This week saw a bit of everything from the Carolina Hurricanes. There were games (yes, plural!) in which they scored five goals, there were games in which they came back to win, and there was one game that was simply a dud.
Sadly, I’m here to focus on the dud—not because dwelling on the negative is a great thing to do, but because the rising team still has a ways to go, and it showed. Take a look:
This goal was the perfect microcosm of the entire game in Columbus.
Brock McGinn, who had an overall stellar week for the Hurricanes, starts this play off in an uncharacteristically poor fashion: with a turnover. We see him above along the boards with Jordan Staal as a valid passing option, but instead electing to go through the middle to the unsuspecting Justin Faulk (more on that in a second).
Faulk (standing on the “a” of the Nationwide writing) never saw the pass coming. In the embedded video, you can see him on the replay jumping forward in reaction to the surprise pass.
Because of this, coupled with McGinn’s puzzling choice to make a cross-ice pass, Scott Hartnell easily intercepts it and begins to head back into the Carolina zone. Notice, though—Carolina has two players in his way, with more off-screen. It should be fine, right?
Right, to an extent. The players are in good position, but they are not prepared. Look at Faulk and Staal’s respective sticks. They are holding them waist high, with the former likely expecting a dump attempt.
But now look at Lukas Sedlak’s stick placement. His is on the ice anticipating a pass. Perhaps this is a set regroup play that the Blue Jackets have run in practice, or maybe he and Hartnell have fantastic chemistry, but the next play caught the Canes defenders flat-footed in a big way.
Hartnell deftly slides a pass in front of Faulk, but under his raised stick, towards Sedlak in the middle. Staal, who was looking to support Faulk in a potential 50/50 battle, is overly committed to one side of the ice, leaving the middle lane wide open.
Sedlak now has a mini 1-on-1 with Ron Hainsey ahead of him, but also knows that he has other options as he breaks into the zone.
The trouble for Hainsey (and the five Hurricanes on the ice as a whole) is that Columbus’ speed in transition is one of their biggest strengths. Ironically, it is also one of Carolina’s, so you can see here what the Canes try to do on their own counterattack.
Hainsey gets caught a bit off guard. His gap to Sedlak is very wide, and he seems overly cautious to make any sort of move.
Not much of a speedster, Sedlak quickly runs out of room with Hainsey’s long reach and Staal looming just to the side. He drops the puck back to Sam Gagner, who should have been covered more tightly by McGinn, for a quick shot.
But let’s talk about Hainsey. He looks to be preparing to block Gagner’s shot, but why? The shot is from well north of the faceoff circles, and he is the only traffic. If he stays with Sedlak and allows the quick shot, Cam Ward has a (likely) easy save to make.
Instead, he freezes and goes down in an uncommitted shot-block attempt, allowing Sedlak past him with ease.
Hainsey’s half-try to block the shot ends up being the worst-case scenario—Ward doesn’t handle the puck cleanly, and Sedlak still gets past. All he can do is hook Sedlak down to the ice in a last-ditch attempt to slow him, but the rebound comes off of Ward too quickly for Hainsey to catch up.
It has to be said that this was an awful game from Ward. He’s been wonderful for the better part of three months now, so this can be forgiven, but this play alone is cringe-worthy. In any other game during the past few weeks, he catches that puck with no issue. But in the perfect storm of terrible that was the game on Tuesday night, his rebound control left him out to dry.
Ward’s solid positioning at the top of his crease leaves him susceptible to a play from the side, kind of like the one you see above. The juicy rebound that he left is quickly pounced upon by Sedlak, who skillfully bats it into the upper portion of the net.
Columbus’ players certainly deserve credit for the impressive plays they made during the game, and on this play. But they were gifted quite a few chances (and goals) from the team in white. Between McGinn’s ill-advised turnover, Faulk and Staal both way overcommitting to Hartnell, and Hainsey being unsure in front of his own net, Carolina set themselves up for disaster in this instance.