For the second consecutive week, the Hurricanes entered the final game of the week flailing a bit and needing a win to make something from a tough week. Last week, the Hurricanes won on Friday to salvage two points from a three-game road trip. This week, the Hurricanes entered with an 0-2-1 mark and needing a win to avoid giving up three games to hockey .500. And just like last week, the Hurricanes obtained the win that they desperately needed to stop the bleeding so to speak and start the next week on a higher note.
The first period of the 1pm start had a bit of a pedestrian pace at the outset with neither team really gaining an advantage early. The Hurricanes seemed to wake up first when Jordan Martinook and Sebastian Aho had two quick scoring chances with Aho being robbed of a goal on the second by the goalie. Then the Hurricanes had a power play that netted a couple pretty good scoring chances but still no goal. Arizona woke up late in the first period and tested Petr Mrazek a couple times late in the period but was also unable to score. The period with ebbs and flows ended with the score still tied at 0-0.
The second period dialed up the pace by a notch and even added a bit of animosity. Arizona was getting the better of the period and a lackluster Canes power play did not help. But then the Hurricanes struck first when Phil Di Giuseppe set a perfect screen on a Calvin de Haan shot. The result was a juicy rebound to the other side and a quick goal by Warren Foegele to break a long 25-game pointless run. The Hurricanes would then run the lead to 2-0 when Justin Faulk headily stepped into a lane in the neutral zone to join the rush and receive the puck. His quick pass across to Andrei Svechnikov offered a good scoring chance and Svechnikov would make no mistake finishing.
After loose play late in losses on Thursday and Friday, the Hurricanes were much sounder in Sunday’s game. Even when Coyotes pushed a bit in the third period, the Hurricanes defended well early in the third period. When Aho went in alone and scored after a neutral zone turnover to put the Hurricanes up 3-0, the game was in hand. The Coyotes did must some shots down the stretch, but Mrazek was solid and the Hurricanes picked up a much-needed 3-0 win.
Player and other notes
1) Petr Mrazek
Mrazek’s perfect game was significant for a Hurricanes team that could have been fighting it with an early deficit. What stood out about Mrazek’s game was how sharp he was at reading/anticipating plays. He had at least three plays where the actual save was fairly easy (puck was shot right into him), but it was only after he anticipated a pass and quickly moved across to where the shot would come from. The game also represented a strong bounce back or Mrazek. The game in front of him was loose on Thursday, but I also think he would have ideally made another save or two in the third period of that game.
2) Leadership from the depth forwards
The fourth line had a huge game and rose up to be the team’s best. Kuokkanen and Di Giuseppe both drew penalties. Warren Foegele finally broke back onto the score sheet with the game’s first goal after not collecting a point for 25 games. Foegele has been too quiet on the score sheet, but along the way his effort level and style of play have actually been fairly consistent especially considering he is a rookie who has been laboring a bit offensively. Good for him getting back on the score sheet. Bishop wins the award for most dialing up the intensity level for the afternoon game. He was noticeably and consistently physical throughout the game engaging the puck and banging bodies whenever given the opportunity. Phil Di Giuseppe also had a strong game. He was the screen that caused de Haan’s shot to carom right to Foegele for the first goal. Di Giuseppe also fed Faulk for a point blank chance in the second period.
3) Andrei Svechnikov
Svechnikov continued his scoring ways with his second period goal. Entering the second third of the season with a hot streak, Canes fans have to hope that he has acclimated to NHL play and ready to find and maintain a higher gear scoring-wise. Calling it like it is, I actually thought Svechnikov’s game was ‘meh’ other than the goal. He had the mostly unforced delay of game penalty early and a couple lackadaisical turnovers in bad places.
4) Calvin de Haan
De Haan had a big game offensively with two assists but more significant for his style of play is that the ‘oopses’ that let too many players behind him early in the season have dwindled, and he is playing incredibly well defensively.
5) Jaccob Slavin
Slavin continues to play his best hockey of the season. Earlier in the season he had a stretch where seemed to be missing his usual two/three-stride acceleration (possibly dinged up?), but he has been back to top gear recently and has been getting results defensively because of it.
Next up for the Hurricanes is a three-day layoff before a quick burst of three home games in four nights before Christmas starting with the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday night.
Matt. Good recap as always. I would add that Slavin is playing better paired with Pesce–who has 4 points in 5 games since returning from the IR. The Canes now have two top D pairings. You and others have rightfully given de Haan credit for helping Faulk dramatically improve his game. I am not 100% sure if it is playing with Pesce that has improved Slavin’s play or if playing with Hamilton limited his effectiveness, but I am sure Pesce is the most under appreciated player in the D corp. It would have been great to add Nylander, but trading Pesce would have been (and still would be if it happens) a bigger loss than most envision.
There is still reason for optimism with 50 games remaining. Three of the biggest concerns prior to the season have either been resolved or are no longer fatal: 1) Number 1 center–Aho is just fine, thank you; 2) Goaltending is not a strength, but with McElhinney and Mrazek it should be serviceable; 3) The addition of de Haan has greatly improved Faulk’s defensive play. If Faulk finds his shot, then he will again be a difference-maker.
The team still needs rookies to play an outsized role. If Svechnikov has truly found another level and if Wallmark finds any way to get to 9% shooting for the next 50 games, then the Canes will remain in the playoff hunt.
To me the most impressive element yesterday was the overall play in the defensive zone – we kept Mrazek’s sight lines open, we cleared rebounds, and we avoided breakdowns clearing the puck. Probably the best effort in the d-zone all season.
And we took advantage of a rookie goalie who let big rebound after big rebound go.
I’m still salivating over that Svech snipe. What a filthy release. I agree it wasn’t his best game, but man. Friendly reminder: he won’t turn 19 until the second to last week of the regular season. He’s already one of our best players, but man he’s gonna be good.
Also, I saw Kuokkanen and Bishop got sent back down. I would have liked to see Janne get a little more run to get comfortable, as I thought he got better each game, but if he’s only getting bottom six minutes he may as well go back and play his normal big role in Charlotte. Bishop played a really strong, physical game as you alluded to as well. But I take it this is good news and means Ferland and Staal should be back Wednesday. That’s obviously a big lift. Hope this team can reel off some wins now, we’re not in bad shape. Just need to find a strong run and thinks could look up in a hurry.
Petr Mrazek has been very good all season. He is playing for a contract with this type of play he’s going to get one. You heard it here first: if this continues for another 10 games or so, the Canes are going to try to extend him.