Carolina Hurricanes game recap
For the second time this season, the Carolina Hurricanes donned Hartford Whalers jerseys in and old school match up against the Boston Bruins. And lo and behold, the game almost immediately turned into a throwback with physical play, chippiness and even some fisticuffs. The game started with decent pace and intensity anyway but was amped up when Micheal Ferland completely annihilated Marcus Johansson with a clean shoulder to shoulder check. Johansson was down on the ice and left the game favoring that shoulder. The Bruins proceeded to spend the next two shifts running around trying claim retribution. Then on his next shift Ferland fought and won against David Backes. That seemed to keep things from boiling over completely, but the physical intensity stayed near a peak level throughout the first period.
In between the rough stuff, Sebastian Aho won a battle for position in front of the net against Zdeno Chara which resulted in a Calvin de Haan point shot deflecting off of Aho and then Chara and into the net. Jaccob Slavid did the heavy lifting at the other end with a spectacular period that saw him separate Brad Marchand from the puck on what seemed like breakaways. In total, the first period was spirited, physical and pretty evenly played with the Hurricanes emerging with a 1-0 lead.
Out of the gate in the second period, Aho scored a more common skating and skill goal. The play started with Justin Faulk making a quick pass up to the offensive blue line where Nino Niederreiter received the puck and quickly put it on Aho’s tape streaking into the offensive zone. His backhand shot five hole squibbled through Jaroslav Halak to put the Canes up 2-0. The Bruins responded after the second goal and pushed, but Curtis McElhinney stood tall including stopping a shorthanded breakaway against Marchand. But the Bruins finally cracked the scoreboard when a deflection turned into a rebound and a quick goal with just under seven minutes remaining in the second period. The Hurricanes spent most of the rest of the second period under duress and in survival mode. Just when it looked like the Hurricanes might survive the period with the lead, Slavin fell at the offensive blue line and turned the puck over for a 2-on-1 rush. McElhinney managed to stop the first shot, but the rebound was quickly behind him knot the game a 2-2 which is how the second period ended.
The Hurricanes rebounded early in the third period but surrendered momentum and the lead when they allowed a shorthanded goal. A soft and telegraphed pass to the point was intercepted by Marchand. The result was a dangerous 2-on-1 with Marchand and Bergeron with only Aho back in the unnatural role defending a 2-on-1 as a defensemen. Aho backed up too much which made for an easy passing lane and goal that on which McElhinney had no chance. But just when it looks like things had gotten away after turning a 2-0 lead into a 3-2 deficit, Justin Williams sniped a shot into the far corner of the net with 8 minutes to go. Both teams had a few decent chances down the stretch, but both goalies had the answers. Then the last couple minutes were played cautiously, as both teams protected the point that they had in hand.
The Canes lost the opening face-off and another face-off which meant playing more defense than offense. Nevertheless, the Hurricanes mustered one really good scoring chance on a Faulk wrister from the left face-off circle. Halak seemed unsure if he had it, and Aho was first to the crease for a possible rebound, but Halak managed to hold it. The game ended shortly thereafter when Faulk lost his footing and turned over the puck behind his own net. From there it was just a quick pass and goal to end the game with a 4-3 loss for the Hurricanes.
The Hurricanes did a lot right in this game, and I stand by my statement on Twitter that this was a good point, but the game also left a lot to be desired in terms of the attention to detail necessary to beat a good team. Instead of showing a killer instinct the Canes faded a bit and blew a two-goal lead. The power play was 0 for 5 with a critical shortanded goal against. And Boston’s offense was largely generated by key Hurricanes players not managing the puck well.
But on the positive side, it is a good point and good enough to keep the Hurricanes in third in the Metropolitan Division (tiebreaker over Pens) and two points up on the Blue Jackets who are currently the first team out. That is a very good place to be after game 66.
Player and other notes
1) Sebastian Aho
That first period goal says a lot about who he is as a hockey player. If you rewatch that sequence, Aho got a decent dose of Chara in the corner, before going to the front of the net with Chara and giving up nearly a foot in height and 80 points in weight to battle for position in front of the net. In today’s NHL size is an advantage but by no means a requirement, but what is required is the guts/willingness to go to the front of the net without fear. His second goal was more his norm with a skilled play after flying past everyone in the middle of the rink on the way to the net. Ideally, he puts up some resistance on the 2-on-1 in the third, but it is hard to fault a forward for getting stuck in a bad place for even a good defenseman against two elite players.
2) Jaccob Slavin
He staked a claim to a strong game in the first period by thwarting two breakaway attempts by Marchand. I am biased, but I dare someone to show me a player who is quicker over 3-4 strides than Jaccob Slavin. As good as he was throughout, he had one of the costly plays that let the Bruins back into the game. After very nearly surviving the tail end of the second period with a one-goal lead, it was a Slavin turnover in the offensive zone that sprung an odd man rush and the tying goal. He played well throughout, but against the top teams in the league, the margin for error is tiny, and that was one of the plays that cracked the door open.
3) Nino Niederreiter
More quietly that Aho, Nino Niederreiter had a strong game. He had the perfect pass on Aho’s second goal, and had a strong game winning pucks and making small plays to maintain possession.
4) Greg McKegg and Lucas Wallmark
That McKegg and Wallmark saw regular shifts in the third period with the scored tied says a lot about how much confidence Brind’Amour has in them. They were the team’s best in the third period and came closest to netting a fourth goal that would have been a game-winner. That depth should play dividends down the stretch especially in the four remaining back-to-back sets.
5) Justin Faulk
He had the toughest night in terms of the team’s puck management struggles. His soft pass back to the point sprung the 2-on-1 shorthanded goal to put the Bruins up 3-2, and his turnover in OT was the difference. He was not bad overall, but as a defenseman in a tight game, it is often more about volume of bad plays than volume of good plays and Faulk had a tough night in that regard.
6) Special teams
In my game preview, one of my watch points was special teams which can often be the difference when two good teams lock horns. And if I had to pin this game on one thing, I would be torn between untimely puck mismanagement and the power play. The power play was 0 for 5 and a minus one due to the shorthanded goal against. The Hurricanes did manage to overcome that and get to overtime, but a good night by the power play would have avoided overtime altogether.
7) Enough for the night but increased pressure
At the end of the day, I will begrudgingly take the OTL point against a team that is arguably the best in the NHL right now. But with Columbus and Pittsburgh both winning, it is still a minus night in the standings which dials up the pressure for the games ahead also against strong opponents.
Next up for the Hurricanes is a Friday home game against the Winnipeg Jets.