After an off-season writing hiatus that lasted a bit longer than originally planned, Canes and Coffee officially kicks off the 2021-22 season with notes from the Carolina Hurricanes’ first preseason game which was a 3-1 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The first Daily Cup of Joe for the new season will also be up either for Wednesday or otherwise Thursday morning and begin the usual daily pace.
As is normally the case, the game was a bit light on NHL players especially for the road team which did not make the stars hop a plane. Tampa Bay had Mikhail Sergachev in the lineup plus a few young players who have a chance of cracking the roster plus a few veteran depth forwards who could also see NHL ice time. So mostly and AHL/NHL tryout roster. As is also normally the case, the Hurricanes had a little bit more NHL talent on the ice. Brind’Amour’s first take at a second line included newcomer Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Teuvo Teravainen and Vincent Trocheck. What could be a fourth line included Steven Lorentz with Derek Stepan and Josh Leivo. The Hurricanes blue line featured a possible third pairing of Tony DeAngelo and Ian Cole. And Frederik Andersen started in net.
My notes from the game follow:
1) Jesperi Kotkaniemi and the second line
Trocheck’s line looked good, especially out of the gate. Before Jesperi finished a tic-tac-toe passing play with a far side power play snipe just up under the bar, the trio had already manufactured multiple grade A chances. Kotkaniemi fed Trocheck back door for what would have been a certain goal, but the puck seemed to jump his stick. Kotkaniemi also had a good point blank chance from between the face-off circles. And the line seemed to have pretty decent chemistry and was superior to the competition on most of its shifts.
My first impression of Kotkaniemi was that he reminded me a bit of a young Teuvo Teravainen in his first days with the Canes and going back to the Blackhawks. One can see where his ability to read/react and make the right play/decision is generally good, but then a couple times he also seemed prone to short lapses that can be deadly in the NHL. From watching Teravainen mature into a very good defensive forward from the same starting point, I lean optimistic on the possible end result. Teravainen’s development suggests that the ability to read things correctly maybe is more important as the every second intensity level can (hopefully?) be learned.
2) Frederik Andersen
At a 50,000-foot level, two things stand out about Andersen’s game. First is how efficient he is. In terms of just being big, being in the right place and not leaving much to shoot at, he is sort of the anti-Mrazek (and I guess also Nedeljkovic) in terms of general style in the net. He did not seem to challenge as much maybe simply because he does not need to quite as much with his size. The other notable difference that could affect the entire style of play and flow of the game is his old school, puck-handling-lite approach. Nedeljkovic’s aggressiveness playing nearly everything and regularly looking to play the puck out to the side wall or even the blue line changed how the Hurricanes played. (I have a half-written article somewhere on how it did not help transition maybe as much as believed once team’s adjusted.) Even Mrazek was usually quick to retrieve pucks behind the net even if leaving more there for defensemen to pick up. In Tuesday’s game, there must have been four or five times when Andersen just stayed in net on dump ins and did not even retrieve. There will be some adjustments in this regard.
As far as Andersen’s play on Tuesday, he looked sharp. As noted above, the competition was not even remotely close to Tampa Bay’s best, but Andersen did well with the work load presented to him. Maybe most significantly, he looked sharp in terms of tracking the puck and playing it to where he wanted most times, and he did make a few good saves when challenged. All in all, it was a good first outing for him.
3) The tryout or #8-10 on the blue line
The blue line featured four players who could be in the mix as #8/first AHL call ups in the even of defensemen injuries. Maxime Lajoie who saw playoff action was among the group that also include Joey Keane, Jesper Sellgren and newcomer Eric Gelinas. I thought the group in general was a mixed bag. I question whether Gelinas has the mobility to be more than a #6 who could fill a power play slot. I have never been as high on Sellgren as some others. He can and will make plays, but I question whether he can be serviceable enough defensively even to be a good third pairing defenseman, maybe a bit from the same mold as Jake Bean. Keane is both active and vocal. After a decent showing under some pressure in NHL playoff games, Lajoie is arguably the default first callup.
4) Seeking an ahead of schedule difference-maker at forward
The lineup also featured three higher-rated forward prospects in Jamieson Rees and Jack Drury who played together and also Ryan Suzuki who centered the fourth line. Drury and Rees had a decent game that should make for more preseason ice time. Drury scored a point blank tip in on a heady Rees pass to the top of the crease, and the duo was active in general.
Having one of these three players or also possibly Seth Jarvis skip a step development-wise and become an NHL contributor offensively ahead of schedule would help with scoring depth.
5) Ian Cole / Tony DeAngelo
The loan defense pairing that figures to be on the ice when the regular season starts was Ian Cole with Tony DeAngelo. I thought the two looked a bit out of synch early trying to move the puck out of their own zone and had a few struggles late too. But it is game one of the preseason, and it has been a really long time since DeAngelo played at game speed. Ian Cole could prove to be a really good pickup as a guy who is just steady in a third pairing role in a Trevor van Riemsdyk kind of way.
Next up for the Hurricanes is a second match up against Tampa Bay in Florida on Friday.