win with an EBUG goalie and then a crazy three-trade deadline day, the Canes took back to the ice with a squad that looked significantly different than just a few days ago. In net was Alex Nedeljkovic and in front of him were newcomers Vincent Trocheck and Brady Skjei.
And also significantly, every man hero David Ayres who was the winning goalie in Saturday’s game was in the house to sound the siren.
Recap of Hurricanes 4-1 loss to the Stars
The hope going into the game had to be that the Canes would ride the momentum from a fun but also strong game on Saturday. But against a difficult team to play against, any momentum ended quickly. Sebastian Aho played a puck around the wall in the defensive zone to Brady Skjei. Skjei whiffed on it which resulted in a rapid transition with no time to cover and a quick pass to the front of the net. Nedeljkovic made a good save on the initial chance but spit out a rebound that was quickly behind him. In terms of volume of time, the first period was actually a decent one for the Hurricanes. The new third line centered by Trocheck posted a few good chances and the Hurricanes won the shot and possession time battle. But playing against a good defensive team, the Canes were beaten by a limited number of high-grade counter punches caused by short to significant lapses. Two more came late. First, Hintz blew right through Edmundson and Fleury off the rush for a solo effort goal. With no passing option, Nedeljkovic could have done better to come out to challenge/take away angle, but he was also hung out to dry. The Stars third goal saw Edmundson inexplicably jump on a lost offensive zone face-off leading immediately to a 3-on-1. A missed shot caromed in front and was quickly finished to finish the third period with a 3-0 deficit.
The Canes were better in the second period and tried to claw back when Sebastian Aho scored at the side of net only 2:23 into the second period. The Canes pushed a bit after that but were unable to get any closer. When Dallas scored late in the second period to make it 4-1, a win was going to be really tough sledding against a Stars team that is stingy defensively and good a protecting leads. Despite not gaining any ground, the second period was a bit cleaner in terms of Canes miscues.
The third period was an odd one. The Stars went into a defensive shield a bit and spent seemingly the entire period defending. But the massive 19 to 1 shot disparity in favor of the Hurricanes significantly overstated how close Canes were to bridging the three-goal gap. The Stars were content to make simple plays to move the puck forward and keep four players on the defensive side of it. The result was a period of 3-on-3 or even 3-on-4 rushes by the Canes that were funneled to the outside and a series of low quality scoring chances. So while the quantity was there, at no time in the third period did it feel like the Canes would push close to four goals.
Stylistically, the Stars are a tough match up for the Canes. One of the the Canes biggest Achilles’ heels is their propensity to make too many mistakes that generate offense for the opponent. Recognizing that, the Stars can just focus on doing their thing defensively and patiently waiting for the Canes to present scoring chances. Then with a lead, the Stars become a tough out defending the middle of the ice and giving up quantity but not quality of chances.
Player and other notes
1) Alex Nedeljkovic
An important starting point is to note how poorly the Hurricanes did at focusing on playing sound hockey early to allow Nedeljkovic to play his way into his first NHL start of the year. The Canes did not give up quantity, but the first period break downs were both bad and too many. With the context of a difficult outing noted Nedeljkovic did not inspire confidence either. To play goal in the NHL, a goalie has to stop some tough shots too. He did not really have any answers when the team needed it early and giving up 4 on 16 shots is tough even noting the circumstances. How Nedeljkovic handled himself impressed me. He was assertive and confident handling the puck even after giving up early goals. And in the post-game interview, he had a nice maturity that balanced needing to be better without at all sounding defeated past the result on Tuesday. I would give Forsberg a start this weekend with the back-to-back, but I would also give Nedeljkovic one of those two games to try to play his way up.
2) Vincent Trocheck
They faded a bit as the game wore on, but I like Trocheck’s first period. He and line mates Nino Niederreiter and Martin Necas had some chances. What stood out first was Trocheck and Necas buzzing around and seeming to be on the same page in terms of moving the puck together. If that continues, that bodes well for both of them scoring, but I think is also a great fit for Niederreiter who hopefully goes to the net and can rack up receive/finish type chances.
3) Joel Edmundson
Edmundson was front and center on a couple of the big miscues that led pretty quickly to Dallas goals. On the second goal Hintz was 1-on-2 and just walked right inside of Edmundson for an uncontested path to the net. Edmundson’s poor decision on an offensive zone face-off led instantly to a 3-on-1 the other way for the Stars third goal.
4) Brady Skjei
Skjei’s first game in a Hurricanes uniform was a mixed bag. On the positive side, he showed his skating ability and opportunistically joined play on the rush for a couple pretty good scoring chances. Defensively, he was a bit sloppy. On the first goal, he needed to find a way to at least get a skate or a stick on the pass around the wall. If he does that, any turnover allows the Canes to recover. When he missed completely, his team mates had no chance to recover. He also pinched incorrectly for one of the two 3-on-1s that the Canes gave up in the first period. In total, his game was ‘meh’ at best defensively. By no means is one game any kind of complete evaluation point.
5) Sebastian Aho
One thing that jumps out about Aho’s ongoing scoring binge is how many of his goals have come from the side of the crease. He has great hands that picks an open portion of net versus just firing and mostly hitting the goalie, but there is also a very simple element of going where goals are likely to happen.
Next up for the Hurricanes is another weekend back with the first half in Raleigh against the Colorado Avalanche on Friday night.