Thoughts and prayers continue to go out to everyone affected by the Humboldt Broncos bus crash on Friday. I happened upon the news on Twitter when writing my game preview and went to sleep with a pit in my stomach and awoke with the same on Saturday. I just cannot fathom what that community is going through right now.
Somewhat fittingly, Saturday’s 2017-18 season finale was a bit of sloppy slog through the rain and mud just like the season in total. Mother nature was not cooperative for those capitalizing on the last chance to tailgate for Canes hockey until next fall.
But on the ice and looking narrowly at Saturday’s event, the game was a success. In my opinion, the biggest target of getting Sebastian Aho to 30 goals was not achieved, but the Hurricanes played a good hockey game in total and beat a Tampa Bay Lightning team that is bound for the playoffs and importantly was playing a game with playoff seeding ramifications.
Jordan Staal got things off to a start early when a fortuitous bounce saw him fling the puck across the front of the net but carom off of Ondrej Palat’s skate and into the net. Justin Williams added another odd goal when he fired into an open net from the far boards shortly after a Noah Hanifin shot saw Jordan Staal and Phil Di Giuseppe creating chaos in front and toppling the goalie (which why the net was open).
The Lightning proceeded to claw back slowly with a goal in the second period and another in the third period that pushed the game to overtime. The Hurricanes had a great chance early with Slavin in alone and then had Elias Lindholm convert from the side of the net to claim a 3-2 overtime victory and send the fans off into another long offseason on a positive note.
Recap/notes from the Carolina Hurricanes 3-2 overtime win over the Tampa Bay Lightning
1) The milestones
As noted above, Sebastian Aho did not reach 30 goals. His best opportunities came during an extended run of ice time on the power play during which the Canes controlled the puck in the offensive zone. Aho managed two shots in that sequence, but one was blocked, and the other careened wide of the net through traffic.
Jaccob Slavin and Jordan Staal failed to reach 10 and 20 goals respectively, but Justin Williams did collect the point he needed to reach 50 for the 2017-18 season.
2) Cam Ward
Many things are uncertain entering the offseason, so with Scott Darling’s situation and the fact that Cam Ward’s contract ends on June 30, Saturday’s game was potentially Ward’s last in a Hurricanes’ uniform. Because he has performed admirably in a backup role in 2017-18, I put the odds at 60/40 that he is re-signed. The 40 has more to do with the playoff miss and the broader goalie situation than Ward’s play. So given that there is some potential that it is his last with the organization, Ward’s strong play and win were on target.
3) Phil Di Giuseppe
Phil Di Giuseppe put an exclamation point on his late-season scoring surge. With two assists on Saturday, he finished with three goals and six assists in the final nine games of the season for an impressive point per game average. As a restricted free agent, his evaluation and next contract just became more interesting.
4) Nicolas Roy
He had a good NHL debut in an understated way. He did not collect a point in his 10:46 of ice time, but he won 60 percent of his faceoffs and drew two penalties. What stands out about Roy’s game compared to some of the other younger prospects is how mature his game is across many areas. His ceiling might be a bit lower than a few other players, but Roy plays a decent two-way game if he can match NHL pace.
5) Valentin Zykov
What continues to stand out about Zykov’s game is the consistency in his ability to make simple goal possible plays. He has a very good knack for reading where to be to create passing lanes to receive and shoot, and has a ingrained sense to go to the top of the crease wen he does not have anything more important to do. He had two shots on goal including one good scoring chance and was also a regular creating chaos at the crease.
Next up for the Hurricanes are exit interviews on Monday that could be interesting given the disappointing results for the 2017-18. Then the organization turns quickly to trying to build a winner for the 2018-19 season.