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About Last Night: For Greiss’ Sake

A sluggish first period and little success near the crease adds to the Canes’ frustrations against Thomas Greiss.

NHL: New York Islanders at Carolina Hurricanes James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

The first game of the season is always one to take with a grain of salt. Carolina’s 2-1 overtime loss to the Islanders on Oct. 4 was tough, but the Canes picked it up quick and we knew everything would be alright.

The second time around, against the same team starting the same goalie, the problems were just as bad — if not worse in some areas — with another 2-1 loss, this time without the courtesy point.

Thomas Greiss made 38 saves on the night, and in the Opening Day affair, he made 45. So this year, he’s 83-for-85 (.976 SV) against the Canes, while he’s only 45-for-52 (.865 SV) in his other three appearances this year.

He also went 2-0 with a .948 save percentage against Carolina last year, which raises the question: What does he know that we don’t know?

What I thought Greiss did so frustratingly well last night was control his crease. Anytime the Canes had a puck to whack at near around the blue, he routinely stoned them and was always in the right position. The lone goal he allowed came off a rebound that Teuvo Teravainen corralled, but Justin Williams looked like he could have two himself if not for Greiss’ composure at close range.

(In fact, Williams nearly had a goal in the first that would have helped to solve two of Carolina’s constant woes — first-period production and power-play scoring.)

Nearly every one of the Canes’ shots from range were, once again, routine saves, outside of the one that Jordan Martinook nearly roped in for a backhand shot. Very little established presence down low for redirects and tips plus great goaltending when the net-front presence leads to poke-it-in scoring changes will have anyone shaking their head.

But I just want to point out that lost in the noise of Greiss was a good performance by Petr Mrazek, and not in the sense of “well, he gave up four goals, but like, three of those weren’t his fault.” He was actually about as solid as one could ask for.

The first goal was a little unfortunate, for sure, especially when you consider it was NINE SECONDS INTO A PENALTY KILL (we’ll be talking about special teams for years, not even going waste space here). A little end-over-end action on a quick redirect thwarted Mrazek, who seemed to be in position for a save. The second goal was just an absolute snipe.

But as the defense bailed out Mrazek in his Opening Day start, he bailed out the defense quite a few times. He didn’t go dancing outside the crease in some “goaltending is my passion” performance, kept in position well and made some big saves, especially in the third period as the Canes tried to rally.

Ultimately, he needed more offense on Sunday than the offense needed more defense and goaltending, and the shooters simply couldn’t bury shots. (On a related note, raise your hand if hearing Rod say “the pucks are going to go in at some point” made you deflate in your seat.)

Despite the pessimism that last night’s game warrants with regard to the offense, I really don’t want it to overshadow just how incredible Sebastian Aho has been. That Williams chance in the first period (video above) was set up by a slick Aho pass that nearly became an assist, but he got his 12th of the year on Turbo’s goal.

That makes 11 STRAIGHT GAMES with an assist, much less a point. We know the point streak tied Ron Francis for most in franchise history, but just how many players have had apples in at least 11 consecutive games to start a season?

Oh, my...