There was no television for Saturday’s game, so my thoughts are based on the best (admittedly limited) interpretation of the game from the radio broadcast.
My pregame “What I’m watching” which you can find HERE was heavy on hunting for chemistry for line combinations, a continued watch of the developing kids and a couple specific player focuses.
The Canes won 5-3 with a late game-winner by Jeff Skinner to go with goals from Nordstrom, Hainsey (might have been tipped by Eric Staal) and Rask with an empty-netter.
Here are my quick notes on the game:
1) Did Peters find a third D pairing amongst the kids? Again, it is hard to evaluate their game in detail and tally mistakes and such, but here are a couple facts and observations for the Noah Hanifin/Ryan Murphy pairing.
–They both notched a point on the Nordstrom goal when Murphy blasted a shot and Nordstrom finished on a rebound.
–They seemed to have at least a handful of shots on goal each and a few more misses or blocked shots. The volume of shots suggests that they had a good amount of possession with control in the offensive zone.
–They were not named by name on any of the goals against and seemed to dodge any egregious turnovers at least per Chuck Kaiton’s call.
Depending on how Coaches Bill Peters and Steve Smith want to split experience and rookies on the blue line (because on way or another the Canes will have both), a Hanifin/Murphy pairing is a pretty compelling third pair in terms of raw skill if they can find chemistry. Hanifin is a skater capable of moving the puck with pace. Murphy is 1 of only a few players who can match him up and down the ice. And by putting the 2 kids together, Peters would have some ability to shield/protect them and also to pick their spots. If they were having a ‘learning night’ in a game that is 2-2 in the third period, made they miss some shifts in favor of going every other shift with the veterans. On the other hand, if the Canes are down 2 goals in the third period, you can turn the duo loose hoping for offense and living with mistakes.
=> Whereas Eddie Lack was the positive story coming out of the 1st preseason game (not sure there really was 1 for the second game), I think this stands out as the biggest positive development for game 3. It is definitely something to keep an eye on.
2) Jeff Skinner. He seemed to play nicely with Riley Nash and if you want to look at things in full lines with Versteeg. Skinner scored 2 goals giving him 3 goals in 2 preseason games which is encouraging. The Canes MUST get scoring from him to do enough offensively , so that is incredibly encouraging. He was also called for a dangerous drop pass or turnover which led to a breakaway the other way right after the Canes tied the game at 3-3. That is the part of his game that he finally needs to clean up.
3) Haydn Fleury. Per Chuck Kaiton’s call, he seemed struggle. Tavares was described as going right past him out of the corner for 1 of the Isles’ first period goals. He also had another player where Kaiton noted a Fleury breakdown. So whereas Murphy rebounded and took a step up and Hanifin solidified his claim for a roster spot, Fleury likely took a step back.
4) Eddie Lack. After being phenomal in 2 shutout periods in his first start, he gave up 2 in a little more than half of a game. It is impossible to rate ‘badness’ of goals you do not see, but the first goal against was described as “going through Lack” from Tavares and the other was described as “one he might want back” when he was beaten short side.
5) Joakim Nordstrom. He did not stand out from the radio call, but he did score a goal which counts for something.
6) Brendan Woods. His name was called very little. It was hard to say if it was ice time or lack of touching the puck or banging bodies, but his notable call was a turnover up the middle of the ice which is obviously not what one would pick if you were only going to get a couple mentions.
7) Too many penalties. The Canes picked up a slew of penalties including slashes by Brody Sutter, Elias Lindholm and Eric Staal. I cannot imagine Bill Peters will be happy about that. As a team looking to make a huge step up, the margin for error is small and cannot afford unnecessary mistakes.
8) A win! Final record is not the most important thing in preseason, but I think especially for teams that were not good the previous season, it is important to win some games and build the right kind of vibe and expectations.
I think this game has the potential to be a big step forward in terms of building the roster and combinations. The Hanifin/Murphy combination if it works longer-term would be a huge find and could more or less solve the blue line puzzle. I am on record as really liking Skinner with a playmaker on his line (Versteeg). He actually seemed to fit more with center Riley Nash which could be even more significant. Nash is not a pure playmaking center (but Versteeg can do that), but just maybe he is a good fit as a forward who can skate the center lane hard and give Skinner a bunch of room behind him.
All in all a win with no injuries and possibly some chemistry found is a good win and step in the right direction in game 3.