Still smarting from a win that got away in Philadelphia on Sunday night, the Hurricanes forged forward to the next stop in a whirlwind March schedule. Tuesday offered a match up against the Florida Panthers which is another team sitting in no man’s land in the Eastern Conference standings far from the playoff cut line but also far from the bottom of the league and the potential draft riches.
Recap of Hurricanes 4-3 win over the Florida Panthers
The game against the Panthers started with a bang when Jaromir Jagr’s line did what it does. The trio of Jonathan Huberdeau, Aleksander Barkov controlled the puck in the offensive zone, eventually creating a shot. Barkov finished with a tip only 1:35 into the game to quickly put the Hurricanes down 1-0. But the Hurricanes’ special teams quickly pulled them back even. Toward the end of a very good power play with a ton of puck possession and a few shots, Teuvo Teravainen finally broke through when he quickly put a rebound chance behind goalie Reto Berra to make it 1-1. Florida struck next when Sebastian Aho was a step slow marking his man who beat him to the back door or a quick strike and a 2-1 Florida lead. When the Hurricanes’ special teams struck again, shorthanded this time, on a patient and heady play by Elias Lindholm to buy time in the offensive zone and then find a streaking Aho for a goal, the game was off to the races. At that point, it felt very much like the 8-4 Islanders game where defense was hard to find and goals not. The first period finished 2-2, but there was more to come.
The second period was actually even more loose and wide open. For extended stretches of the second period, the neutral zone looked like it was some kind of video game speed boost. When Keith Yandle scored only 1:14 into the second period and was matched by Jeff Skinner only 27 seconds later, another 8-4 affair seemed inevitable. The Yandle goal saw the puck passed almost right through Justin Faulk to Yandle who got inside position on Noah Hanifin. The Skinner goal was yet another great offensive play by Jaccob Slavin hitting Lee Stempniak on a stretch pass. Stempniak powered to the net leaving Skinner a chance to finish on the rebound. The fact that neither team scored for the remainder of the second period might suggest that things finally tightened up defensively, but that was far from the case. Some combination of missed nets, near misses, a post and a bunch of other scoring chances that just did not connect filled most of the rest of the period somehow without another goal.
The third period reverted back to somewhat more normal hockey though the pace was still fast, and there were a good number of chances both ways. Cam Ward had a strong period making a number of good saves to keep the game tied at 3-3. Then with less than 4 minutes remaining, Derek Ryan used his speed to get to the outside and was about to circle the net. Instead, he centered the puck to Skinner before going behind the net leaving the goalie caught in between. Skinner finished, and unlike Sunday night, the Hurricanes held on for the win.
‘What I’m watching follow up
If you missed the game preview and want to catch up, you can find it HERE.
1) Sebastian Aho at center (depending on lineup)
Sebastian Aho moved back to the wing, so any assessment of how he looks at the center position will have to wait. On the Aho front, I did not like his game on Tuesday. He did more work offensively but also slipped significantly in his attention to detail. By the end of the first period, he had taken another penalty and been beaten to the net for a goal against. Then in the second period, Aho had a sloppy turnover that led quickly to a scramble and a goal against. Aho’s volume of penalties is something to keep an eye on. He has worked his way into the habit of trying to take (and largely getting caught) for too many small liberties, and needs to clean up his game in this regard. Off nights are part of the long NHL season, but there is a need for Aho to clean up the penalty issues a bit.
2) Jeff Skinner rising
I would not put Skinner’s game among his best on the season by any means, but when he found the puck on his stick a couple times with a chance to score, he did. And that is what Skinner does when things are clicking for him offensively like they are right now. And with that his scoring run continued as did his push toward 30 goals. (He has 28 now.)
3) Jaccob Slavin
Slavin’s bread and butter offensively of late has been his ability to find/make shooting lanes from up top in the offensive zone. In getting pucks to the net, he has been racking up assists on deflections and rebound chances. Tuesday went a different directly with Slavin making a heady stretch pass to a streaking Lee Stempniak show drove the net and left chaos and a rebound for Skinner to finish. Equally significantly, he was incredibly good defensively. As I said on Twitter, he is starting to become the boring kind of good where it is so predictable and consistent that one must be careful not to start underappreciating it.
4) The ongoing forward try out
None of the depth forwards stood out to me. What was noticeable however was the set of Brock McGinn, Patrick Brown and Joakim Nordstrom stirring things up a bit and then standing up for each other to conclude the second period. It was a solid example of modern day team toughness that demands physical play, discipline not to take dumb penalties and sometimes a need to stick up for each other.
Noah Hanifin: Like fellow 2016 draftee, Hanifin had some tough moments on Tuesday night. He was sort of in the right place but not doing enough on the Yandle goal, had another bad turnover in the defensive zone in the second period and just generally looked less crisp and decisive defending in his own end too often.
Cam Ward: I am in the camp that was surprised to see Ward starting over Lack for Tuesday’s game, but I will save that discussion for another day. Tuesday’s game was similar to Sunday’s in that the opposing team was better for large stretches of the game. Ward was not perfect, but he did battle. The difference was the ability to hold the fort late to seize a win instead of letting 1 of the 2 points slip to overtime which has not been kind to the Canes lately.
Special teams in the first period: In a first period that saw the Panthers tilt the ice, the Hurricanes special teams evened things up with both a power play and a shorthanded goal to match the 2 that the Panthers scored. Without the special teams scoring, the Panthers would likely have exited the first period up 2-0 and with a ton of momentum.
Next up for the Hurricanes is game 3 of 4 on the road in Montreal on Thursday night.