The Carolina Hurricanes had their mandatory five-day bye week in the days leading up to last night’s win in Detroit, which is theoretically a great thing.
The players, who have strained their bodies on the ice, got an extended period of relaxation, which I can only imagine is filled with massages, TV binges and, for some, trips to the Bahamas (including hockey reporters) and/or Miami Beach for a few of the players. Injured Canes like Brett Pesce and Derek Ryan had a few more days to get ice-ready.
Coaches have a long period of time to, if they choose, rethink strategy.
And the Canes Country staff has time to spend with our family and friends that we don’t get to see as we relentlessly cover the Canes.
(Actually, we just get really bored...)
But in terms of the first game back, results haven’t been fantastic. At one point last season, teams were 4-12-4 in their first games out of the bye week.
However, the Hurricanes erased the all of the question marks about possible fatigue.
1. Will they come out with the necessary speed?
For a team without the speedy Sebastian Aho on the ice, Carolina looked just as quick to the puck. The Hurricanes built up a 9-1 shot differential early in the game, which isn’t too weird for them as far as getting a large shot advantage early, but 9-1?
The skating didn’t seem to be a concern early on, even against the speedy Dylan Larkin and Andreas Athanasiou. Thumbs up here.
2. Will Ward miss early saves because of time off?
Sure, he gave up his only goal of the game in the first period, but you have to admit that Tomas Tatar’s shot was precise to the inch, nicking the corner over Ward’s right shoulder.
Beyond that, Ward looked strong, ending up allowing just that one goal on 24 shots. Thankfully, there were none of the “shoulda had that” goals like we saw in his fall from grace the last few games. The Wings were targeting the spot above his glove hand all night, and he was bailed out by the post a couple of times, but it was a decent enough performance from Ward, and it ended up being enough support for his team to earn the win.
3. Will the passing be as sharp as before?
The Hurricanes still had trouble stringing some of those tighter passes and had trouble moving the puck around in the second period.
A look at the giveaway totals gives a slight glimpse: Detroit 15, Carolina 7. The Wings had more, at least by the count of the off-ice officials, but the Canes’ shaky puck possession was very evident late in the first and early in the second, which coincided with the Wings’ most consistent stretch of carrying the play. Sure, giveaways tend to be just as much about mental mistakes as bad passing, but hey, that just means we’re still crisp in two aspects of the game.
4. Will they run out of gas in the third period?
I think this one was the most emphatically answered.
Elias Lindholm, the new addition to the first line, netted a second power-play goal. Then, in the final minutes, instead of consistently relying on defensive stops, the Hurricanes keep the offensive pressure up and Justin Williams finished off a great sequence of rebounds with less than 2:00 to play.
Judging by Carolina’s abilities fresh off of the break, it looks like there are no excuses in the near future. With a test against the Pacific-leading Golden Knights up next instead of the Atlantic-trailing Red Wings, we’ll get a better picture of the Canes’ speed, intensity and consistency.