Entering with a three-game losing streak, Monday’s game in Detroit was as close to ‘must win’ as you can get in October. Couple the need with a beatable opponent who entered near the bottom of the standings, and Monday’s felt like the kind of game where the Canes needed to push and seize a win – the kind of win that has been elusive in recent years. And the Hurricanes produced, fueled by of all things the power play.
The game featured an early surge that was part of most of the other early season wins. The Hurricanes dominated early and notched 14 shots on net before the Red Wings tallied their first nearly 14 minutes into the game. But early on the Hurricanes had nothing to show for it and as the first period wore on, it started to feel like more of the same. But the Hurricanes finally made good on the power play when Justin Faulk scored on a laser from the point to stake the Hurricanes to a 1-0 lead near the end of the first period.
The second period was mostly more of the same. The Hurricanes resumed firing shots at the net and generally dictating play. And also like the first period, the Hurricanes capitalized on a power play opportunity when a nifty passing play saw Sebastian Aho feed Valentin Zykov in Elias Lindholm’s old office at the side of the net. Zykov feathered a perfect pass into the the wheel house of Micheal Ferland who made no mistake finishing to make it 2-0.
Detroit finally pushed back in the third period partly courtesy of a couple power play opportunities. The first Detroit power play went by the wayside but seemed to energize the Wings. A bit later, they scored on a mini-rush in close to tighten things up at 2-1. Next Detroit mounted a furious rush on the power play. Their best sequence saw Mrazek make a good save but then end up sprawled out wide of the net while the Wings fired away. The first follow up seemed to hit Faulk defending the empty net and a second shot still with an open net other than Faulk and de Haan somehow found its way under Mrazek. When the Hurricanes inexplicably survived that flurry, a win seemed inevitable. The team still had to kill off a Dougie Hamilton delay of game penalty for the last 1:44 to hold on to win. Slavin made yet another tremendous individual play to win and then carry the puck out before finding Jordan Martinook for the empty-netter to seal the win.
Player and other notes
The power play arrives!
After belaboring all of the grim details from the Canes special teams struggles in this morning’s Daily Cup of Joe, I will take full credit for prompting Monday’s power play outbreak that led the way to the win. On a more serious note, two things jump out to me about the power play goals. First, Ferland’s goal came after the Canes managed to play the puck to the end line (Elias Lindholm’s old office) back to a prime scoring spot. The goal has almost no chance on this shot if the shooter picks a corner. Second, Faulk was able to receive and shoot with the pass coming into his wheel house vertically. This is exactly how many of his power play goals came a couple years back with him receiving similar passes off the wall and right into his sweet spot. The umbrella formation tends to require receiving passes horizontally which at least for Faulk just is not as effective for wiring shots on net. Regardless, per my article this morning, something has to give if the team is to keep winning.
The return to Brind’Amour hockey
While the power play break through may claim the headlines, the real story was another round of the Hurricanes puck-hounding style of play just making it impossible for the opponent to do anything. This game felt very much like the win against the Minnesota Wild. A couple power play goals for the Wild made the score odd, but behind the special teams that game was another dominant effort by the Hurricanes forward group from top to bottom.
Bishop was not so much bad as very quiet in his first NHL game on Saturday. And the line that he centers has generally been too quiet all year. But early in Monday’s game, I thought the trio was the team’s best when it was setting the tone early. McGinn drew a penalty. The line did a nice job winning and playing the puck on the boards. And twice they got the puck to the crease with bodies there at the same time. They were not rewarded on the scoreboard (Zykov’s assist was on the power play), but signs of life from this line was a positive.
He continues to be one of the best stories below the star level early in the 2018-19 season. His power play tally makes four straight games with a goal, and he continues to show a bigger bag of offensive tools than I anticipated when he was acquired. He brings the Erik Cole power forward game regularly with and without the puck, but his receive/finish ability has been eye-catching too. Monday’s goal was a nifty finish where he received and quickly labeled a shot where the goalie had little chance.
The story of the game and the driver of the win was the Hurricanes return to shot and possession dominance. But Mrazek also deserves high marks for doing very well with the work presented to him. After facing literally zero shots for 13 minutes, he was sharp making a couple quality saves in succession when Detroit finally put the puck on net. The same was true throughout, as Mrazek faced a light volume but was sharp when asked.
Sebastian Aho for 9!
With his power play assist, he is now at nine straight games with a point to start the season. With Ferland fitting in and surging and Aho out of the gate fast, at least so far the Hurricanes have a top scoring line for the first time in years.
Foegele has been decent even in his and the team’s down games. He consistently engages the puck whenever given the chance game in and game out. But he had been a bit quieter in the recent losses. I thought he found a higher gear of just doing what he does and was again a leader in the team’s ‘hound the puck at all costs’ successful formula on Monday night.
Other than the splendid offensive move and shot that clanged off the post and the individual clear that led to the empty-netter, Jaccob Slavin had a fairly pedestrian Jaccob Slavin game. And that is what is so good about his play so far. He is just steady and solid on a nightly basis.
Next up for the team is another set of three days off at home for practice before a three-game home stand starts with a Friday match up against the San Jose Sharks.