After being walloped 9-2 on Tuesday, the Hurricanes rebounded well for a 5-0 win in Tuesday’s finale against the Minnesota Wild. The win claims third place in the tourney.
For a standard game recap, I recommend checking out the team website where I expect Michael Smith will likely post a recap.
I will post a tourney recap that more broadly covers the full set of four games in the next few days. This article will simply share a few notes specifically from the win on Tuesday night.
Good for Mike Vellucci/good for Callum Booth
After an ugly affair on all accounts on Tuesday night in a 9-2 loss, I was happy to see Coach Mike Vellucci go right back to Callum Booth. Vellucci could easily have turned to Jeremy Helvig simply to split the four starts evenly, but I think Tuesday’s result made it even more important to go right back to Booth. Remember also that this tourney is the very beginning of establishing a working relationship between Booth who will be a first year player in Charlotte where Vellucci will be a first year coach. They are slated to spend a bunch of time together in a situation that sees Booth trying to make the challenging transition from Canadian juniors to the AHL. Vellucci going right back to Booth after Tuesday makes it clear that there is some margin for error allowed as part of the learning process.
And Callum Booth responded. The team in front of him was not the train wreck that it was on Tuesday, but I actually thought he was tested at least equally to his 6-2 win in game one. He looked similar to game one in being solid positionally to get hit by a lot of pucks, but he also made a handful of really sharp saves. The one that jumps out first in my memory was an odd play where the Canes defense had the puck trying to exit the zone. In a span of about two seconds, the puck was stolen, thrown toward Booth and then deflected off of Roland McKeown’s skate making for a tough deflection save which Booth handled nicely. I would rate the game as the best by a Hurricanes goalie in the tourney slightly trumping Helvig’s shutout last week.
I thought he got better as he settled into the tourney. He reminds me a bit of my first impression of Janne Kuokkanen in that he seems comfortably pushing pace in straight lines into the teeth of a defense. That is significant for young players transitioning to higher level hockey especially for those who are accustomed to roomier European playing surfaces. Finding the right balance of playing in straight lines toward the net and only occasionally twirling to buy time and space is critical to being successful at the NHL and even AHL level.
He continued to be what I will term “intermittently phenomenal” offensively. I will likely talk about him in more detail in the tourney recap, but on Tuesday he had another great play to create offense when he surprised a defenseman off the rush and carved a path to the net. The play completely broke down the defense, sent the Wild scrambling and resulted in a loose puck barely eluding Warren Foegele who was charging at the other post. But the puck found Roland McKeown who made no mistake burying the rebound. Kuokkanen had a few other nifty plays offensively and at least in terms of “volume of generating offense” rated well for the tourney.
Would have preferred a little more answer
I am glad we are mostly past the days where every play like the early hit on Nicolas Roy requires a fight or two. And Spencer Smallman did stand up for his team mate. But at the same time, I wish the Hurricanes would have answered a little more firmly within the context of the game. For as much as the Hurricanes group of forwards mostly has good NHL size and an element of “power forward” the team really was not incredibly physical on Tuesday nor for the rest of the tourney.
He led the way offensively with the team’s second and third goals. It is unclear if his ceiling is more than that of a good offensive AHL player, but he did what one would hope for him coming back to Traverse City as a veteran.
He did generate a ton of highlight reel plays, but he was steady on the back end again. He looks ready physically for the NHL level in terms of size, strength and skating ability. That is a great starting foundation. NHL success and his time line for it will be how quickly/easily he can make the transition to NHL speed and also defending players who are a couple notches better than what he is used to.
What say you Caniacs?
What else did you see in Tuesday’s 5-0 win?