Brief recap of Hurricanes 4-1 win over the Lightning
As is often the case for road games early in preseason, the home team has a number of the top players dressed to play in front of the home crowd and skip some of the preseason travel, and just the opposite the road team travels without many of its top players and instead with a young group. That was exactly the case on Tuesday night in Tampa Bay with the Lightning icing what would figure to be the superior team on paper.
But the paper meant nothing. The Hurricanes dictated play and were the aggressor pretty much from the outset. The young forward group to a man, attacked the puck and took away space especially on the forecheck and in the neutral. The result was a strong start in terms of puck possession and minimal pressure 5v5 on the defense and the goalie. Combined with a shaky first period from Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy, the Hurricanes jumped out to a 2-0 lead. First, tryout defenseman Michal Cajkovsky made the most of his chance to suit up in a NHL uniform when he scored through a Morgan Geekie screen to put the Canes up 1-0. Cajkovsky. He looked you the next coming of Brent Burns for most of the first period playing much of the period creeping down to the top of the face-off circle to support the puck and then firing at will when it arrived. He had a least five first period shots, mostly of a good quality. Then Lucas Wallmark beat Vasilevskiy cleanly on a soft goal to post the young Canes squad to a 2-0 lead.
The second period was more of the same with the Hurricanes being the faster, more aggressive team. Valentin Zykov scored next on a tip on a Patrick Brown blast from the point. Tampa Bay did net a goal next, but the Hurricanes then finished it off with a pretty power play tic-tac-toe passing play that saw Wallmark find Phil Di Giuseppe alone in front who then fed Andrei Svechnikov who made no mistake finishing.
The story of the game was the Hurricanes forwards play. They dictated tempo and made it miserable for Tampa Bay to do anything with the puck. Both Petr Mrazek and Alex Nedeljkovic were solid with a few good saves each, but the volume of shots they saw was modest. And though the blue line held up pretty well, I credit it more to the forwards doing a tremendous job pressuring the puck in all three zones.
Player and other notes
1) Lucas Wallmark
Because of his status as my front runner for the center slot vacated by Victor Rask, Wallmark had his only bullet point in my game preview. He put a stake in the ground with a strong performance all-around. He had a fortuitous goal and also a pretty assist both on the power play. He also had a couple other plays where he put the puck on Svechnikov’s stick with a chance to score. After serviceable but ‘meh’ offensive play in his short NHL audition in 2017-18, Tuesday’s game was the first time he demonstrated offensive upside in a Hurricanes uniform.
2) Greg McKegg
The veteran AHLer would not be high on anyone’s watch list nor would he be a player expected to compete for an NHL roster spot, but if it is true that these things will be decided on the ice and not based on history, expectations or pedigree, then I think McKegg took a nice step forward on Tuesday. McKegg had only a single assist but still played well enough to make a case for being the Hurricanes best forward on a night when many played well. He, as much as anyone, played a fast and aggressive game that attacked the puck when the Lightning had it and advanced it north-south when he had it on his stick. He could easily have had a couple goals and maybe more significantly gave Head Coach Rod Brind’Amour something to think about.
3) Andrei Svechnikov
Svechnikov had the pretty snipe on the Di Giuseppe pass and also a secondary assist, but I think what was most encouraging was how comfortable he looked with the pace and also fast play in crowded places. My reference point is Elias Lindholm as an 18-year old who despite being a similarly high draft pick, just looked overwhelmed at times with the pace and physical play in small spaces. Svechnikov showed good vision and awareness with the puck on his stick in a crowded neutral zone and looked equally comfortable in the corners. More succinctly, he looked ready to play in the NHL.
4) Valentin Zykov
The simplicity and consistency of Zykov’s game is wonderful. In total, I would not say that he stood out as much as a few other players in terms of ‘wow’ factor. But Zykov did what he always does which is to go to the top of the crease whenever possible, create havoc for the goalie and make it productive. He had a tip from point blank range early that was on net but saved and then another later for a tip goal. In a game where beating elite netminders is just incredibly difficult when they track the puck, Zykov changes that dynamic by making it hard on the goalie whether he is actually scoring just making a mess of a distraction in front him.
5) Petr Mrazek
His play could be underrated a bit because of the small shot volume he faced in his 30ish minutes of play. But it’s hard not to like perfect, and he also made a handful of really good saves along the way. I am on record as saying that preseason play counts pretty much zero for goalies, but nonetheless Mrazek deserves credit for a strong first outing in a Canes uniform.
6) Michal Cajkovsky
As noted above, the defenseman on a tryout contract made the most of his opportunity early on peppering shots at the net one after another. Cajkovsky picked up two minor penalties and a couple times had trouble defending onrushing forwards to the outside. He gets a mixed review, but his sense in terms of stepping into play offensively was at least enough to garner attention. As he is just setting foot into NHL action, it will be interesting to see how quickly he can adjust to NHL speed. My estimation after one game is that he is not ready for the NHL level, but might be worth a contract and AHL ice time to see how rapidly he can adjust.
7) The burning question
The forward play was impressive. They generally played a simple and aggressive game pursuing the puck in all three zones. At least theoretically, the pace and aggressiveness (and hopefully the success in Tuesday’s game) could potentially be the first part of what we call “Brind’Amour hockey”. But to be honest, I think the Caniac Nation, myself included, is so desperate for signs of a positive trajectory that 60 minutes of hockey in game 1 of the preseason could be taken for more than it really is.
As I said on Twitter after the game, the forward group on Tuesday was largely comprised of young prospects eager to make an impression and a sprinkling of depth ‘energy’ type forwards including Brock McGinn, Jordan Martinook and Phil Di Giuseppe whose strength is playing this brand of hockey.
So the burning question is whether a lineup of players on Wednesday who mostly already has jobs and whose strength is more so skill can repeat Tuesday.
The geo blackout is no fun–so I am going on Forslund’s call of the game and comments on several other “live” blogs.
While you emphasized the forward play, listening to the game left me with the impression that Bean, Fleury, McKeown, and van Riemsdyk played strong games. John and Tripp made several comments about Bean’s defending as well as making him sound like a really active power play quarterback. Tripp (I know it was Tripp being Tripp) talked about Fleury being more involved in all aspects of the game. And just from the play-by-play, I had the impression that McKeown was taking time away from Tampa’s best players.
I agree that Zykov changes the dynamic. When he was given the third goal last evening, I realized how he is capable of shooting 25% in the AHL. He is not a shooter. He isn’t going to take 4-5 shots per game. But he might get 4-5 shots on goal. However, due to the pace of the game I am pretty sure the official scorer doesn’t review every save to see if it was tipped/redirected. So while Zykov might have three redirections, he is only credited with the one that beats the goalie. His skillset is going to make his line mates and the D on the ice much more effective.
As several of us discussed yesterday, Wallmark’s talents are much more that of an offensively productive center than a grinder. I hope RBA is willing to go with 4 high-tempo lines: basically three attacking lines and Staal’s line that can be aggressive in both ends.
My concern now is that the veterans struggle tonight to find the energy that the Checkers-plus-Russians had in Tampa.
I wasn’t able to watch the game either, but Tripp praising Bean’s defensive game could be the kiss of death. He used to praise Skinner’s as well…
Glad to see the Canes aggressive. Win or lose that’s the kind of hockey that’s fun to watch. I do expect that will be the kind of hockey Brind’Amour will want. It’s fun for the players, too.
Overall, I’m sure the Bolts vets weren’t going 100%. They are getting their legs under them, while the young kids have something to prove. It will be interesting to see how the game goes tonight with the Canes running out their veterans.
I was fortunate to be in a geo where I could watch the game.
It was preseason game one, grinders and kids, etc, and there was really no way know how much of the game was played “in system” for either team.
That said, the offensive play couldn’t have looked more different. The canes worked the puck and players to the center of the ice throughout, starting with zone entries and constant net front traffic. The first period had Svechnikov to McKoewan for a beautiful secondary rush that had all of the elements of a very high percentage opportunity. That one goes in 50% ish of the time. The forechecking was also super effective but that may have been due to veterans who haven’t got going for TBL.
In short, I loved what appeared to be system elements, as well as what was definitely effort / culture elements. There were a. Inch of lbudding RBAs buzzing around out there. RBA has some tough decisions to make at all positions.
The true test will be if the veterans bring the same style and effort level tonight.
1. The “optics” of goaltending were encouraging. Mrazek’s puck handling was impressive.
2. The team looked bigger (and harder to play against) w/o being slower. Net front presence on both ends was noticeably better. Forecheck looked more formidable,i.e., less like gnats, more like raptors.
3. No team let down after the score became 3 -1 and the short 5 on 3 sequence. Last years experience left me a feeling of impending doom at this point. The feeling was needless.
I got to listen to the game and see some highlights. While tempered with the realization that this is one game and the kids are playing for their nhl spot, one thing stands out to me. I think this team wants to play for Coach RBA and play his style.
Aggressive forecheck and going to the front of the net are magical words for long time fans. Culture change has been a big discussion here at C&C. Perhaps last night was a good first example of the new culture.
RBA may not demonstrate tactical or technical wizardry this year, but if 23 players buy in to his style and leadership, good things will happen. Players played hard and played well last night. This fan can get excited about a team like that.
Watched about a period of the game, but thought that Wallmark stood out. I think he needs to be paired with talented linemates in the same way that Lindholm excelled when he could set up wingers who could finish. Svech had his moments where you can see that he can be a game changer.
I thought McKegg played a heck of a game. He was all over the ice creating havoc. He definitely made people take notice. Even Esposito mentioned him. Svech is going to be so good. He is the real deal. He made me smile so many times especially in the 3rd period. think Wallmark is for real too. I saw that in Charlotte last year. Z’s deflection was text book. He will provide something we all know we need… net front presence. As for Bean….He made too many Ryan Murphy type passes in the defensive zone and really needs some seasoning. Just like Murph he has some impressive offensive skills. We will see but I am not too optimistic on him.
Wow with the depth and talent the Hurricanes have it is going to be exciting to watch. As well as the Checkers.