Aiming to put an exclamation point on what has been a hugely successful preseason in front a large home crowd for Caniac Carnival day, the Hurricanes came up a tiny bit short.
The game was a success in terms of entertainment value and even a decent amount of intensity and chippy play, but the Hurricanes came up short losing 5-4 in overtime.
The game was sloppy and in terms of crispness and dictating play, it was easily the worst of the preseason. But there were positives within the game itself, and the preseason in total was unmistakably positive, so it is very easy to check some mistakes in video sessions tomorrow and move forward to the regular season in a positive light.
Sebastian Aho on track
After a slow start to preseason, Sebastian Aho officially launched this weekend since being reunited with Teuvo Teravainen for Friday’s game. Aho followed up a three-point night on Friday with another goal on Sunday. More significantly, he is just making more plays offensively again. His goal was a heady one where he jumped a blind passing lane and quickly converted it to a goal. He had a couple other plays where he carried through the middle of the rink and into scoring range. His game looks much more regular season ready than it did only a few games ago which is encouraging.
Warren Foegele offers a mixed bag
Foegele continued his run of making a high volume of good plays both large and small. He was the aggressive forechecker who forced the errant pass on Aho’s goal. He was also physical and a pest again. And arguably his best was the tremendous penalty-killing shift with Jordan Martinook that saw them play offense two against four for most of a shift. But along the way, he also collected three penalties including one that resulted in a power play goal against right after the Hurricanes had tied the score.
Jordan Staal season preview
Jordan Staal’s line was the team’s best for the first half of the game. They scored only once, but my count was four decent or better scoring chances in the first half of the game when the Hurricanes were being largely outplayed otherwise. With three days off before the home opener, Staal had a whopping 23:08 of ice time. If he can handle it and play effectively, I think the Canes lack of experience at the center position could see Staal up in that 22-minute or higher range regularly in tight games. Justin Williams also deserves credit for the line’s strong play early in the game.
He was better on Friday and in general prior in preseason, but I do not see Sunday’s three goals against in just over half of a game as a huge negative. The team in front of him was outplayed to the tune of a number good scoring chances against. Darling made some good saves and had little chance on a couple of the goals against. If the plan was in fact to play Darling the full game, I find pulling him midway a bit odd. (NOTE ADDED: He had a lower body injury which explains the change.) But bigger picture, Scott Darling had a strong preseason and did as much as he could do in terms of offering signs of hope in games that do not matter. I am on record as saying that preseason results mean virtually nothing, but at the same time, I give credit to Darling for doing all he could do in this preliminary stage.
Continued offense from the back end
One underlying theme from the Hurricanes preseason success has been the scoring/production from the blue line. Sunday’s game featured a goal scored and also another from Necas that was a tip on a point shot. The generation of offense from the blue line is encouraging as the team looks to boost scoring in 2018-19 despite being minus Jeff Skinner.
Seizing the opportunity versus playing the long game
Only time will tell if it is legitimately a precursor to the regular season, but in a tight game Brind’Amour leaned heavily on the top part of his lineup and went old school limited minutes for the most part for his fourth line. Lucas Wallmark logged only 5:06 of even strength ice time and 6:40 total, and Jordan Martinook similarly logged only 8:5o of ice time with 6:15 at even strength. It will be interesting to see how Brind’Amour manages his bench as a first-time NHL head coach in trying to balance being opportunistic with balanced for the long-term.
Early on, when Nashvilled dictated play, Faulk struggled in his own end for the first time in preseason. He had two turnovers deep in the defensive zone, one of which led directly to a goal. I will be watching early in the regular season to see if Faulk can successfully dial up to regular season pace.
Netting out the preseason
All in all, the Hurricanes preseason was an overwhelming success. The team pretty consistently outplayed opponents and dictated play. The young players competing for roster spots all made very strong cases. And the special teams and goaltending were pretty good. Though it counts for nothing, I think the team did about all it could do. But it all gets washed away tomorrow, as everyone starts at 0-0-0 to start the regular season.
Next up is REAL Canes hockey with the home opener on Thursday at PNC Arena against the New York Islanders.