Preseason games aren’t necessarily about the result, but the Carolina Hurricanes’ 4-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday at PNC Arena revealed that despite their solid performances on the road, the Hurricanes remain a work in progress. Bill Peters and company have a ways to go to get their game group ready for October 7, but the path to that point became clearer after a game that ranged somewhere between lethargic and comatose.
A few minutes after Phil Di Giuseppe double-clutched on a one-on-one with Lightning goaltender Peter Budaj early in the first period, Tampa struck on a turnaround wrister at 6:33 by Adam Erne to take the lead. Notably, the first period played out with no penalties called in the first ten minutes, and the Canes made the Lightning pay on a pair of penalties.
Lucas Wallmark, one of those players fighting for a roster spot, finished off a beautiful tic-tac-toe play from Elias Lindholm and Martin Necas, who showed why the coaching staff has a big decision to make in whether to keep the 2017 first-overall pick when roster cuts are made later this week.
A minute into the second period, Tampa’s Anthony Cirelli boarded Derek Ryan in front of the Hurricanes bench, and Haydn Fleury jumped in to defend his teammate. Fleury earned an instigator penalty for his trouble but, more notably, he earned the admiration of his teammates, who gave the defenseman a standing ovation when he was finally let out of the box late in the period.
The Lightning, though, got the momentum advantage from the fight, scoring twice in two minutes. Tye McGinn tipped home a Mitchell Stephens point shot after a poor clearing attempt by Sebastian Aho, then Ward somehow let a Mikhail Sergachev shot through the five-hole to make it a 3-1 lead.
Ryan, none the worse for wear, pulled the Canes back to within one midway through the period. His third goal in two preseason games came off a broken play after Budaj stopped Andrew Miller but found himself out of position and unable to collect the rebound.
Brett Pesce could have easily tied it a few minutes later on a power play, with a great chance off a pinpoint pass from Jeff Skinner, but Budaj atoned for his earlier mistake and got across to rob Pesce.
Jeremy Smith and Michael Leighton began the third period in goal for the Hurricanes and Lightning respectively, and Boris Katchouk provided the final nail in Carolina’s coffin with a power-play goal 12:02 into the third. Sebastian Aho redeemed the Canes late, scoring a power-play goal with 1:36 left to provide the final margin.
So, who impressed? Ryan isn’t anyone’s answer to the Canes’ lack of a first-line center, but he can more than hold his own and showed it again tonight. Fleury broke up a two-on-one late in textbook fashion, and his willingness to stand up for his teammate won’t have gone unnoticed. Necas noticeably tired by the end of the night, but early in the game he showed his speed and playmaking ability.
On the flip side, it was a night to forget for Jake Bean. The Hurricanes’ 2016 first-round pick looked totally overwhelmed all night, and almost certainly will be among the first group of camp cuts tomorrow. Ward and Jaccob Slavin have nothing to worry about with regard to their roster spots, but neither particularly distinguished himself, Slavin (admittedly on his off side) sporting a minus-3, one takeaway and one shot while Ward showed why the Canes paid for Scott Darling to take over in net.
Notes and Quotes
For a lot of guys, it was their first game action in a long time, and I don’t think they were great, in terms of timing, their hands, it’s a whole different pace. The guys who have been playing a little bit of hockey are ahead of the guys who haven’t. Derek Ryan looked like he had some jump. Fleury was good. Necas was dangerous at times.
[On Fleury:] That’s a kid who looks like he’s hungry and wants to be in the National Hockey League. He’s trying to tell us he’s done with the American Hockey League. He’s been really good.
Probably 7 to 10 cuts is the number we’re talking about right now. Our schedule gets a little better now, every other day once we start playing again instead of the back to back to back. There were some things we learned tonight. There were some good things, and there were some things that definitely need to be cleaned up.
We’ll take a big group to Washington, Edmonton and Saskatoon. We’ve got lots of guys going on the trip, and when we come home for game seven I’d like that to be our lineup for when we open up against Minnesota.
You don’t really think too much, you just react. Your adrenaline gets going. I didn’t think it was a great hit by any means. I was just standing up for [Ryan]. Last year I had 8 penalty minutes. I had 17 right there.
(Later he said that his last fight was a line brawl in Red Deer when he was 19, so if you were in attendance tonight, it was history in the making!)
I’m just here to take it day by day, work my hardest every day. If that gives me the best chance to play here, that’s my goal at the end of the day.
I feel good. It’s great to play and be here with NHL guys. It’s my dream, and I want to play here like everybody.
It’s faster hockey in the NHL. It’s the best league in the world. The best players play here. I think every game is fast here. I feel comfortable on the small rink. It’s maybe a little better than the big rink, because you make one move and you have a good scoring chance.
- Justin Faulk and Lee Stempniak are the only two veteran skaters to not play a game in the preseason so far. Tyler Ganly and Keegan Kanzig haven’t played yet, so you can assume those two are ticketed out of town come tomorrow.
- One would think that the injured Nicolas Roy, Steven Lorentz and Valentin Zykov are headed down when they are healthy as well, although depending on their recoveries they may hang around to give the coaching staff a chance to evaluate them on the road next week. Of the three, Roy looks the most likely to stick the longest, but it’s highly unlikely that any of them will be around by October 7.
- On the flip side, Lucas Wallmark has earned a long look and I doubt he’s cut before the last set of moves prior to the Washington game next Saturday.. There’s a real chance he makes the team out of camp. Peters loves what he brings, and pointed out that he stepped in for Staal on the power play before he scored the goal to tie the game in the first period.
- The Canes are taking tomorrow off. They’re back on the ice Friday before flying to Washington to start another three-game road trip. While it’s true that none of the players played in each of the games, there was still substantial plane travel the past three days, which Peters said contributed to the sloppiness that we saw for the middle portion of the game.
- My guesses on the cuts coming tomorrow: Bean, Kanzig, Hofmann, Sergey Tolchinsky, Clark Bishop, Ganly, Nick Schilkey and Callum Booth.