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About Last Night: Let the Rookie Run the Show, Why Don’t Ya?

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Andrei Svechnikov had another great game. Most of the other Canes forwards? Ehh...

NHLI via Getty Images

The Canes may be in the holiday spirit, but they’re lacking other, more-relevant-to-hockey-outcomes types of spirit. In a game that should have been a glad day of returning players and positive outcomes over, on paper, one of the weaker teams in the conference, the Canes found a way to drop a home game, 4-1.

Let’s start with a good discussion point before all the hoopla of what led to the loss.

Feed it to Svech!

Andrei Svechnikov continues his “look at me, everybody” campaign, adding yet another snipe to his week-plus stretch of four goals in four games.

In a game that saw many pucks being shot over the net, Svechnikov rose the puck beautifully over the gloveside of Jonathan Bernier from decent distance, tying the game at 1-1 early in the second period.

He also almost created the goal that would have given the Canes extremely late life, pushing Jonathan Ericsson into the puck that trickled through Bernier’s pads only to have it fished out on the line.

Svechnikov kept his power skating skills on display, whizzing down the ice past Red Wings defenders while it sometimes looked like his feet were going at half the speed of everyone around him. He’s also showing in the past few games that he’s not a rookie that will be pushed around, so he’s starting to do some pushing and hitting himself.

Our rookie sensation now has ten goals on the season — twice as many as former/sometimes-still top liner Jordan Staal. He got 16:57 of ice time (sixth most of the 12 Canes skaters), which is a slight raise on his average this season for games decided in regulation, but I think we know he’s deserving of just as much as, say, Justin Williams (17:44) gets.

Staal, Ferland flat in return

Carolina got back two veterans in Staal and Micheal Ferland, but neither contributed much. Arguably, Ferland had a decent presence along the board as was expected. Some timing seemed off, but he got some hard checks in and ended the night with a team-high seven hits.

Outside of that, the returnees weren’t on their A-game much at all.

Staal did good at putting himself in positions low in the offensive zone for good shots, but either missed the net or missed the puck on those chances more than he put in toward Bernier. And at least to me, it’s little surprise that Ferland didn’t show nearly the scoring chances on a line with Staal and Brock McGinn. Without speedy linemates like Aho or Teuvo Teravainen, I don’t think his finish touch is shown off quite as strong because his partners aren’t consistently drawing the defense in to create the shooting lanes for Ferland.

Aho has rare off night

Sebastian Aho has been the backbone of this team all season long, but on Thursday night, his presence wasn’t felt nearly as much.

He logged the team high in ice time with 20:40 and had three shots on goal. One was a great breakaway chance, but he went back to his typical five-hole try, and Bernier read it like a children’s book. Despite all time and shots, not much else looked great.

In fact, on one sequence not too deep in the third period, Aho, apparently beginning to rush with the Canes down two goals, overskated a 50/50 puck in the offensive zone that normally his sharp skating ability would have him positioned him well to get. The Canes were able to keep it in the offensive zone, and an undefended Aho had a large bit of net to shoot at with the puck coming to him, but completely whiffed on it.

Everyone has an off game. But with hopes high with the return of two veterans and in a game against a weaker opponent that the Canes should beat, it wasn’t great timing.

“Harmless-looking wrist shots” — Tripp Tracy

I was a fan of Petr Mrazek’s play in net vs. his former team. He kept the team in it well early as mistakes were made that led to undefended shots near the net. However, he’s no match for productive net-front presence.

The difference was clear on the shots chart. Of the Canes’ 39 shots, 18 were taken by the defense (46.1 percent). Of the Red Wings 24 shots, four were taken by the defense (16.7 percent). Part of that is a different style of play, but a good bit of it is Carolina’s shots going untipped and unshielded (the Red Wings also blocked 17 shots) while Detroit’s men deep redirected pucks, even if they weren’t on goal.

The Red Wings scored two goals off redirections — one a nice tip, one a shot off the side of Trevor van Riemsdyk — and another on a shot shielded by the humongous Michael Rasmussen. Compared to Detroit, the Canes didn’t even look like they were trying to raise their sticks for tips or move their bodies for potential deflections.

Especially on a night when someone like Aho struggles, these things are almost the only hope the Canes have of establishing a scoring presence.