Aiming to put an exclamation point on what has been a hugely successful preseason in front a large home crowd for Caniac Carnival day, the Hurricanes came up a tiny bit short.
The game was a success in terms of entertainment value and even a decent amount of intensity and chippy play, but the Hurricanes came up short losing 5-4 in overtime.
The game was sloppy and in terms of crispness and dictating play, it was easily the worst of the preseason. But there were positives within the game itself, and the preseason in total was unmistakably positive, so it is very easy to check some mistakes in video sessions tomorrow and move forward to the regular season in a positive light.
Sebastian Aho on track
After a slow start to preseason, Sebastian Aho officially launched this weekend since being reunited with Teuvo Teravainen for Friday’s game. Aho followed up a three-point night on Friday with another goal on Sunday. More significantly, he is just making more plays offensively again. His goal was a heady one where he jumped a blind passing lane and quickly converted it to a goal. He had a couple other plays where he carried through the middle of the rink and into scoring range. His game looks much more regular season ready than it did only a few games ago which is encouraging.
Warren Foegele offers a mixed bag
Foegele continued his run of making a high volume of good plays both large and small. He was the aggressive forechecker who forced the errant pass on Aho’s goal. He was also physical and a pest again. And arguably his best was the tremendous penalty-killing shift with Jordan Martinook that saw them play offense two against four for most of a shift. But along the way, he also collected three penalties including one that resulted in a power play goal against right after the Hurricanes had tied the score.
Jordan Staal season preview
Jordan Staal’s line was the team’s best for the first half of the game. They scored only once, but my count was four decent or better scoring chances in the first half of the game when the Hurricanes were being largely outplayed otherwise. With three days off before the home opener, Staal had a whopping 23:08 of ice time. If he can handle it and play effectively, I think the Canes lack of experience at the center position could see Staal up in that 22-minute or higher range regularly in tight games. Justin Williams also deserves credit for the line’s strong play early in the game.
He was better on Friday and in general prior in preseason, but I do not see Sunday’s three goals against in just over half of a game as a huge negative. The team in front of him was outplayed to the tune of a number good scoring chances against. Darling made some good saves and had little chance on a couple of the goals against. If the plan was in fact to play Darling the full game, I find pulling him midway a bit odd. (NOTE ADDED: He had a lower body injury which explains the change.) But bigger picture, Scott Darling had a strong preseason and did as much as he could do in terms of offering signs of hope in games that do not matter. I am on record as saying that preseason results mean virtually nothing, but at the same time, I give credit to Darling for doing all he could do in this preliminary stage.
Continued offense from the back end
One underlying theme from the Hurricanes preseason success has been the scoring/production from the blue line. Sunday’s game featured a goal scored and also another from Necas that was a tip on a point shot. The generation of offense from the blue line is encouraging as the team looks to boost scoring in 2018-19 despite being minus Jeff Skinner.
Seizing the opportunity versus playing the long game
Only time will tell if it is legitimately a precursor to the regular season, but in a tight game Brind’Amour leaned heavily on the top part of his lineup and went old school limited minutes for the most part for his fourth line. Lucas Wallmark logged only 5:06 of even strength ice time and 6:40 total, and Jordan Martinook similarly logged only 8:5o of ice time with 6:15 at even strength. It will be interesting to see how Brind’Amour manages his bench as a first-time NHL head coach in trying to balance being opportunistic with balanced for the long-term.
Early on, when Nashvilled dictated play, Faulk struggled in his own end for the first time in preseason. He had two turnovers deep in the defensive zone, one of which led directly to a goal. I will be watching early in the regular season to see if Faulk can successfully dial up to regular season pace.
Netting out the preseason
All in all, the Hurricanes preseason was an overwhelming success. The team pretty consistently outplayed opponents and dictated play. The young players competing for roster spots all made very strong cases. And the special teams and goaltending were pretty good. Though it counts for nothing, I think the team did about all it could do. But it all gets washed away tomorrow, as everyone starts at 0-0-0 to start the regular season.
Next up is REAL Canes hockey with the home opener on Thursday at PNC Arena against the New York Islanders.
I think you don’t give Nashville enough credit. They played a hard, fast game. It lead to the mistakes that the Canes made. It was a reality check. The Canes aren’t going to win every night because they totally outwork their opponent. Sometimes the opponent works hard too.
Darling apparently has a “lower body concern,” which is why he left the game. Not good.
The Canes never gave in for which I give them a lot of credit. The games will be more like this one starting Thursday.
GOOD: Veterans are ready for the regular season. As mentioned, Staal and Williams looked good (although Williams did make a couple of poor passes/decisions). Staal passed the pucked better than at any time last season. Aho and Teravainen also looked ready.
GOOD: Youngsters continue to flash brilliance. Foegele on the PK, Svechnikov with the perfect pass on the power play, Necas with the finish after the Svech pass.
GOOD: Pesce has newfound offensive aggressiveness. Twice now–shorthanded against Washington and yesterday leading to a penalty–he has skated with the puck through the defense.
GOOD: Zykov was on the bench. The first power play unit will improve with his presence.
MIXED BAG: Ferland’s physical play. It gives the crowd energy and keeps the opposition looking over their shoulders. However, all the analysis indicates that hitting has no impact (neither positive nor negative) on the outcome of games. Which would explain why Ferland’s presence on the Flames last season produced much the same results there as Carolina was experiencing without a big hitter.
BAD: The defense is better in the offensive zone, but seems to be slightly out-of-sync in their own end and neutral zone. The Fiala goal looked like a breakdown.
BAD: I have been worried about increase in penalties. If yesterday is any indication, that concern is justified.
So you also noticed the iffy play in the defensive end. All 5 goals came from around the crease – true high-danger shots that we allowed aplenty. Everyone had trouble clearing the puck with turnovers rampant in that zone. Last night we saw the damage that leads to.
Regarding Ferland, I will accept that hitting doesn’t affect win/oss results. But if it brings in the crowd, causes opponents to look over their shoulders, and is appreciated by the good guys then I would suggest that there is nothing mixed about it. Ferland’s hits are always hard – and they are always legal and clean from what I have seen. And enthusiastic as well.
Agree that preseason was a success overall, especially from the standpoint of an increase in aggressive play and consistent effort. Also agree that Darling has done all he can to reclaim himself as an NHL goalie. Hopefully his lower body injury doesn’t keep him sidelined too long
Yesterday’s game exposed areas of concern that hopefully will improve going forward.
1. Defense was very shaky. Lots of bad reads and weak clears by our D core. Some of that is due to aggressive forecheck from a very good NSH team. Some is also mistakes made by rookie forwards who will be on a steep learning curve. They will be exposed playing against higher end competition in the regular season. Our D corp needs to be better as well. Yesterday looked like a repeat of many games we saw last year.
2. Penalties will likely be a concern at the start of the year. I view them as being an offshoot of a more aggressive style combined with lots of inexperience. We’re just gonna have to live with that.
Offensively, we will be better. Aho and TT looked great together. I think Ferland needs to be paired with them, if only to prevent what PK tried to do with both. They need protection and Ferland provides that with some skill to match.
Necas looked lost. He has great speed and is offensively gifted, but he could not find his game and was a nonfactor other than his PP goal. He also looks weak on the boards and on the puck and wonder if eventually he will need time in Charlotte. Worry that he is not ready.
Faulk looked like Faulk from last year. Hoping this game is a blip on the radar going forward. Dougie looked very suspect defensively. That is a concern with the inexperience of our forwards. Pesce’s game is ready and Fleury has taken another step in his development.
All in all, going to be a mixed bag to start the year. Hopefully we can keep our heads above water while the rookies learn to play in the NHL. Will be a stern test of RBA’s and team’s leadership