Fueled by youthful energy and the optimism that they provide for the future, the Carolina Hurricanes have suddenly become at least temporarily fun again.
Warren Foegele received headline coverage at Canes and Coffee during day prior to his NHL debut on Monday night. A detailed Daily Cup of Joe article recapped his career to this point and assessed his prospects and potential role at the NHL level. And our “Checkers check ins” series kicked off with an update on Foegele’s 2017-18 season with the Charlotte Checkers. And Warren Foegele proceeded to justify all of the attention with a goal and an assist and the first star the Hurricanes 4-1 win over the Ottawa Senators.
Not to be outdone and pushed to the side as old news, veteran Valentin Zykov (he of 6 NHL games coming into Monday) also continued his scoring ways finishing from his office at the top of the crease on a rebound off a shot by none other than Warren Foegele. Zykov continues to not look out of place defensively or otherwise while continuing to find the score sheet regularly.
In total, I thought the Hurricanes played better in Monday’s win than the win in Ottawa on Saturday. The intermittent defensive break downs were there again, but the Hurricanes decreased the sheer volume and reverted back to the norm of out-shooting opponents. The Senators mustered only 20 shots on the night compared to the Hurricanes 40.
Warren Foegele opened the scoring late in the first period on what looked like a fairly harmless play but also one that showed that good things can happen when you win pucks, forge a path to the goal and put shots on net. Foegele won a puck on the boards and with quick spin created a path right down the end line to the net. His shot from a tough angle found a hole in goalie Craig Anderson and just like that Foegele had his first NHL goal. The first period ended with the Hurricanes up 1-0 on Foegele’s goal.
The Senators struck back in the second period when a pair of small mistakes by Jaccob Slavin compounded to become a scoring chance and a goal for Bobby Ryan. After Derek Ryan won a defensive zone face-off Slavin rushed things a little and played the puck up the boards into a mess of bodies where it was stolen. He was then caught watching and was a little slow defending the front of the net which gave Ryan just enough time to receive and finish just as Slavin was arriving. But the kids struck back again when Derek Ryan fed Foegele heading toward the net. Anderson stopped Foegele’s shot, but Zykov was there to find and finish the rebound staking the Hurricanes to a 2-1. Brock McGinn would later receive a Jordan Staal pass between the face-off circles with all kinds of time to label a shot for the corner of the net. That gave the Hurricanes a 3-1 lead heading into the third period.
The third period saw Cam Ward stand tall for a couple saves to hold the two-goal lead and then Sebastian Aho deposit a puck into an empty net to stretch his point streak to nine games in the waning minutes of the game.
Notes from the Carolina Hurricanes 4-1 win over the Ottawa Senators
1) Warren Foegele
His production on the score sheet will collect headlines and generate excitement, but on a simpler level, a simpler first read on Foegele’s NHL-readiness was also positive. Just like Zykov, he did not look out of place in terms of matching NHL pace and also did not look overwhelmed in terms of decision-making. Foegele brings another bigger body to the lineup but in the form of a player who skates well. He fared well in terms of using his speed and length to take away time and space defensively and also did well winning pucks on the boards. Throw in some scoring to boot, and he obviously receives high marks for his NHL debut.
I guess maybe out of necessity with two right shot defensemen out of the lineup, Peters opted to move Dahlbeck to his off side despite the myriad of struggles with this deployment in the third pairing during the first half of the 2016-17 season. The results were maybe not surprising in that Dahlbeck and Slavin had multiple shifts where it took multiple tries to successfully move the puck from their own end mostly just trying to survive on some of their shifts together. The defense in total has garnered better results than I think they have deserved over the past few games, but I guess survival beats getting demolished as has happened recently.
3) Roland McKeown
Lost in the headlines of the forward goal scorers is the steady play of AHL call up Roland McKeown. He continues to mostly play an invisible brand of hockey in the good, Glen Wesley-like way that is desirable for stay-home defensemen. McKeown was sound and efficient in 16:20 of ice time on Monday night.
4) Cam Ward
He played well again. Facing only 20 shots, the game was light in terms of volume, but the Hurricanes defense again had its moments of looseness such that Ward faced a decent number of good chances.
5) A bigger test awaits
After a four-game run against NHL draft lottery entrants mostly with porous defenses, the schedule shifts abruptly. On Tuesday night, the Hurricanes will face a New Jersey Devils team that rested at home on Monday night. The Devils are in the thick of a playoff battle right now and are playing well. The team just wrapped up a six-game road trip against playoff caliber competition with a 4-2 record then returned home to beat Tampa Bay on Saturday. As I said leaving the arena on Monday night, the game has the potential to be a rude wake up call if the Hurricanes continue to be loose defensively and show up expecting more easy pickings offensively.
The puck drops just after 7pm on Tuesday against the Devils on Fox Sports Carolinas with John, Tripp and Mike.