On Friday, the Carolina Hurricanes won the second of two home games sandwiching Thanksgiving day. In the process, the team pushed its win streak to three games and pushed up into a three-way tie for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference (as measured by games above .500).
After watching the game after hours again, an abbreviated set of player/game notes follow.
Jordan Martinook’s night
Game in and game out, Jordan Martinook receives Nathan Gerbe-like marks for every game effort and intensity. In addition, his line centered by Lucas Wallmark and also including Andrei Svechnikov has been very good of late. But despite playing well and generally winning the territorial battle, scoring has been tough to come by. But on Friday, the line broke through courtesy of three Martinook goals that led the way to victory. The trio put the puck on net 12 times on Friday. Whereas line mate Svechnikov impressed me most on Wednesday, Martinook did so on Friday and not just because of the scoring. He had two and a half of his one man forecheck shifts that just kept banging bodies until he won the puck. He also filled a different role in stepping in to very emphatically say ‘no’ when a Panthers player started taking liberties with Wallmark who was down on the ice after the whistle. Every so often the hockey gods get it right and reward those who deserve it. That line in general has deserved it for some time now.
He seems to have everything going or him right now. What stands out most is his feel for the game right now. He is anticipating puck movement really well such that even when the puck moves laterally he is still in position to square up to shots. On Friday, he also demonstrated a really good sense for when to play aggressively and challenge and when to calmly wait for the puck to hit him. In addition, hockey is a game of bounces sometimes, and he is winning at that too. Probably the biggest defensive break down that saw a Panther get behind Jaccob Slavin led to a shot that clanged the cross bar. And when McElhinney was fighting off shots early and maybe a bit light on rebound control, nothing found a Panthers’ stick. The most notable play was one where he fended off a shot from one side and literally had the rebound go through not one but two Panthers who were on the back door. Maybe most significant is the confidence of the players in front of him right now. I trust that Brind’Amour will not get greedy in the back-to-back such that Scott Darling or Petr Mrazek will get Saturday’s start but that the team will be right back to McElhinney after that.
Justin Faulk / Calvin de Haan
Against a team with a clear top line, Brind’Amour went old school Bill Peters on home ice and often tried to play a set of five against that line. The defensive part of that match up game was de Haan/Faulk. That says so much about where that pairing is right now which is a far cry from where the team’s second pairing had been over the past two years. In fact, Friday’s usage more or less says that Brind’Amour considers the pairing to be his top pairing right now which I think is justified.
On a different note but also on Faulk, I think he is on the brink of breaking out on the score sheet. His ‘when in doubt, shoot’ mentality is in full force and he has been on target of late. Look for his modest one goal and seven assists to begin to grow.
As noted above, the win pushes the Hurricanes up into a three-way tie (as measured by games above .500) with the New York Rangers and tomorrow’s opponent, the New York Islanders, who are tomorrow’s opponent. After being on the wrong side of the cut line only a few games ago, the Hurricanes are officially right on the fence now 22 games into the season.
Next up for the Hurricanes is a quick turnaround and a return to the road on Saturday night against the New York Islanders.
Good to see Martinook and Wallmark get rewarded on the scoresheet. While Svechnikov, and now, Martinook rightly get the attention, Wallmark is becoming an above-average 2nd/3rd line NHL center. I noticed him in the Charlotte games I attended last season. He is such a smart player–as I mentioned last year, when he was on the bench he was constantly having conversations with the coaches or making points to his line mates. The team will benefit from having Rask back and Staal is always going to get the tough matchups, but Wallmark might be the extra center the team needs most.
Matt, I am glad you mentioned de Haan/Faulk. For the first time this season the Canes appear to have a defensive pair that is playing every shift like a top pair. Faulk went out first on the penalty kill in the last two games. Last night Faulk and de Haan were the first pair on the PK, on Wednesday it was Faulk and TVR. I don’t think it is a conincidene that the PK has looked significantly improved.
I have been skeptical of Ferland’s passing. Last night he had one of his better games moving the puck to line mates. So though he had only one hit, I liked his contributions.
Finally, Haydn Fleury stood out a few times with the puck on this stick. If he can live up to his draft position consistently, then the contributions from the blue line that Matt so often mentions will be evident every game.
Fun game to watch and it’s great to see Martinook get a hat trick. Great guy to see it happen for. That whole line seems to be improving with the rookies. In spite of all our talk, and the incessant carping of Luke DeCock, do not break up that line!
“Brind’Amour went old school Bill Peters” Really? Line matching is now old school? That’s his job. It’s Brind’Amour’s job to use his advantage of having last change at home to get his best defensive guys out against the other team’s best offensive guys. It’s how Brind’Amour made a living as a player. Every coach worth anything past youth hockey has to be able to do that.
deHaan and Faulk have been very good. I just don’t see the chemistry between Hamilton and Slavin. Hamilton was looking better with Fleury. We had better get used to Hamilton and Slavin together. The Canes put Pesce on IR. Hope Fleury is OK after the hit last night as well.
Martinook is definitely an under-rated quality signing.
I was not particularly impressed at the time, but happily admit I was wrong about it. He’s the character guy the team needed, Foegele is also in that same camp.
I actually think Hamilton might be an ideal trade candidate when Pesce is back. The canes have the classic pairing with him and Slaven, the new quality second pair, and Fleury and TVR look like the making of a good bottom pair. Fox needs to see there’s a spot for him in Raleigh and Jake Bean is playing well down in Clt. Hamilton strikes me as the one guy who does not obviously fit. He could be made to fit but the team needs an extra top 6 forward more than an overload on D.
Rask is having problems controlling the puck, but that’s to be expected. He needds time to recover and that whole line needs to be more effective.
It’s been a really fun week on the ice though and despite some troubles the Canes are still in playoff contension. Hopefully we’re not in for another freefall on the coaster.
Matinook was the first trade by Waddell, et.al. A rare trade that occurred during the playoffs. Phoenix got Kruger and a third, Canes got Martinook and a fourth. A smart deal that was largely overlooked at the time. (The Coyotes flipped Kruger to Chicago for Vinnie Hinostra and Marian Hossas contract.) Kruger has 2 goals, 0 assists in 20 games for the Blackhawks.
I noticed that Carrick was called up to replace the injured Dmen.
Suspect his defensive prowess is superior to Bean’s, at least that was the case the last time I saw them!
I might have been in the minority when I called for Wallmark making this team (preseason), but it’s apparently the right move by RBA AND COMMITTEE…,eh?
If Waddell still is intent to acquire Nylander (if available), I’m curious what dman would be involved…? Right now I’d rather keep Faulk and Pesce, and jettison Hamilton!!