Within 60 minutes of hockey, there are a number of details within the game, but when I boil down the Hurricanes 3-1 loss to the Avalanche, it comes down to inability to finish scoring chances. The Hurricanes allowed only 2 goals (not counting the empty-netter) but scored only 1. My tally of missed chances from point blank range include Jordan Staal who hit the post off the rush, Elias Lindholm who missed wide from the top of the crease in alone, Sebastian Aho who missed the net from between the circles and more. In today’s NHL, we often measure level of play using shot and/or possession metrics that suggest who should have won, but what happens on the 4-8 finishable chances in a game still plays a huge role in the outcome. And the 2016-17 version of the Carolina Hurricanes is light on timely finishing ability.
Recap of the Hurricanes 3-1 loss to the Colorado Avalanche
The Hurricanes scored first on a pretty passing play that saw hometown kid Jaccob Slavin slide a pass to Jeff Skinner who moved it quickly to Justin Faulk who finished. The play looked very much like the pretty quick passing seen on power play goals but was actually at even strength.
After going up 1-0, the Hurricanes had 3-4 grade A chances to build on their lead but, as noted above, were unable to finish. The Avalanche mostly just hung around through about half of the game but then struck quickly. First, Gabriel Landeskog scored on a power play tip in from the top of the crease when Klas Dahlbeck was a little slow to close on the shooter. Then only 46 seconds later, Tyson Barrie beat Eddie Lack from an odd angle when he flew across the offensive blue line to join the rush ahead of Jeff Skinner.
The Hurricanes had some chances to draw back even but just could not find the goal needed to at least push to overtime.
‘What I’m watching’ follow up
If you missed the game preview and want to see the details, the preview can be found HERE.
With last Friday’s events, goaltending is under a microscope right now. In short, Lack had little chance on the first goal allowed which was a deflection from in close. On the second goal, he was beaten from a wide angle on a shot that he would probably want back. But when you net it out, 2 goals against is not horrible for a backup and should ideally be good enough to at least get to overtime. In terms of grading him as a backup, I give him a B for being decent and at least giving his team a chance.
2) More of the same from Noah Hanifin
I would not say that Noah Hanifin was spectacular, but he was the good kind of quiet and steady that you want from a top 4 defenseman. His run of solid hockey remains intact.
3) A spark for Jeff Skinner
He continues to be fairly quiet offensively since his return from a couple-game layoff due to injury. He was not horrible, but he was not great either, and on a team light on scoring, he needs more great for the team score enough and win.
4) Jaccob Slavin
Back home in Colorado for the first time in an NHL uniform, Jaccob Slavin got on the score sheet early with an assist on the Faulk goal, and otherwise just had another solid game defensively. He has emerged as the team’s best player in only his second season of professional hockey.
The darn finishing thing: I really feel like this game comes down to finishing. The defense was pretty good. The goaltending was not perfect but was good enough. The chances seemed to be there to get to 3 with some clutch scoring. But instead the Hurricanes stopped at 1.
Brett Pesce and Jaccob Slavin: Whereas 1 of the best stories of the first half of the 2016-17 season was the uniting of young defensemen Brett Pesce and Jaccob Slavin to form a top defense pairing, I think the underlying story of the last quarter of the season might be the uncanny ability of these 2 very young players to stabilize the blue line at a broader level. Noah Hanifin is playing his best hockey in 2016-17 by far after stalling a bit in his development earlier in the year. Hanifin of course deserves credit for stepping up his game, but I also think there is an element of Pesce providing the same puck and positional support that John-Michael Liles gave him as a rookie in 2015-16 to Hanifin. Not only did Brett Pesce leverage Liles’ support to build his own game, but I think he also learned a thing or 2 about decision-making that considers how to take pressure off of a defense partner. The same goes for Justin Faulk. He has struggled on the defensive side of the puck at times during the 2016-17 season, but since being mostly paired with Slavin has found a higher gear. Again, Faulk deserves his share of the credit for his own play of course, but Slavin’s incredible quickness and ability to recover and close gaps anywhere on the ice does wonders for an occasional positioning mishap by Faulk.
Next up for the Hurricanes is a home match up against the New York Rangers on Thursday.