For the first time in 2019, the Carolina Hurricanes have lost three out of four games in regulation. And for only the third time in 2019, the Carolina Hurricanes have lost two consecutive games in regulation.
The bigger picture that the team is still off to a good start and in playoff position at 6-3-0 after nine games is important, but at the same time the trend is negative right now and Friday’s marks a low point on the young season.
Timing is good with the Hurricanes have five days off before their next game on Thursday. The gap offers at least three if not four days for non-game day practices to rectify some recurring issues and more generally to try to tighten things up.
Friday’s game against the Ducks very much reminded me of the first game of the road trip against the Kings with the key difference being Petr Mrazek’s play. On Tuesday, the Hurricanes failed to show up for the first period, but Mrazek was stellar and kept the team in the game despite being outplayed by a wide margin. On Friday, the same slow start and sloppiness were there, but this time Mrazek was an accomplice not a savior. The result was a messy first period that saw lack of attention to detail lead directly to Anaheim goals. The first Anaheim goal came on a harmless rush that saw Brett Pesce leave his post on the right side of the ice to help defend an onrushing Anaheim player who was already surrounded by three Canes players. When he moved the puck across, the result was four Hurricanes on one side and a wide open lane on the other for Adam Henrique to receive the puck, put the puck on a tee and beat Mrazek. The second Ducks goal saw the Hurricanes play the puck only to center ice but decide to change en masse anyway. The group that came over the boards was immediately in triage mode trying to sort out coverage. One extra pass led to an open blast from up to through a screen to put the Ducks up 2-0. The Hurricanes were not so much dominated in the first period as they were sloppy. The two goals are what make the highlights, but the team had 3-4 other ‘what the ?’ plays in a first period that put an exclamation point on a recent trend of just too many unnecessary mistakes.
The front part of the second period was more of the same. Jakob Silfverberg scored only 37 seconds in the second period when Joel Edmundson got caught leading to a Ducks 2-on-1. Mrazek made the initial save but then was beaten when Silfverberg retrieved a rebound and had time to pull it all the way back in front of the red line before Mrazek or Edmundson could react. Just over five minutes later while on the power play, the Canes gave up a shorthanded breakaway. Mrazek made the first save but like the Ducks second goal just seemed slow to react. Carter Rowney retrieved the rebound and beat Mrazek from a tough angle while the Canes skaters mostly looked on. To the Hurricanes credit, the team did push back instead of packing up the tent once down 4-0. After a bit of a drought, the power play scored on a familiar play with Haula staked out at the top of the crease to receive and finish a Teravainen pass. Haydn Fleury would FINALLY score his first NHL goal shortly thereafter pulling the Hurricanes to within 4-2 with almost half of a hockey game yet to be played. Along the way Haula was clobbered on the boards, and Joel Edmundson stepped up for an old school tussle with Josh Manson who was responsible for the Haula injury. The Canes had caught a spark and continued to push in the second period but still exited the period down 4-2.
In the third period, the effort level was there but any kind of offensive cohesion was not. The Canes seemed to push and had a decent amount of offensive zone time, but the Ducks were solid defensively and limited the Canes to only six shots in the third period and even fewer good scoring chances. The result was a 4-2 final that was mostly decided before the Hurricanes woke up to start the game.
Player and other notes
1) Haydn Fleury
It is too bad that the team was not able to capitalize on it and turn it into a funner night, but good for Haydn Fleury finally being rewarded with his first NHL goal.
2) The kids are alright
On a night without as many stars, I though the Canes youth were the best players. Andrei Svechnikov continue his physical play and made some nice plays with puck including a beauty where he ole’ed an onrushing Ducks defenseman. I also thought Martin Necas was among the team’s best players. He at least had pace and an attack to his game. And of course Fleury netted a goal.
3) A step slow
The story of the game when it was being decided was the Ducks just being a step or two faster. One has to wonder if a significant part of Friday’s loss was just the Canes being out of gas after a long flight out West followed immediately by three games and two more flights only four days. Regardless, Anaheim was the faster team converting two of their four goals on slow-developing rebound tallies that saw the Canes maybe a step slow to react.
4) Nino Niederreiter
On the offensive side of the puck, there is an element of just being snake bit but along the way he has started regularly picking up unnecessary obstruction penalties. Here is hoping the scoring drought breaking soon also rights the ship for some sloppy play from Niederreiter.
5) Much cleaner game penalty-wise
On a positive note, the Niederreiter penalty was the only power play that the Hurricanes gave up, so that is one negative trend that was better on Friday.
6) Missing an ignition switch
I think games like this are where the Hurricanes miss Jordan Martinook and Micheal Ferland. I think both players had a good feel for when the team was sluggish out of the gate and needed some to jolt the adrenaline. Martinook had a good knack for running around a bit to finish big checks early in games like to try to reach the bench. Similarly, Ferland could do the same and also dropped the gloves a couple times to try to spark slow starts.
7) The forecheck
Of all of the things swirling around right now, I think my greatest concern is the inability of the Canes forecheck to drive games. Even the team’s wins thus far were mostly more the result of opportunistic scoring and not so much driven by the forecheck that was the primary engine for the team’s 2018-19 offensive success.
Next up for the Hurricanes is a well-timed break until their next game on Thursday. Saturday will be a deserved day off after the western sojourn, but after that the team should be to work trying to clean up what has become a sloppy brand of hockey.