As noted in the game preview, the Hurricanes had struggled with a 1-5 record with a three-day layoff heading into the game. Friday’s 3-0 loss ran that record to 1-6.
The Hurricanes failed to launch at the opening face-off. Columbus had the upper hand early and hemmed the Canes in their own end for stretches. After two near misses, the Blue Jackets concerted effort to run almost a power play scheme at 5-on-5 parking a player with his heels at the top of the crease whenever they could get possession. The third shot through traffic was a charm as Adam McQuaid scored past a screened Petr Mrazek. Shortly thereafter, Columbus would add another from the other side when a defenseman shot through traffic. Columbus would continue to be the better team but emerge only with the two goals that they scored early for a 2-0 lead.
The Hurricanes would rebound in a massive way in the second period. After being outplayed but ultimately drawing even at 14 shots each in the first period, the Hurricanes fired 22 shots on net to Columbus’ two in the second period. Early on, the Canes were pushed to the outside for low percentage shots, but as the period wore on the level of quality increased and the amount of chaos around the crease did as well. But Sergei Bobrovsky had an answer for each and every shot to bail out a Blue Jackets team that had a percent share pretty close to 0 percent for anything good other than goals scored. The Hurricanes exited the second period having righted the ship in terms of level of play but still down 2-0 on the scoreboard and most certainly deserving better.
The third period saw the Blue Jackets push back a bit and at least relieve pressure more often. But the Hurricanes continued to push but also continued to have no luck putting the behind Bobrovsky and into the net. The Canes had a number of “hack and whack” times in front, a Dougie Hamilton shot just wide and two posts. But still nothing beat Bobrovsky. When Columbus scored into an empty net while on the penalty kill the game was sealed at 3-0 which was the final score.
There is an important lesson for showing up on time for the big games that remain down the stretch, but from that point forward one cannot fault the Hurricanes effort or level of play.
And as I mentioned on Twitter shortly after the game ended, the Hurricanes will wake up on Saturday 70 games into the 2018-19 season tied for the first wild card spot with a game in hand over Columbus and a two-point lead over Montreal also with a game in hand. That is a good place to be. The ball is on the tee for a five-game home stand that could well decide the fate of the 2018-19 season.
Player and other notes
1) Brock McGinn
In these games where the volume of physical contact and the number of battles are high, Brock McGinn is usually at his best. He had the first post that could have changed the trajectory and also was regularly in the middle of the “hack and whack time” trying to net an ugly goal to break the ice.
2) Haydn Fleury
He has generally been the good version of serviceable as an extra defenseman who can step into the lineup in the even of an injury, but I did not like his game, especially early on, on Friday. He was beaten clean to the net on a rush and was impatient with the puck a couple times resulting in dump out type turnovers that forced the Hurricanes to play more defense.
3) Micheal Ferland
After another short layoff with an upper body injury, Ferland returned and played well. Per usual, he exhibited a good knack for stepping into shooting opportunities for grade A chances. Like everyone else, he was unable to beat Bobrovsky, but if Ferland continues to step into scoring chances, the goals will come.
4) The ball is on the tee
Despite the loss that chooses harder over easier for a playoff berth path, the Hurricanes are still in good shape sitting in playoff position with a game in hand over the competition. Next up is a five-game home stand that could well decide the 2018-19 season.
The puck drops at 7pm on Saturday at PNC Arena against the Buffalo Sabres.