Tuesday night’s match up between the Carolina Hurricanes and Minnesota Wild on Tuesday featured a handful of huge stories.
After a layoff and then an extended stay in the AHL after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, Bryan Bickell made his return to the NHL. Michael Smith from the team website wrote a nice article about his return.
Eric Staal as honored in a wonderful pregame ceremony for reaching 1,000 games in the NHL. Michael Smith who had a busy game day also wrote a nice article that chronicled Eric Staal’s career with a number of highlight dates
Jeff Skinner came into the game needing only 1 goal to set a career high. I recently included him in an article that listed Hurricanes players chasing career highs and season milestones.
And Andrew Poturalski became the sixth player to make his NHL debut for the Carolina Hurricanes in the 2016-17 season. I wrote about Poturalski, his 2016-17 season pre-debut and what he needs to do to make an impression.
And after all of that there was actually a hockey game to be played.
Recap of Hurricanes 5-3 loss to the Minnesota Wild
As if there was not enough excitement already, the game very quickly morphed into Canes/Isles with loose coverage and goals aplenty. The scoring started appropriately enough with Eric Staal collecting an assist on a Zach Parise goal when Teuvo Teravainen lost a puck on the end wall, and the Wild made 2 quick passes before defensemen Klas Dahlbeck and Justin Faulk could sort things out and tie up bodies. The Hurricanes struck back when Jaccob Slavin made a nice touch pass off the wall to spring Skinner on the rush who then fed a streaking Lee Stempniak on the way to the net. Stempniak finished for his 200th career goal. The Wild’s Jordan Schroeder scored next when a point shot hit someone in front. Schroeder retrieved the puck while both Canes defenseman (Faulk and Dahlbeck) were in decent position but did not tie up sticks or bodies. But the Jeff Skinner show quickly evened things up when he fired a laser into the top corner of the net on the power play. The fifth goal of the period again saw Dahlbeck on the wrong side of a rebound and a goal by Nino Neiderreiter. But the Jeff Skinner show rose again scoring through a mass of humanity from between the circles on his own rebound. When the smoke cleared at the end of the first period, the Jeff Skinner show tallied 3 points and the Hurricanes were outplayed by a fairly wide margin but escaped the period tied at 3-3.
The early going in the second period was nearly as wild but not as out of control scoring-wise. After a rough first period Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk settled down and made a couple saves. And Cam Ward held the fort for the most part with the defense in front of him still pretty shaky. The quieter period in terms of scoring did see Charlie Coyle get inside of Faulk to bury a rebound chance shortly after a Minnesota face-off win. The period finished with Minnesota clinging to a 4-3 lead despite winning the shot and possession battle by a much wider margin.
Both goalies got stronger as the game wore on. Ward had a spectacular flopping save in the second period and followed it up with a couple more pretty good ones in the third period. Dubnyk seemed to stop absolutely nothing in the first period and spit out rebounds when he did, but he played his way into the game and did his best work in the second half of the game. Neiderreiter scored his second of the night from right between the circles when the Wild again won a puck on wall and converted it quickly into a scoring chance.
‘What I’m watching follow up
1) Andrew Poturalski
In about 10 minutes of ice time in a fourth line role, he did not stand out. He had 1 nice pass that created a scoring chance for Bryan Bickell, but the shot did not connect. He did also panic a bit with the puck on his stick in the offensive zone and iced the puck in the process.
2) Jeff Skinner
He continues to surge. He had put up a great game offensively by the end of the first period. He could easily have had another couple points of the goal or assist variety. He was buzzing all night and aggressive playing with and retrieving pucks in the offensive zone. It would be impossible for Skinner to finish with 5 goals in only 3 games to reach 40…Challenge issued.
3) Justin Faulk
The point of emphasis for Faulk was hoping that he could muster a goal or 2 to make the late jump from 17 to 20 into play. He had a couple pretty good shots on net on the power play in the second period but was not rewarded with a goal. The bigger story on the night was a bit of a relapse to the defensive struggles on the road that plagued the first half of his season. He was generally in the right place on a couple goals but just not doing enough and not quick enough to react and make a play. The rebound goal by Schroeder was not great, and the rebound goal by Charlie Coyle was even worse when he was beaten to the puck in front of Ward.
Skinner/Ryan/Stempniak: The trio was dynamic all night both at even strength and also together and with others on the power play. The volume of chances that they generated in the second and third periods was not that different from the first period when they scored 3 times.
An early season road relapse: At some point when I get around to assessing when and where things went awry for the 2016-17 season, I am certain that the team’s early season road woes will be somewhere near the top of the list. Many of those losses were characterized by loose defensive play. As if it was contagious, even Slavin/Pesce who were immune to the spreading defensive woes through 2 periods were victimized on 2 ‘oopses’ in the third periodTuesday’s game was a stark reminder of that tough stretch and raises the scary specter that the March surge was a hot streak not a permanent correction.
Klas Dahlbeck: He similarly had a tough night with a penalty and a key role in a couple goals against.
Cam Ward: His 5 goals against was not pretty, but this was 1 of those games where there was a constant mess in front of him making really hard to evaluate the goaltending.
The scoreboard: Going into the night either a single point gained by Ottawa or a single point lost by Carolina would officially eliminate the Hurricanes from playoff contention. So when Ottawa won with the Hurricanes’ game still in progress, the season officially ended at about 10pm on April 4.
Next up for the Hurricanes is a home match up against the New York Islanders on Thursday night in Raleigh.