Carolina's defense pairings — which include Tim Gleason, right, playing with rookie Jamie McBain — have a been a work in progress through three games. (Photo by Phillip MacCallum/Getty Images)
The Carolina Hurricanes dropped their first game of the season Thursday, losing 3-2 to the Senators in Ottawa. Here are five observations from last night's game.
1. If Cam Ward continues to play like he has through three games, the Hurricanes will be a playoff team. That's saying a lot, seeing that the Hurricanes allowed several scoring prime scoring opportunities last night. He's faced 81 shots the last two games and allowed just four goals — one of which, the first from last night, was an absolute fluke — and he's allowed just three even-strength goals through three games.
2. In the long run, pairing Joni Pitkanen with Joe Corvo and Tim Gleason with Jamie McBain may pay dividends, but right now it's costing the Hurricanes. Corvo and Gleason have always had a great on-ice rapport, but the current top two pairings have definitely had moments of confusion in the season's first three games. That's to be expected, and seeing that the team has won two of three makes it more "something to watch" than a pressing concern.
3. It's hard not to like the effort of Carolina’s rookie forwards. Drayson Bowman has been one of the Canes’ top defensive forwards and is creating more and more chances in the offensive zone. Jeff Skinner has arguably been the Hurricanes’ most noticeable forward through three games, seemingly manufacturing a scoring opportunity every second or third shift. And Zac Dalpe, though limited to around seven minutes a night, has looked comfortable with the NHL pace. All that being said, Dalpe and Skinner have shown a tendency to run around in their own end a little and, coupled with the lack of chemistry in the top two defensive pairings, that has led to chances for Carolina's opponents.
4. Nick Foligno’s hit on Patrick Dwyer is a perfect illustration of the blind-side hit to the head that the NHL claims it wants to get rid of. Yet there was no penalty on the play, with the officials telling Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice that the hit was shoulder to shoulder (judge for yourself below).
"They felt that the hit was shoulder to shoulder," Maurice said to the Ottawa media after the game. "Unless Patty's [Dwyer] head is growing out of his armpit, I'm not sure how that is possible. [The referees] just missed it."
An interference penalty called on Milan Michalek shortly after the hit had the feel of a make-up call — and it led to Carolina's first goal — but that still doesn't address the fact that the early season results are in and nothing has changed with the officials calling penalties on these hits, particularly if the victim isn't laying prone on the ice. It shouldn't take a player suffering a serious injury — or the offender displaying clear malice, of which I don't believe Foligno had — for the call to be made.
5. Maurice finally tweaked his top line, inserting Skinner in place of Chad LaRose on Eric Staal's wing. LaRose has had plenty of chances through three games, but if a more skilled player had been receiving those opportunities Carolina might have more than eight goals this season. That's not a knock of LaRose, who continues to do all the things that make him valuable — hustling, finishing off checks, chirping at opponents, being reliable defensively — but he's simply not a top-line player and finisher. On the other side, Erik Cole has been productive on Staal's wing.