Welcome to About Last Night! Many of you are quite familiar with this series but for the newcomers, this is a regular series after almost every game in which we dive further in to just what exactly happened last night during the Carolina Hurricanes game.
So without any further adieu, let’s get into it.
Last night the Carolina Hurricanes dropped a game in which they should have won, falling to the New York Islanders by the score of 2-1 in overtime. Stop me if you have heard this before: the Canes completely dominated the game, far out shot their opponent, but failed to put the puck in the back of the net enough, only to lose in overtime.
That, my friends, became the story that Bill Peters was known for during his tenure with the Hurricanes. All of that was supposed to change this summer with new head coach Rod Brind’Amour, multiple roster moves, and an energized fan base ready to ‘Take Warning’. Yet here we are, once again. New coach, new players, new philosophies, but same results.
It’s an extremely tough pill to swallow especially since this narrative has written itself so many times before over the past few years. All that being said, it still feels like, even with last night’s result, that this will not be a habitual event with this team. Maybe that’s not the case and the team will suffer through agonizing defeats all year, but let’s talk about the events from last night and why the Canes can build from this loss.
From the time the puck dropped until the overtime period began, the Hurricanes dominated play. The team put 46 shots on goal last night and all but one of those was stopped by Thomas Greiss. Even after what must have been frustrating stop after frustrating stop, the Canes never lost their cool. They stuck with it and were eventually rewarded. Maybe it is because it is the first game and everyone is fresh, or maybe it’s Brind’Amour’s new system, but the players never quit like they had at times in similar circumstances under Peters’ leadership.
They remained resilient and fought hard all the way until the end of regulation. Hitting multiple posts, having numerous chances to score, the sellout crowd inside PNC Arena grew anxious for a goal, and as time went on they started getting even more anxious. You could notice the differences with the team but the results weren’t there. That is, until Jordan Staal deflected a puck in to the net with the extra attacker on the ice. Dougie Hamilton nailed a bomb and Staal got just enough to redirect it past Greiss.
Dougie Hamilton with a bomb. If it's his goal, it's his first goal as a Hurricane. Tie game with 1:35 left in the third period. pic.twitter.com/4iabGRTUL0— Brett Finger (@brett_finger) October 5, 2018
The Canes stuck with it and it actually paid off. It got the team a point and forced overtime when things appeared very bleak late in the third period. Sticking with the process and being resilient earned them that point.
This is just one of the multiple difference that can be pointed out despite the all too familiar results.
Before the game ever started there was a moment shortly after player introductions finished where new captain Justin Williams called all of the team over to him and directed them to salute the crowd. This is something you would not have seen any of the previous leadership of the Hurricanes do on their own. Williams fully understands how important the fans are to this organization and that was a very nice thing to see that he was thinking about all of us in that moment.
Meanwhile, Justin Faulk looked night and day better in one game than he did all of last season. He was active on defense and made a few plays offensively. Most importantly, he wasn’t a liability in his own end which is where he faltered last year. Then Jordan Staal, who had multiple scoring chances throughout the night, and got the game tying goal late in the third period.
These three players must be leaders for this team loaded with rookies and young players. Leadership has been a struggle for the Hurricanes ever since Eric Staal was handed the captaincy and Brind’Amour retired. Seeing the leaders of this team step up last night was an extremely important thing as it will be all season.
The leadership on display last night is just another reason why last night is building on something bigger despite the results.
A Man Among Children
Sebastian Aho was all over the ice last night. Although he did not score he had numerous chances and was the best looking player on either team. A lot of questions surround Aho in regards to whether he will play center or wing and if he can build on his success during his first two years.
If last night was any indication, not only will he succeed at playing center, but with a little grooming he may be the number one center the team so desperately needs. He back checked efficiently and drove the net when needed. He even saved a goal.
What if I told you the Hurricanes' goalie of the future..... is Sebastian Aho pic.twitter.com/sYVmqUsfjX— Brett Finger (@brett_finger) October 5, 2018
With so many questions regarding the depth at center one has to hope Aho can continue to improve and be a NHL center. The team has Jordan Staal but after that it’s extremely murky. Victor Rask is out indefinitely, Martin Necas can only be asked but so much, and Lucas Wallmark did not have a good game at all last night. Aho is needed at center and this could be the year he absolutely goes off scoring wise, just so long as he doesn’t wait 14 plus games to get his first one.
Speaking of guys who looked dominant, Andrei Svechnikov was also all over the ice last night. He hit two posts alone and showed why so many believe he can be the sniper the Hurricanes have lacked.
Andrei Svechnikov was that close to his first NHL goal. He rings this one off the bar after getting the pass from Martin Necas. pic.twitter.com/A86nRHWZRz— Brett Finger (@brett_finger) October 4, 2018
His release is very quick and even with a defender in his face he manages to get the puck mere inches from going in the net. It won’t take him long to get his first NHL goal if he continues like that. He was so impressive that Brind’Amour noted in his postgame press conference that he needs to play Svechnikov more and he’s earned that ice time.
What Went Wrong
While it is nice to sit here and point out all the reasons why the results last night will not be indicative of the rest of the season, we still need to talk about what went wrong and why the team lost.
The process and system in place worked. The team got a plethora of opportunities and should have easily scored more. But likely a lot of nerves and pressure put on the team to come out and win in front of such a impressive crowd was just a bit too much for the young guys.
It doesn’t help that they ran in to Thomas Greiss who has a thing about stopping Hurricanes players.
Thomas Greiss has faced the Hurricanes the last two times the teams have played at PNC. He has faced 86 shots, and stopped every single one of them.— Brian LeBlanc (@bdleblanc) October 5, 2018
Obviously Brian’s tweet is from before the Canes managed to break through but it shows how Greiss has some sort of mojo going when he plays in Carolina.
On defense the team made one bad mistake it led to the Islanders only goal in regulation. Jaccob Slavin attempted to clear the puck but the Islanders forced a turnover and Dougie Hamilton got straight up beat by his man Valtteri Filppula.
The pairing of Slavin and Hamilton were not as great as some has hoped they would be and that is a story line to watch as the game roll on. While there were certainly some good chances for New York, Petr Mrazek held tight and kept the puck out. But it would ultimately but another very crucial mistake that set up the Islanders for a chance to win.
With just a few seconds left in the third period, when Carolina had all the momentum heading to a sure overtime, Micheal Ferland took a tripping penalty with three seconds left. While it was the right call, the officials had missed multiple calls in the other direction late in the third and calling the penalty on Ferland in that situation is at least a little bit of a headscratcher. Nevertheless, this gave New York a power play heading in to overtime which would lead to them scoring just 43 seconds in to the extra frame. Josh Bailey worked himself to be wide open and when all three Hurricanes players followed the puck Bailey one timed the puck past Mrazek. Game over.
The two key mistakes cost the Hurricanes the game. But the good news is they can learn from them and work to correct them going forward.
In regards to the lack of scoring, while it is tough to defend a team that only scored once, you could see the opportunities there. If the scoring woes continue for multiple games then it’ll be a concern. But with this team, if they get those types of chances every night, they will be just fine.
Moral of the Story
Last night was a tough start to the season in many ways. There was a sellout crowd ready to erupt in cheers for their beloved Hurricanes and they did everything right except win. They provided an entertaining game and showed everyone a ton of promise. A few mistakes and some bad luck cost them - but that will change.
While on paper this may seem like an all too familiar narrative, give the team an opportunity to prove that it was just a coincidence and that they can be different. The best part of everything is not the leadership, the chances, or the promise. It’s the fact that they can go out on the ice tonight and get right back at it.
The entire game last night had that feeling that once they finally scored they would go on a major run. It’s unfortunate it took so long to score and that Ferland took that penalty ruining any shot they had at winning in overtime. But much like getting their first goal, getting their first win feels like an opportunity to open the floodgates, and in a good way this year, not what we have been used to.