On Wednesday night in the Windy City, the Hurricanes again were good enough for a win which makes the team a perfect 9-0-0.
The positive spin is that this team is good enough to win on lesser nights. The negative is that the team is trending downward over the past few games despite continuing to win. But at the most basic level, the team is obviously a very good one and is collecting points at a rapid rate.
My notes from the game follow.
Per my introduction, I thought the game was (relatively speaking) a poor one for the Hurricanes.
Sluggish/sloppy starts to both of first two periods: The Hurricanes started slow in both of the first two periods. The Blackhawks had more jump out of the gate n both periods, and the Hurricanes, especially in the first period, compounded things by making a bunch of mistakes.
Too many big ‘oopses’: The first Blackhawks goal featured a Svechnikov turnover, Necas failing to step up to help and Bear being caught out of position as the last line of defense. Skjei had Blackhawks get in behind him twice for chances in alone. One was a goal against, and the other was third period penalty against Skjei. The Canes had to kill off four minor penalties, all by defensemen, with a lead in the third period, again leaning too much on penalty-killing and Frederik Andersen heroics to close out a win. In total, the volume of errors was significantly too high.
Failure to finish strong: When a team is 9-0-0 much of finding negatives (including mine) could be considered nitpicking. That said, if I could pick one concern despite the team’s early success, it would be the inability to close out wins the right way. The formula in a majority of wins has been over-relying on Andersen to be a hero while the team shuts things down a bit early and takes too many penalties to boot. That bit the Hurricanes a couple times in the playoffs and most certainly will do so again if not cleaned up.
A bit lucky: When things are going well, a team seems to catch every break. Last week the Hurricanes had three consecutive games with passes going off opposing defensemen and directly into the net. In Wednesday’s win, a Tony DeAngelo whiff on a shot ended up being a perfect pass to Derek Stepan who shot into an open chunk of net. And as noted above Jarvis’ goal seemed to roll off his stick when the recovering defenseman hacked at the puck right before Jarvis was about to shoot. Take it while you can get it, but averaging a goal per game on lucky bounces of this magnitude is not sustainable.
Seth Jarvis: The irony of NHL hockey is that neither of Seth Jarvis’ scoring points were actually much of anything. His assist was completely the ‘because he touched the puck before the goal scorer’ variety where he passed to Pesce to passed across and then got back before beating the goalie. And Jarvis’ goal on Wednesday fortuitously rolled off his stick just the right way to find a hole through Fleury. But more significantly, Jarvis has been great on non-scoring plays. He has set up Steven Lorentz three times in two games with heady passes. Though the finish was lucky, Jarvis’ ability to quickly create separation when he gained the puck with a small advantage was impressive. And most significantly, he thinks and plays the game at NHL speed already. He has very good quickness in small spaces as evidenced by the breakaway goal and also his ability to make small, quick moves to create passing lanes. And he has also shown natural playmaker ability for how to get pucks to scoring areas. I said in my Daily Cup of Joe for Wednesday that the only real case for Jarvis staying at the NHL level past his free trial would be if he can show that he makes the team significantly better. The sample size is small, but he is using the opportunity presented to him to try to make a case. The fourth line looks completely different with him and could easily have notched another goal or two in (in addition to the two they have) in Jarvis’ two games.
Jaccob Slavin: With Brett Pesce not playing in the third period after crashing into the boards in the second period, Jaccob Slavin logged 27:03 of ice time in a regulation game and was his usual steady self doing so.
Frederik Andersen and the penalty kill: Per above, it is not a well that one wants to keep going back to, but Frederik Andersen and the penalty kill again had the answer late to protect a one goal lead despite a shaky closing effort.
Results matter: Collecting a bunch of points early is powerful. It dodges any significant adversity for as long as possible by reducing stress and pressure that can way on a team over the course of a long season. And being well above the cut line late in the season can be significant for managing minutes and sitting injured players to enter the playoffs as rested and healthy as possible. So the simple standings math of winning nine straight games should not be underestimated.
The current trend and the upcoming schedule make for a little bit of drama. The Hurricanes next play the Florida Panthers who are 8-0-1 and then the defending champion Tampa Bay Lightning after that. The series in Florida offers a chance for the Hurricanes to refind a higher gear and show they are who their 9-0-0 record says they are or possibly a wake up call that suggests that despite early season success that the team needs to clean things up a bit.