Anyone who missed the Hurricanes pre-Super Bowl matinee Sunday would figure by the 6-5 score that the game was a barn burner in both directions. While the game did feature a ton of goal scoring, I do not think the score adequately reflects the Hurricanes level of play, especially defensively. The Hurricanes did have a few break downs, but the game was an odd one in terms of how many somewhat harmless shots found the back of the Canes net. Through the middle of the game, the Hurricanes gave up very few grade A opportunities and held the Blue Jackets to only 22 shots on goal and the vast majority of those were medium quality or lower.
The first period featured Patrik Laine beating James Reimer cleanly bar in in Alexander Ovechechkin style. Then Brock McGinn continued his productive ways on the top line finishing from in close. Then Nick Foligno fired through a screen with Reimer bouncing around trying to find sight lines before being beaten on a tip. Those three goals in the first period seemed like a lot but paled in comparison to what followed.
The Hurricanes controlled the second period and were rewarded for it. First, Warren Foegele finished yet another Jordan Staal assist. Brett Pesce scored his first of the season courtesy of some great work by the fourth period winning a puck on the forecheck and a net front screens by both Jordan Martinook and Jesper Fast. Pesce would again be in the middle of the scoring when his rebound found Vincent Trocheck who continued his torrid scoring pace. In between the Canes scoring outburst, Nick Foligno would capitalize on Reimer being just a tiny bit off his angle beating him short side off the rush. The Hurricanes would emerge with at 4-3 lead.
The third period would offer more of the same in terms of scoring. To start the third period scoring Max Domi finished from a wide angle off Reimer’s forearm and/or glove and in. Then in the final minute to make things interesting, Laine beat an unscreened Reimer cleanly again from the same spot as earlier in the game. But in between, the Hurricanes collected goals from Dougie Hamilton on an odd shot that he seemed to flip above the fray in front of the net and down into the net behind Korpisalo. And Hamilton again contributed when a double deflection went off Trocheck and then Staal’s stick before finding the net. When the smoke cleared the Hurricanes claimed a 6-5 win.
1) Blue line offense
Dougie Hamilton and Brett Pesce each had a goal and also an assist from getting a point shot through. Goal scoring from the blue line figured to be a strength for the Canes in 2020-21 but has been a bit slow coming so far. Sunday was a big day offensively for the blue liners and hopefully an ignition switch. Pesce has been the team’s best defenseman so far this season; the scoring is just a bonus.
2) Brock McGinn
As I said on Twitter, he has been good elevated to the top scoring line. He gets his role and how he can best contribute by helping win/retrieve/keep in pucks by hounding the puck and being aggressive on the forecheck and then spending as much time as possible where goals happen ready to receive and shoot. He now has two goals in two games finishing from between the front of the net and had another really good chance on a breakaway on Sunday.
3) James Reimer
He seemed to struggle all game in terms of finding the puck. The game felt much more like a 6-2 win for the Canes in terms of what they gave up for scoring chances. He was beaten on all five goals against and a bit off on at least two of them. Laine is arguably second only two Ovechkin in terms of finishing on a one-timer from the top of the face-off circle, so maybe you give Reimer some grace on those. But he was also beaten short side on one of those and also two other goals. As I said in my game preview, I think he is better when playing on a once a week schedule as a #1B or #2 goalie. There have been issues defensively with the team in front of him in previous games, but he has not been great either in giving up 16 goals in four starts in the past seven days. With Mrazek out for awhile and who knows with Alex Nedeljkovic who cannot be benefiting confidence-wise after not being used, Reimer is on the spot as the #1 goalie for the time being.
4) Jordan Staal
On a night when five Canes players had two or more points, Staal finished with a team high three and continued his improbable run as the team’s best offensive player since his return from COVID protocol. I recognize that there are other candidates (Trocheck for sure and maybe Svechnikov), but I really think Staal’s playmaking of late puts him top of the rankings short-term.
5) Brady Skjei
Skjei had a solid game in an understated way. With Slavin and Pesce reunited, Skjei maybe falls into the role of the most defense-leaning of the two second pairing defensemen. He was solid in that role. One thing that jumps out at me watching him of late is how well he fits how Brind’Amour wants the team to play in the offensive zone with defensemen playing aggressively to keep the puck in the offensive zone by pinching in on the walls and stepping up to challenge pucks before the opponent can transition.
Next up for the Hurricanes is a quick turnaround for the second game on of the set on Monday night against the same Blue Jackets.