The ending obviously not what fans wanted, but Saturday still represented a tremendous reminder of what hockey goodness is in Raleigh, North Carolina. The spring weather was perfect for extended tailgating as was the post-Daylight Saving Time clock change on the calendar. And by virtue of a magnificent 13-game run, the Hurricanes were playing a game with something at stake. Saturday was as close to the real thing as we have seen in 8 years.
And despite the end result, the day was glorious.
We are clearly at the point in the year where results are really all that matter. Any kind of win would have been a good one. Any kind of loss was not good enough. So the Hurricanes 3-0 loss (that was really 1-0 with 2 empty-netters) was in the “not good enough” category obviously.
Many are ready to call 2016-17 over. With Boston and Toronto both winning today, the season definitely took a huge step in that direction when Carolina lost. But as long as Canes fans held out hope this long, I think it wise to at least watch Sunday play out. The Bruins have a tough afternoon bout with the Blackhawks. If they lose before the Hurricanes play tomorrow night, the door cracks back open just a tiny bit and sets up another must-win game for the Hurricanes in Pittsburgh tomorrow night.
Recap of Hurricanes 3-0 loss to the Dallas Stars
The first period of Saturday’s game was 1 of the lowest we have seen in terms of shot events. Total shots (on and off net) were only about 10 each and the shots on goal were only 7 to 6 in favor of Dallas. The game very much had the feel of 2 teams cautiously feeling each other out without leaning too far forward. The shot totals were 3 for the Stars and 2 for the Hurricanes at the commercial break with 9:00 remaining in the period. Unless my memory is missing something, the best scoring chance that Stars had was a quick-hitting odd angle shot by Tyler Seguin that was even remotely dangerous only because Seguin is capable of finishing on anything. The Hurricanes had the 3 best chances of the period, but very little came from them. Lucas Wallmark stole a puck on the forecheck and found himself 1-on-1 with goalie Kari Lehtonen but was unable to beat him. A 3-on-2 rush with the puck on Jeff Skinner’s stick did not yield a shot when he carried a bit deep and had a late pass snuffed out. Similarly a strange power play chance that caught Dallas changing saw a jail break that looked like a 3-on-0 at first. Teuvo Teravainen’s pass was behind Elias Lindholm and into his skates and also did not even result in a shot on net. Despite a couple of the best scoring chances for the good guys, an offense-lite first period ended at 0-0.
The second period offered a little bit more pace and attack. The Hurricanes again had the better of the chances early in the period. The Hurricanes again had their chances to break onto the scoreboard first. All of Joakim Nordstrom, Jordan Staal and Jaccob Slavin had pretty good looks at the net from the top of the face-off circles or close and missed the net. Another good opportunity went by the wayside with Justin Faulk got the puck to the front of the net where Skinner and Wallmark were ready to whack away at it, but the puck deflected up into the screen. After failing to finish on a decent volume of decent chances, the game turned when Dallas found a scoring chance and a goal. Noah Hanifin was a bit squishy in terms of positioning and decision-making when the puck turned over in the offensive zone letting Jason Spezza sneak behind him to receive a simple pass up and instantly create a 2-on-1 behind Hanifin. Spezza shot from the face-off circle and beat Cam Ward glove high to the far side on a shot nicely placed in the corner of the net. The goal was almost an exact replica of the Jack Johnson goal in the win over Columbus on Thursday. The period finished with the Spezza goal as the only marker.
As expected, the Hurricanes did push in the third period, but just could not break through. Ward made a couple huge saves in the third period including 1 on an uncontested breakaway after a Matt Tennyson turnover ‘oops.’ Ward kept his team within a goal for the entirety of his time in net, and the Hurricanes did push with 13 shots on goal in the third period, but in the end a pair of empty net goals in the final 2 minutes put an end to the game and a couple more nails in the coffin of the 2016-17 season.
As I said on Twitter, I think dedicated Hurricanes fans who have ridden this far owe it to themselves to see what happens with the Bruins tough game in Chicago at 12:30pm on Sunday. A Bruins loss could crack the door open just a tiny bit before the Hurricanes take the ice in Pittsburgh at 5pm.
‘What I’m watching’ follow up
If you missed it and want to catch up, you can find the game preview HERE.
1) Legs, pace and intensity
I would have liked to see the Hurricanes be more of an aggressor out of the gate trying to attack and set a tone for the game. That said, I would not chalk the loss and lack of scoring up so much to fatigue and inability to get going physically. I think it was more about a tentative style of play out of the gate potentially because of the stakes.
2) Jeff Skinner
He had a fairly quiet night and obviously did not get on the scoreboard in the shutout.
3) Sound defense
The Hurricanes had a couple break downs. I would put the goal in that category, and the Tennyson turnover in the third period could also have been costly. But in total, I think the Hurricanes played well enough or better defensively. Ward did not need to stand on his head to put up a 1 goals against game, and the Hurricanes just needed to score 2 to win in regulation. I would not pin that kind of loss on the defense.
Cam Ward: I touched on it above. He held up his end of the bargain for the second time in 2 big games giving up only 1 goal in each game, ironically on near identical shots. The “glove high” thing always gets attention, but both shots were uncontested, labeled shots that hit the four inch by four inch box in the far corner of the net. Those shots are goals more often than not. In both games, he made key saves in the third period to give his team a chance. It paid off big time on Thursday, but the Hurricanes got blanked on Saturday.
Teuvo Teravainen: After a tough game on Monday night, I really like the rest of his week so far. He has been more aggressive on the walls and made passing plays with the puck on his stick in the 3 games since Monday.
The scoreboard: It was tough on Saturday. Boston and Toronto won which pushed the Hurricanes 2 points farther behind both teams with only 5 games remaining in the 2016-17 season.
Next up for the Hurricanes is a quick turnaround for a 5pm start in Pittsburgh on Sunday.