For the second consecutive night, the Carolina Hurricanes handed the Tampa Bay Lightning a loss by a wide margin. Wednesday’s final tally was 6-1 Hurricanes. This might sound odd, but I actually thought Hurricanes were a decent amount better on Tuesday. Timely finishing and three power play goals ran up the score, but the Hurricanes were sluggish early and sloppy intermittently throughout. But at least for stretches, the pace and aggressiveness were there on Wednesday.
Doing things a bit differently, I will hop straight to player notes and try to cover the recap in the process:
The best summary might be these two Tweets:
4/? Really like Warren Foegele. More than any other young player fighting for a spot, I think he epitomizes what Brind'Amour hockey is supposed to look like. https://t.co/cV0BpanMeR
— Canes and Coffee (@CanesandCoffee) September 20, 2018
When I try to picture the good version of what Rod Brind’Amour hockey would look like, Warren Foegele is it. He very much reminds me of the 2005-06 version of Justin Williams with a little more size and probably even speed but maybe a tiny bit less offensive ability. He just constantly skates hard to get into plays and engage pucks/players such that he is a royal pain to play against on the forecheck and in the neutral zone.
The question with him is how much he can produce offensively at at the NHL level, but I think at a minimum, he is the 2020 prototype of a physical depth forward with skating and enough offensive ability to contribute. He is built for today’s NHL with a wiry strong frame at 6 foot 2 inches tall and 190 pounds. That works fine for today’s NHL for a power forward in a Wayne Simmonds kind of way, but could he play at 205 in a couple years without giving up speed and/or acceleration? Again, this is not a requirement but at 10-15 pounds heavier, he adds a bit of the Erik Cole kind of dangerous that makes defensemen and forwards in the neutral zone quick to give up the puck.
Especially with Brind’Amour trying to effect a change in mentality and style of play, I will be surprised if Warren Foegele is not either on the opening day roster or at least with the team by November after a few things settle out.
He had a strong game. Recycling another Tweet, two things jumped out about his game in the first time seeing him in game action in a Hurricanes uniform.
3/? Two quick things on Dougie Hamilton. 1-He he Skinner-like ability to shoot puck just 1/4 second before he actually receives it which gets puck on net before goalie is expecting. 2-He's very much type of D man where you want puck on his stick as much as possible. #Canes
— Canes and Coffee (@CanesandCoffee) September 20, 2018
For a team that even during successful years did not have a ton of star power on the blue line, Hamilton is the type of defenseman who one wants to have the puck on his stick as much as possible.
The kids from Quebec
The fourth line was a cool mix of Spencer Smallman, Nicolas Roy and Julien Gauthier who all hail from the QMJHL. The line had a productive night being on the ice for two of the Hurricanes’ three even strength goals. Gauthier was the net front presence on the Dougie Hamilton goal. And he followed it up with a nifty play to pivot to get into shooting position and then snipe a goal in the third period. I still think that Gauthier’s game without the puck needs to develop, but he continues to have a high ceiling offensively. In addition, after netting two goals from the crease area in Traverse City, he again factored in a goal by going to the front of the net.
Here is an odd observation, but has anyone else notice how fast Necas is when he is just coasting. He has a knack for pushing off on his last stride such that he almost seems to be accelerating at times when he is just coasting.
His game was a mixed bag. He had a couple nice plays with the prettiest being a play that saw him feed Teuvo Teravainen in the neutral zone, receive the puck back and then circle the net to find Foegele for a point blank chance.
But he will be a work in process defensively at least early in the 2018-19 season. He seems most comfortable getting in deep on the forecheck and using his skating ability to take away angle and force early passes. But a bit like Brock McGinn, he often does this like a heat seeking missile rather than in read/react mode. The result is that he has a tendency to get himself in a bit too deep when he is the second or third forward on the forecheck. He is also still ‘squishy’ defending in the neutral zone. Necas is generally in the right area, but too often is at level 1 just sort of being in the right area but not level 2 where you understand passing lanes, angles and assignments quickly and take things away from the opponent and/or force early passes. Especially with Victor Rask out of the picture right now, best bet is that Necas is best-served by developing at the NHL level even though there will inevitably be some growing pains.
In the post-game press conference, Rod Brind’Amour was asked about possible pressure on Necas being pushed up to the NHL level. He responded by saying that the “pressure was on them” to mean him and the team. He followed by saying something to the effect that Necas was young and would need time to develop. Brind’Amour gets the need to let young players develop and learn from mistakes within reason.
Another side note is that while he is definitely ahead of schedule in terms of skating and ability to use his wheels to create with the puck on his stick, Necas does not have a great NHL shot yet. He did score on a nifty deflection, but with a few other decent shooting opportunities, the goalie had no problem tracking his shot for easy saves.
Kuokkanen collected three points in Wednesday’s win. More significantly, I just think he is the prospect forward most ready mentally to play at the NHL level. I yammered a couple times about how well he gets positioning and puck support in his Traverse City play. That was on display again tonight. I really think his skill set as a player with decent playmaking and offensive ability but also with strong hockey IQ/decision-making is a perfect fit for Staal’s line. Even though he is inexperienced, I think he has a good chance to be competent defensively, but he also brings some offense.
I think the risk of putting a couple other offensive type young players is that they could be in over their head with the match ups and defensive responsibilities that Staal faces. And I think the risk of putting a pure/maximum defensively player on that wing could limit the line’s ability to generate offense other than cycling the puck and feeding the point. Solid defense is priority #1 for Staal’s line, but in today’s NHL, there must be a scoring component too. It is just too hard to break even by shutting out good scoring lines every night.
Regardless of where he fits, Kuokkanen made a strong case for NHL ice time on Wednesday night.
A couple quick hitters
If Jordan Staal had more finishing ability, he could push to 30 goals. He had two garden spot type chances on Wednesday and fired off the goalie on both.
Scott Darling seemed to be struggling to track the puck early. He had one shot go through him but not into the net followed by a couple unscreened shots where he spit out rebounds. But he fought through it and got better as the game wore one, and what is not to like about 30 minutes of shutout hockey.
I will be curious to see if Justin Faulk can find the range and timing from the top of the face-off circle on the left side. The power play is back to a more pronounced two low and three high with the umbrella type positioning that has only one true point man flanked by players that work the half boards to the top of face-of circle. On Faulk’s unit, Hamilton was the point and Faulk in one-timing position on the left side. A couple years back, he had a huge season blasting away on the power play more from a point position. This arrangement sees him shooting from even closer. At that range, Faulk has the ability to clean beat goalies even if they see the shot.
It is only one game, but I modestly downgraded Saku Maenalanen. He did not look out of place or bad, but my first impression of him was that he is serviceable defensively and possibly capable of filling an NHL roster spot but more of an offense-lite checking line forward. Based on what some of the other players are doing so far, I do not think that will be enough to crack the roster.
Not sure if it was a function of line mates, but Sebastian Aho sputtered a bit on a night when a lot else clicked. I like the idea of using preseason ice time to try unknown or little used combinations, but I think when the dust settles that Aho and Teravainen will be together as two-thirds of the top scoring line.
Winning is better than losing. And I think that for teams who were not good enough in the prior season some amount of preseason is an important part of building confidence. That said, I think too much could be made of the Hurricanes two dominant wins over a good team. Subject to change in the last four preseason games, the current trajectory would have fans greatly adjusting expectations based on games that do not matter much. It will be interesting to see how the team fares from here on out.
Next up is another home preseason game on Friday against the Washington Capitals.
1. Goaltending: Booth looks like the real deal in goal. Very calm and appeared always under control. Has great anticipation. Darling was okay and got the job done. Acceptable performance and something he can build on. He definitely didn’t leave any gaping holes or overplay.
2. Forwards: Justin was electing to pass rather than shoot when he had open shot opportunities. Hope he doesn’t abandon shooting when he has a good scoring opportunity. He did make some excellent plays otherwise. Kouk…nen played extremely well. It took a period for all the forwards to get their game together as the first period was ragged. Melau…nen showed some flashes but didn’t do much to grab a roster spot. Ferland scored and showed some grit and was okay. Noticed he went straight towards the net quite a few times and scored his goal by doing it as a rebound came right out onto is stick while he was attacking the net. Aho and Teravainen didn’t do much as they tried to be too tricky with the puck and didn’t get much on the goal. Necas had flashes of brilliance, but was not dominant by any means. Foegle earned some more ice time as he played a consistently good game and showed flashes of offensive ability. Overall, team appeared much more aggressive in going to the net on offense compared to last season.
3. Defense: Hamilton, Faulk, Dehaan, and Slavin all had decent games. Carrick played tough, but he did have trouble getting puck out of his defensive zone as did Didier.
4. Team: Played hard and played 60 minutes. When they got a comfortable lead they didn’t let up and continued to attack. Power play looked pretty good with a lot of puck and player movement. Penalty kill was decent and limited the number of real scoring opportunities.
Impressive showing from the new players – what you would expect from Hamilton, deHaan, Ferland. But Necas’ play blew me away – and Kuokk is going to make it difficult to send him back to Charlotte. Maenelanen was solid and moved well. As much as Foegele’s name was called I was not overall impressed, also not with Roy. It was good to see Goat score – he certainly looked a lot better in his positional play than he did in the past; but still think he is not there and not sure he will find that path.
I liked the play of our Charlotte D-men – Carrick and Didier, very gritty both of them.
Who stays and who leaves tomorrow – which I expect to be a day of cuts before the next game.
The best part about this group of blueliners is that I thought to myself while it wasn’t the ‘best’ at times I also thought wow – in the case of so many injuries if the Canes had to trot out this exact blueline in the regular season it wouldn’t even be THAT bad. And to think Didier and Carrick are probably not even the 1st or 2nd defensive callups that must bode very well for the defensive depth this season for the Canes. Hopefully they dont face any injuries but I do feel very safe in the fact that the AHL blueliners the Canes hold can definitely fill in adequately in the 3rd pairing.
Carrick played with a LOT of pace that I hadn’t seen from him in the past but as Matt has always pointed out he still lacked that crisp decision making process and clean first pass that seems essential to be an NHL dman. SKillset wise to me he’s NHL caliber but hey he’s solid. I was thinking back a couple years when one of the Canes first d callups was Rasmus Rissanen and to think just how far the blueline depth has come since then…
Thanks for the comments Red and TJ, the game was blocked in Asheville.
Bull Durham quote- I love winning man. It is better than losing.
What I liked about the young forwards is what they CAN do. Necas showed a lot of what he can do, which is high level for sure. Great vision and skating. He needs to play in Raleigh.
Foegele is a player that constantly does something. Good and bad. The bad can be fixed. Too many players do a whole lot of nothing. (cough…Lindholm…cough) Foegele will make mistakes and take some penalties, but he’ll create plays and draw penalties too. If he can learn and cut down on the mistakes he will be a handful and fun to watch. Kuokkanen looked good too. Right place at the right time. Smart player. Probably needs to play with good players to be effective. If it came down to Kuokkanen and Foegele I think Foegele has the advantage because he will be effective on any line.
Did anyone else see a difference in Justin Faulk’s approach to the game? He seemed totally engaged, faster to pucks and actually glad to be on the ice with this team. Very unlike last seasons version of himself, more like the Faulk of past seasons.
Less responsibility for Faulk on the PP as well. Hamilton is the QB and Faulk sets up on the off side for his bomb. I like it.
RBA and the organization are going to have some really tough decisions for the season’s forward lineup. I really liked what we’ve seen from Wallmark, Foegele, and Necas.
I’m intrigued by a PP with Hamilton and Faulk on the ice at the same time. Could make this team very dangerous with the man advantage. Feeling more and more that team is right to hold onto Faulk this season unless there’s a huge offer they can’t refuse.
Darling settled in eventually, but he still looks shaky. I have a feeling that Mrazek is going to win the starting spot – he’s on a one year deal and is fighting for his career, and has had past success as a starter.
Even if Kuokkanen doesn’t add a lick of offense to his game at the NHL level in his present form is he not already Joakim Nordstrom? The guy is always in the right position and always seems to make the smart play. Floor seems that he’d be a skilled 4th line winger and who knows where his ceiling is.
I did think Faulk was more engaged but that being said I didn’t think he was great. He reminded me of Darling in this game – actually QUITE effective but really nothing looked easy or natural. Plus other than Didier and Carrick struggling a bit to break the puck out I’d say Faulk easily had the most turnovers in the defensive zone.
Necas played like a typical skilled rookie – had some ‘oh boy he’s going to die’ moments where he got physically bullied but also had some head turning moments. The one thing I like is he does play the game at an exceedingly high pace.
The guy who stole the spotlight last night for me (other than J Staal who played GREAT) was Dougie Hamilton. Just WOW. Watching him play he is everything you’d expect from a #1 dman – ZERO panic threshold, plays incredibly quiet efficient defense, transitions the puck well, and dang he is always a threat to generate offense with lead passes, one-time passes, shots and rebounds. Slavin kind of looked like he got to coast playing next to such an elite player.
De Haan + Faulk was absolutely terrible the only pairing of the night that didn’t look good. At least the Canes know both Slavin – Faulk and Slavin – Pesce are pairs that can work. Hamilton will probably work with anyone.
Matt, I agree with just about all of your observations but have one to add. I didn’t didn’t see all of both games, but I was able to watch most of the games after having trouble getting the stream until about 8 or 10 minutes into the first period. (BTW, for others who had trouble streaming the games, I was finally able to succeed using Chrome on a Samsung Android tablet but it took about ten tries for each game. It seemed to help to close the tab where I failed to get the stream, go back to the Canes’ home page and use the link there to open a new tab. I never got the game with a retry on a tab where I’d failed before.)
Before adding a new observation, I just want to echo the idea that Foegele has to make the team. He must have a lot to learn but he is a great example of constant intensity on skates. Combine that with his speed and willingness to go to the net and he’s too much of an asset to send back to Charlotte. Better to live with some rookie mistakes than sacrifice his speed and intensity.
OK, here’s the observation I want to add. Last night there were a couple of times in the game when the Canes turned the puck over and the TB player seemed to have lots of space to attack and that space suddenly closed. I thought it had to be Foegele closing in but when I saw the number, it was 21 – Julien Gauthier. So Gauthier did do at least a couple of things without the puck, including recognizing a danger, reacting quickly, moving fast and changing the situation. I’m not saying Gauthier played that way all the time, but seeing that made me think of Gauthier as potentially a bigger Foegele with a great shot. I would love for RBA to tell Gauthier, “We’re sending you back to Charlotte. You’ll be back in Raleigh when you’ve learned to play all-out all-the-time like Foegele.”
Also about Gauthier: I thought when he scored the goal, he was trying to pass, saw the danger of a turnover and decided to skate forward and shoot. The thing is, very little time passed between Gauthier’s decision to shoot and the puck going into the net. I thought Gauthier was fast but I never thought of him as being quick, too. He was quick both mentally and physically in this case.
You mentioned that if Foegele gets bigger, he could “add a bit of the Eric Cole kind of dangerous.” Gauthier already is bigger. He just needs to add some Foegele-like intensity and he can be like Eric Cole too. It’s probably easier to add muscle than intensity but it’s nice to have two young guys with NHL size and speed and Cole-like possibilities.
I too noticed what you described on Gauthier especially in the 3rd period. If he can like you said play with the energy of Foegele every shift then he may be a hidden gem. I think he is playing for the right coach to stress this.
I was also super impressed with Hamilton. He definitely was the best defenseman on the ice.
Another thing that stuck out to me was how our defensemen were all night clearing out the Lightings away from the net even after the whistle. I thing RBA is stressing this. I really thing he wants us to be tougher to play against and send a statement to the rest of the league. No more Candy Canes.
Boy O/M is going to have some tough decisions come cut time.
I’m with you pretty much all the way around here, Matt. Really glad you mentioned that Q line – I thought all three had strong games. I continue to be a big Roy fan, Smallman brought some energy and pace that I really liked in a subtle, responsible way, and Gauthier looked much improved – noticeable multiple times battling in the corners and in front of the net as you mentioned. Is it just me, or are we about to actually have a legitimately tight, good competition at forward in camp this year? That’s quite exciting. If you ask me, Foegele, Kuokkanen, and Zykov all look (in an admittedly small sample size so far) like they absolutely deserve a shot witb the big club to break camp, if they keep it up. But is there enough room? What about DiG who also had a strong game (and looked great at the end of last year)? All four goalies have been impressive to me. Darling had that one near “oops” but as you said, after a couple shaky early plays settled in and made some fine saves. Can’t complain much about 16 of 16 either way. And Dougie and the blue line… not exactly a big test against the Lightning C squad, but there was some good stuff there too, even if that was accompanied by some shaky defensive play too. I like what de Haan brings to this blue line a lot, and I think Slavin and Hamilton (if that’s how we match them up) has the potential to be a top 5ish pairing in the league. Dougie is so good offensively… I LOVE that powerplay with him atop the umbrella making seam passes and ripping his monster shot, especially with Faulk flanking him to the left demanding a ton of attention as well… very exciting to have those two trigger men where you can’t focus in on one, making them both all the more dangerous. Dougie also showed off a physical edge last night in the corners and clearing the front of the net which is desperately needed with this team. He was great. And Necas is very, very exciting. He’s obviously ready right now to make a load of plays offensively. But I, too, worry a bit about his 200-foot game. I wonder if he needs to play on a line with maybe Williams and McGinn, two responsible veteran players that’ll help make sure he doesn’t get into too much trouble out there. Either way… regardless of these results which obviously don’t matter whatsoever… the talent level of this team is clearly MUCH higher than it has been in quite some time. On the one hand, I want to keep my expectations to a minimum, but on the other… I know this team has the potential to be a playoff team. And, to be honest, not just one that scrapes in by their noses, but a team that no one wants to play against come April, either. As a matter of fact, there’s no reason that they shouldn’t (well, except maybe the goalies). But between this young forward core, that solid-as-hell defense, and that Brind’Amourian tenacity and physicality they showed last night that I hope to see maintained all season long… well. It’s just long past time. But I am certainly encouraged so far.
I want to second (or third or whatever) some of the comments about Gauthier looking a lot more ready then expected. I think he still needs more time in Charlotte, but at the same time we can feel a lot more confident about bringing him up if needed.
Where I’m really feeling a lot more confident is in terms of goaltending. The big fear going into this season has been, “What if neither Darling or Mrazek can give us at least league average goaltending?” Now I think we have more options. I know half a game a piece isn’t enough to base too much optimism on, but I’m still feeling a lot more comfortable that at least one of the four can give us solid goaltending. Although I hope Darling and Mrazek can do the job and Ned and Booth can compete and grow in Charlotte, I’ll be a lot more confident now if we have to bring up either one.