About Last Week
Two games, two very different stories for the Carolina Hurricanes over the last seven days.
And it showed.
“It was a dud,” Justin Williams said of his team’s performance after their 4-1 loss. “Let’s just call it what it was. It was a dud and it was certainly unacceptable.”
No one can disagree with that assessment. From start to finish, the Canes’ effort always felt lacking. It felt lacking to the point that Rod Brind’Amour’s patience finally ran out.
“I haven’t been upset all year, because the effort has been there,” the rookie head coach said. “You can be upset about things not working or not getting the breaks, but we haven’t had to get upset because we’ve been doing what we need to do. Tonight was not that way. That’s why I wasn’t too happy.”
When Brind’Amour called his timeout just moments after Blue Jackets forward Cam Atkinson completed his hat trick, he didn’t do so to draw up a play or talk strategy. He did it to give his team a wakeup call. He spoke with intensity and anger. It was the first time he had been legitimately upset with his hockey team. The effort just wasn’t there.
The next night was noticeably different.
If you were 30 seconds late to the game, you missed the entirety of Carolina’s offense against the Devils. 22 seconds in, Williams backed up his talk with the game’s first goal. Eight seconds later, Micheal Ferland kept his hot scoring start rolling.
“Well, that’s the game,” Brind’Amour explained. “We talk about all the time how you can have a good game, but it’s that one shift or you take a breath and it costs you. I think it was the other way tonight. We got lucky. I think they had their two worst shifts of the game to start the game and it benefited us, obviously.”
From there, the Canes put up a goose egg, but the Devils managed to do just one better - a goal from Pavel Zacha later in the first period.
It was an ugly win and a good win for this young hockey team. Brind’Amour said you need to have those ugly wins. Williams said that a win like that will help them down the line.
Two points are two points, and the Hurricanes will gladly take them. It was far from a perfect performance, though. The final 59:30 of the game featured very few grade-a chances for the Hurricanes. The goal-scoring is still a concern as is the power play.
The big positive that I took away from the game was the Hurricanes’ ability to lock it down in the third period. One-goal leads in the final 20 minutes can be an adventure for this team but, for the first time all season, the game never felt like it was in danger. It never felt like the Canes were about to give the game away.
The Devils aren’t the Predators. They aren’t playing as well as they should be right now, but you have to take the positive from that if you’re the Hurricanes. They didn’t give New Jersey anything in the third period.
The next two games are big for the Hurricanes. The Toronto Maple Leafs will be a serious challenge on the eve of Thanksgiving and the Florida Panthers won’t be giving the Hurricanes any discounts on Black Friday.
“We need to get something rolling here,” Williams said on Sunday. “We need to get it going soon.”
A Perfect Fit
The numbers behind Micheal Ferland’s hot start are pretty impressive.
Through 20 games, Ferland has scored ten goals. Only four players in Carolina Hurricanes franchise history have scored more than ten goals in the first 20 games of a season: Eric Staal, Cory Stillman, Jeff O’Neill, and Sami Kapanen. Ferland is also the first Hurricane to reach ten goals in 20 games since the 2013 lockout-shortened season.
Those are impressive numbers for a guy who was an afterthought in the package Carolina acquired from Calgary.
While he won’t score 40 goals and he likely won’t continue being this dominant offensively through the final 62 games of the season, Micheal Ferland brings a skill set to the Hurricanes that they haven’t had in a long time.
He goes to the net and he puts the puck in the net.
Ferland isn’t the only player on the Hurricanes who goes to the net consistently. Jordan Staal does it, Warren Foegele does it, Brock McGinn does it, and the list goes on. He is, however, the only player who goes to the net and consistently is able to find holes in the goalie and get the puck in the net.
Right now, he has a team-high 15.4% shooting percentage which is nearly six points higher than the league average of 9.6%. Normally, you’d expect that number to come down, but this is pretty much par for the course for Ferland. He shot 14.2% and 14.6% in his final two seasons in Calgary.
The skill set that Ferland brings isn’t an overly rare one but, for a team that has been dwelling in PDO purgatory for so long, it’s a huge boost. They haven’t had a player like this in a very long time. You probably have to go back to 2013 Jiri Tlusty, Erik Cole, Cory Stillman, and Tuomo Ruutu to find guys who compare well to Ferland.
To boot, he is 6’1”, 217 pounds, he stands up for his teammates, he creates space for his highly skilled linemates, and he doesn’t just have to score dirty goals. He can let some shots loose and just flat-out beat goalies.
Uh, alright. I guess they're scoring power play goals now? Micheal Ferland wires one home after some excellent passing. Aho's point streak is now at 9 games. Ferland has scored goals in 4 straight games. 2-0 Canes. pic.twitter.com/9taH6uPZ4D— Brett Finger (@brett_finger) October 23, 2018
His hands aren’t too bad either...
Micheal Ferland scores yet again. Great move and a great goal to give the Hurricanes a 1-0 lead in Tampa Bay. pic.twitter.com/qkvOiGOMI3— Brett Finger (@brett_finger) October 17, 2018
The Hurricanes are going to have to commit a lot of money to Ferland but, if he keeps producing and performing the way he has so far, he’s more than worth keeping around. His game is exactly what this team needs moving forward.
Canes on the Verge of Getting Healthy
We got some clarity on the Hurricanes’ injury situation after Tuesday’s practice.
RBA: Pesce “isn’t coming along as fast as we’d have liked.” Left practice early today, which was telling. Rask and Mrazek are both very close. Darling did not practice, hinted at a minor knock but nothing serious. Also helped to give Mrazek a full practice to get up to speed.— Canes Country (@CanesCountry) November 20, 2018
The good: Victor Rask was a full participant in practice on Tuesday. It looks like he is still way ahead of schedule and will be ready to get back into the lineup before the end of the month, which could be a big deal for the Hurricanes, as I wrote in-depth about on Friday.
The bad: Brett Pesce’s leg injury is still a problem. What appeared to be a day-to-day thing has turned into a week-to-week thing. Obviously, he is an important piece on the blue line and they’ll eagerly await his return.
Health has been a concern for Pesce lately. His 2017-18 season was cut short due to a shoulder injury, he had a viral illness over the offseason, and now he’s dealing with the leg injury.
The Hurricanes will need all hands on deck as the calendar flips to December. It’s about time for them to get on a roll if they want to make this season interesting.