The Canes’ four-game road trip, which began last week with three games in California, ended last night with an overtime loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Let’s have a look back at the 4-3 defeat and examine what went right, what went wrong, and what looked messy.
The Good - The First Period
After a nearly week-long layoff, Rod Brind’Amour had expressed his concerns about shaking off some rust early. For the most part, that wasn’t an issue. True, the Canes gave up a 4-on-1 rush (and goal) after a deflection in the Blue Jackets zone, but overall the ice was tilted in the Canes’ direction for most of the first period.
Norris candidate Dougie Hamilton scored his sixth of the season on a nifty pass from buddy Warren Foegele (who I might add, played his best game of the season).
After Hamilton got things started, Martin Necas and Ryan Dzingel got in on the action. Both players showed poise and skill on Carolina’s second goal. Necas held the puck long enough to draw Jackets goaltender Joonas Korpisalo out of the play, then fed it back to Dzingel in the slot. For his part, Dzingel pulled off a world-class toe-drag before potting his third goal of the year.
Finally, there was the one we’ve all been waiting for. Sebastian Aho got his first non-empty-net goal of the year. As predicted, Aho saw increased minutes on the fourth line with Lucas Wallmark and Brock McGinn. It was on one of those shifts that Aho got his stick on a Brett Pesce shot.
With 7:32 left in the first, it looked like the Canes were well on their way to a victory. But then came the second period...
The Bad - The Second Period
The box score doesn’t always tell the story, but the second-period stats from last night’s game paint quite a picture.
During the second, Carolina was out-shot 15-3, gave up two goals, and scored none. They were under siege for most of the period, which brought on this reaction from their head coach:
Rod calls a timeout pic.twitter.com/vDHHh5ZC9m— FOX Sports Carolinas (@CanesOnFSCR) October 25, 2019
You don’t have to be a lip-reader to get his point. The Canes were hemmed in their zone and unable to maintain possession and establish a forecheck in the offensive zone.
Petr Mrazek did his best to hold down the fort, and his effort kept things from getting too far out of hand. Nevertheless, by the end of the second, the score was tied 3-3.
"In the second period we were on our heels, and that's what killed us. ... It was a bad second period."— FOX Sports Carolinas (@CanesOnFSCR) October 25, 2019
-Dzingel on tonight's 4-3 OT loss pic.twitter.com/sSmAQiUItF
As a final point on the second period, the decision to dress seven defensemen needs to be discussed.
Although Carolina had seven defensemen available to play, it appears the plan was to only use six - at least until the third period. Haydn Fleury played exactly zero minutes through the first two periods, while Trevor van Riemsdyk saw plenty of ice time over the same stretch. This is only TVR’s second game back, and it won’t be one he’ll be re-watching with any enjoyment. He was beaten several times, most notably on the game-tying goal. On that play, Sonny Milano simply went by him and got in alone on Mrazek. After that, Fleury got a couple shifts in, and TVR didn’t see much of the ice.
It’s probably fair to say that Fleury should continue to dress until the coaching staff sees a better performance out of van Riemsdyk.
The Ugly - The Power Play
Even with the debacle that was the second period, the Canes were presented with several gift-wrapped opportunities to take back the lead.
With 2:30 left in the second, Seth Jones took a tripping penalty. Over the next 13:17 of game time, the Canes would have 6:00 of power play time. As has been the case recently, both units looked out of sync. Entries were hard to come by. On a few occasions, the zone was entered - only for the first pass to go to a vacated point.
What seems clear is that both units are lacking some confidence. With most teams stacking at the blue line to prevent entries, the Canes must be willing to force offense quickly on the rush. Several times they chose to slow things down after gaining the blue line with speed. It may seem counter-intuitive when you’re struggling on the power play, but oftentimes the better decision in that situation is to drive the net and try to score immediately upon gaining the zone - before the penalty killers can get reset. Either you score, or you force the killers to collapse on their own net, perhaps making your next attempted entry a little bit easier.
All in all, a point on the road is not a bad thing. After leading 3-1, it stings a bit to lose, especially to a divisional opponent. Nevertheless, the Canes now return from their four-game road-trip with three points out of a possible eight. Not ideal, but not horrible. With five of the next six at home, they’ll look to re-establish the momentum that they had to start the season.