Recap of Hurricanes 3-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres
With the postponement of Monday’s game and an unusually long 4-day layoff, a starting question was how the Hurricanes would react. The Hurricanes seemed to have their skating legs out of the gate and immediately hopped into the hockey game. First a long Jaccob Slavin pass seemingly intended for Derek Ryan careened off a Sabres defender and fortuitously right into the skating lane of Jeff Skinner who made no mistake with a well-placed snapshot off the rush. Next Justin Faulk worked hard to skate into the play to create a 3-on-2 off the rush where he niftily handled a pass on his backhand, pulled it to his forehand and finished far side. The Sabres slow start staked the Canes to 3-4 good chances early and the Canes capitalized to the tune of a 2-0 lead at the end of the first period that also saw Cam Ward make a couple of his best saves early.
There are 2 sides to the second period. On the one hand, the Hurricanes controlled play and gained power play chances for their work. But the negative was that the Canes just seemed to lack any kind of killer instinct. The team missed on 4 power play chances and also failed to stay heads down and go to the net where Lehner left rebounds all night. But the Hurricanes gave up very little in a second period that they controlled and left the second period with their 2-0 lead still intact setting the stage for the potential for more drama maybe than was necessary in the third period.
Sure enough the Sabres who the Canes failed to kill when they had the chance in the second period, made the 1 good play necessary to get them back in the hockey game at 2-1 still with 15 minutes remaining. But the Hurricanes were generally sound and solid down the stretch, and Ward had the answer when needed until Sebastian Aho closed out a 3-1 win with an empty net goal.
With the Flyers (who I most think the Canes are chasing right now) winning yesterday but losing today, the Hurricanes have matched the Flyers production heading into the holiday break and have a chance to gain 1 or 2 points tomorrow.
‘What I’m watching’ check in
If you missed it and want to catch up, you can read the game preview HERE.
The duo had a quiet game in a good way avoiding mistakes and miscues. Justin Faulk in particular had a strong game breaking up multiple potential scoring chances in his own end and making no mistake with his chance to finish off the rush. On repeat is my mantra that this pairing taking a step up on the road is a required ingredient for improving the team’s road record. On Thursday night in Buffalo, they did exactly that.
2) Fresh or rusty?
The layoff did not seem to hurt the Canes at all. The early scoring was more about timely scoring and some Sabres’ breakdowns, but the Canes skated well too. And the team’s generally solid play from wire to wire also points to fresh over rusty. Here is hoping that the layoff has some carry over in tomorrow’s ’empty the tank’ game against the Bruins in Raleigh.
3) The forward lines and Jordan Staal
Jordan Staal had a strong game, and Jeff Skinner is maybe top man with the only even strength goal scored by a forward, but the game was a good 1 from top to bottom on a night when Peters used the entire lineup fairly evenly.
Justin Faulk: I know I already said it above, but the most encouraging sign was a solid road game from Faulk. At the point where he becomes the solid #3 that his is capable of being and Ron Hainsey also finds a higher gear, the team becomes less prone to being exploited by match ups on the road, and that is a critical element for playing winning hockey on a regular basis on the road.
Brock McGinn: I have admittedly not been as high on him as many in the Caniac Nation, but he is playing great hockey right now. As I said on Twitter this afternoon, the fact that Peters trusts him enough to leave him on Staal’s line on the road where Staal matches with Hainsey/Faulk and will see top scoring lines because of it says a ton about Peters’ opinion of him right now. And on Thursday night in Buffalo, he lived up to that with an all-around solid game.
Cam Ward: The game was an odd 1 for him. Ward saw a couple tough chances early and then had almost nothing to do for 30ish minutes before the Sabres finally pushed in the third period. The night was a light 1 but also a night that did not offer a margin for error. Ward did what was required to win.
Balanced ice time: Especially at the forward position, Peters spread ice time pretty evenly which hopefully will pay dividends on Friday.
The power play: Arguably the only disappointment in the game was a lackluster night for the power play. Even a single goal in 4 chances in the second period might have been enough to bury the Sabres. But both units struggled gaining entry to the offensive zone and mustered a modest amount of offensive zone possession time and chances to shoot the puck.
Next up is a quick turnaround and a home game against the Boston Bruins heading into the holiday weekend.
The puck drops a little bit after 7:30pm on Friday at PNC Arena. Tickets are still available!