If you missed it yesterday, a similar lengthier article recapping Friday’s 4-1 win over St. Louis can be found HERE.
On Saturday afternoon, the Hurricanes prospects played their second of three round robin games against the Blackhawks. The game started inauspiciously with the Hurricanes largely hemmed in their own end against an aggressive forecheck and struggling to advance the puck. But Jake Bean single-handedly relieved pressure to some degree and a couple power play opportunities and a 5-on-3 goal for seemed to right the ship. But the Hurricanes never really did shake off the sloppiness, played too much of the game under duress and ultimately fell 5-2.
The story of the game was the fact that the Hurricanes had little answer for an aggressive foreceheck. The combination of turnovers and just spending too much time in their own end eventually did them in.
I had to check out at about the midway point of the third period, so my comments are based only on about 50 of the 60 minutes of hockey.
Quick player notes are below:
He picked up two points in the opener on Friday, but I actually thought Saturday’s game offered a better glimpse of his future in a Hurricanes uniform. He fired a laser of a wrist shot into the net for his first goal against opposition in a Hurricanes sweater. He also hit a post on another shot also from the vicinity of the right face-off circle. Looking forward into 2018-19, could be be a right wing sniper on the right side of Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen? It is too early to project how quickly he will develop and adjust to the NHL in 2018-19, but he projects to be exactly the type of player that could convert that into a high-end scoring line.
As I said on Twitter, it is meat and potatoes, non-fancy stuff, but Julien Gauthier has now scored power play goals from right in front of the crease in each of the first two games. At 6 feet 4 inches tall and a chiseled 230 pounds, he is mostly immovable when parked in front of the net. With good hands and finishing ability, goals could be there for him. Also, as has always been the case, he looks good ambling down the right wing with the puck on his stick. Overall, he has been good through two games. I guess the one thing that leaves me wanting more is more plays that make plays for his line mates and more frequent plays that use his size to be disruptive defensively.
His line of four goals against is not nearly as impressive as Friday’s one goal against, but I would not call Saturday a lost cause in his regard. He faced a high number of quality shots and made a number of good saves. The 5-2 result was more the result of the team being outplayed than a tough game for Helvig. That said, he was beaten cleanly from the vicinity of the same face-off circle twice in the second period, once on the power play and once off the rush. But in addition to giving up goals on a couple shots that were likely savable, he made a number of high-end saves again too.
His strength moving the puck up the ice was on display at times in this game. When the blue line group in total struggled mightily to get the puck past an aggressive forecheck, Bean was the only one who seemed to have any kind of answer, especially early in the game. I continue to have my reservations about the defensive part of his game, but in today’s NHL where moving the puck is priority #1, Bean has that skill set.
I continue to like Luke Henman’s game. His game leans more offense (hopefully), but he reminds me a bit of a young Brandon Sutter in the sense that he makes a lot of good decisions and small plays that push the needle more positive even if only by a small amount. Examples include chipping pucks out of his own end to relieve pressure, knowing when/how/where to support the puck when line mates have it and just generally making good decisions consistently. At 150 pounds, he will need to add size and strength to play at the NHL level, but maybe encouraging is that he can hold his own at his current level already. So if he matures physically to be 185 or 190 pounds in 3-4 years and adds a bit of speed and acceleration in the process, just maybe the Hurricanes have a good find with Henman as a mid-round pick.
I wrote above that I have been reasonably happy with Gauthier’s play, but his two goals are both on the power play, and most of his other goodness has simply been the occasional time he has the puck on his stick on the rush. But in total, this line has been disappointing offensively. While maybe not as high-powered as the headliners line with Necas and Svechnikov, both Saarela and Gauthier’s paths to the NHL come from offense and scoring. So especially as older players in this tourney, I would have expected more from this line at even strength. Saarela has been close to invisible. It is hard to say if maybe Roy’s limitations offensively are the driver, if it is lack of chemistry or whatever, but I would have expected more scoring chances from this group.
Who else watched Saturday’s game and has thoughts and analysis to share?