For those focused on the results level of the scoreboard and 9-0-0 record entering Saturday’s game against the Florida Panthers, Saturday’ s 5-2 loss might have been a bit of a surprise, especially against a Panthers team missing probably its best player in Aleskander Barkov.
But for those looking a level or two below the surface, Saturday’s game was maybe just a payback for ‘meh’ play last week that combined nicely with some puck luck, hot goaltending and mediocre opponents to net a week of fun home wins.
Friday’s Daily Cup of Joe called the next two games ‘measuring stick’ games and finished by saying:
But on the other hand, the Hurricanes play has been trending slightly downward over the past week. A heavy helping of puck luck, continued stellar play by Frederik Andersen and just finding different ways to win has maybe made the results better than the quality of late. If the Hurricanes bring some of the recent sloppiness and ‘meh’ level of play, I would not at all be surprised to see the team get drubbed once or even twice. In an odd way, that could be a good thing in the long run. In no way do I get a sense of overconfidence or complacency with the Hurricanes, but a quick reminder that it takes being at the top of your game to beat good teams could still be beneficial.
And here we are.
The two goals for and zero against in the second period suggest that the Hurricanes turned things around quickly, but I actually thought the second period looked more like last week when the Canes were sloppy but able to paint over it with goal scoring. The third period was better finally, but one good period will rarely be enough to beat a good team.
In the big picture, the loss is not a big deal. The Hurricanes are still a good hockey team and are capable of beating the Florida Panthers or any other team if they play well.
But I think the meaningful reminder is that getting by on a higher level of talent than in years past is not generally a working formula against good teams. That is especially important to file away for the playoffs.
My notes follow
1) Not really anything new
The first period was not really anything different than some of the problems from the last week that were buried beneath wins. The Hurricanes took four minor penalties and were sloppy in terms of puck management and defensive zone coverage. The result against a Florida team that was flying was that the Hurricanes were mostly chasing the game throughout the first period. When Frederik Andersen was unable to cover up the ‘oopses’ as he has done quite a bit, the Hurricanes limitations were on full display.
2) Vincent Trocheck continues his run against his old team
Continuing with tradition Vincent Trocheck had a good two-point game hidden in the background of the loss.
3) Blue line depth comes into question
Some have raved about the Canes blue line depth. That came into question a bit tonight. With Brett Pesce in the lineup for the first nine games, the Canes have been decent even if a bit sloppy so far. With Pesce anchoring one pair and Slavin another that leaves Skjei and Bear in complementary roles. Both have handled those roles well. In addition, Tony DeAngelo has been good enough defensively in a third pairing defensive slot and has contributed significantly offensively. But minus Pesce on Saturday, DeAngelo struggled mightily playing regular shifts in the top four. Being a good player in a narrower role as a third pairing defenseman is quite different than being capable of being good enough or better in a top four slot playing more shifts against the other team’s best forwards. One game is a small sample size, but taking it for what it is suggests that the Hurricanes maybe more so have a group of six that works if healthy but is built on a required foundation of Slavin and Pesce.
Was this just a (first) bad game for DeAngelo? Or is he in over his head in a higher slot? In terms of measuring or validating the Canes’ blue line depth, this will be interesting track over the next few games with Pesce out of the lineup.
4) The third period
Per above, tomorrow many will say that the Hurricanes were better in the last two periods since the team scored twice in the second period, but I do give the credit for pushing hard in the third period.
5) Special teams
One of the saviors in recent wins has been the ability of the penalty kill to clean up too many messes. That strength disappeared on Saturday with the Canes allowing three power play goals in the first period. The Canes did net one goal with the five-minute major but needed two.
Next up is a second measuring stick game against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday night in Tampa. The Lightning are not firing on all cylinders yet, but their ceiling is high obviously.
As far as the blue line goes, I think people talking about the Canes’ depth are really “stuck” on the 2018-2019 team. That team did have great defensive depth. Since then, however, the Canes have traded away or let walk in FA a great deal of that depth. Now, the Canes only have two players from that 18-19 team in the starting 6: Slavin and Pesce.
Are the rest of the defensemen good? Well, they are in the NHL. They will need time to adjust. I think someone made a point the other day/week about Dougie not really clicking until halfway through the 18-19 season. But that “depth” commentators talk about is no longer there.