After a gritty win on Tuesday in Los Angeles, the Carolina Hurricanes faced off against the San Jose Sharks on Wednesday night.
The game started well enough. After a sluggish start in the first game on the west coast on Tuesday, the Hurricanes started much better in San Jose and had the upper hand early. The fourth line created a couple good scoring chances early with Dougie Hamilton the beneficiary of two of those. But San Jose scored on the first of multiple oddities on the night when a shot blocked by Brett Pesce landed directly on Evander Kane’s stick in the slot for a quick snipe and finish. The Hurricanes continued having the upper hand after the San Jose tally and pulled even when red hot Dougie Hamilton scored his fifth goal of the season. The play saw him with a bit of room to walk in and pick a spot. Martin Jones was unscreened and saw the shot the whole way, but Hamilton just flat beat him. But the first period theme of the Canes controlling play but still giving up too much continued. The Canes took two more offensive zone penalties (Andrei Svechnikov and Nino Niederreiter). Kane would score two first period tallies including another blocked shot that landed right on his stick. The result was an early hat trick and a 3-1 lead by the Sharks after a first period during which the Hurricanes seemed to have the upper hand through much of it.
The game only became more bizarre in the third period. Lucas Wallmark nearly scored into an empty Canes net with Reimer off with a delayed penalty. The Hurricanes failed to score on an extended 5-on-3. And Dougie Hamilton followed the period by doing an intermission interview with his jersey still on. The Hurricanes had some chances, but Jones was good. The uphill battle only became bigger when the Sharks scored late in the second period to run out to a 4-1 lead that held up through the end of the period.
The third period saw Head Coach Rod Brind’Amour shuffle the lines trying to find a spark. To their credit, I think the compete level was there in the third period. And the Hurricanes did score to get within two goals when a Brock McGinn shot glanced off of Erik Haula at the side of the net. But in the final four minutes the Hurricanes would get no closer and ultimately lost 5-2 after an empty-net goal late.
This game seemed to be a capitulation day for some Canes sloppiness that has been building including taking too many penalties, struggling to kill penalties and just also being loose at times in their own end.
Player and other notes
1) The perfect storm of bad penalties and a struggling penalty kill
Arguably, the difference in the game was the Hurricanes propensity to take too many unnecessary penalties coupled with a penalty kill that is struggling a bit right now. After a first period that seemingly had more positives than negatives, the Hurricanes exited that period down 3-1 after giving up two power play goals.
2) The power play
On the other side of the special teams ledger, the power play is also sputtering a bit. The second unit that was productive early on has slowed a bit, and the original first unit has yet to start clicking. Potentially the last chance to pull off another big comeback ended when the Canes failed to score on a 5-on-3. The end result was a minus two on special teams that was eerily reminiscent of this time last year.
3) James Reimer
By no means is it fair to hang this game on James Reimer. The goals against were largely tough stops. That said, Martin Jones was easily the better of the two goalies. What stood out to me about Reimer’s play was that he just seemed a step slow. He was deep in the crease on all of the goals and seemed slow to challenge shots to take away angles or get a piece of shots. With the goalies splitting the first eight games evenly because it made sense based on the schedule, it will be interesting to see if Brind’Amour gives Mrazek a bit of a run coming off his best outing of the season on Tuesday and with a run of games with some spacing.
4) Dougie Hamilton
As noted in the recap, his goal was a great illustration of just how hot he is right now. Jones who was in pretty good position for shot seemed to have no chance when Hamilton sized up his options and unmistakably fired into the 4-8 inches of net he had on the far side.
5) Seeking a stake in the ground
This might sound odd, but after the 3-1 first period, part of me was hoping for a 7-2 shellacking. I just think despite the still impressive 6-2 record that the team has strayed a bit of course in a few controllable areas. The continued issue with taking too many unnecessary penalties needs to be addressed. The team has also had intermittent with defensive zone coverage primarily by the forwards. Here is hoping that Wednesday’s loss helps add a bit of urgency to cleaning things up a bit.
6) Bigger picture perspective
Despite the loss, the Carolina Hurricanes will wake up on Thursday with a 6-2 record and still atop the Metropolitan Division. That is a very good place to be. Nearer term, the team is 1-1 on the current road trip. Even an overtime loss on Friday would result in a successful even if imperfect treading water 1-1-1 trip out west.
Next up is the West Coast finale against the Anaheim Ducks on Friday.