Cary, NC – The Carolina Hurricanes had mixed results this weekend, with a strong win over the New Jersey Devils on Friday and a narrow loss to the Winnipeg Jets on Sunday.
For the first time this season, Coach Bill Peters had a premonition to put the same goalie in net for games on consecutive nights and that proved to be right as Cam Ward beat two very good teams: the Philadelphia Flyers in Philly Thursday and the N. J. Devils at the PNC Arena on Friday. Ward played solid in both games missing a shut out in each by a good goal by each opponent.
Former Cowboy QB Tony Romo, a very close friend of new majority owner Tom Dundon, was the first siren sounder as he was all decked out in Canes gear. Earlier in the day he, along with Dundon, got on the ice with a few Canes and realized football was his sport.
Ward Is Sharp Early
The Devils have had their way with the Canes in the first two meetings this year with the Canes not really in either game. Whether the players remembered that or Peters reminded them of that and adjustments were being made or the moral support for what the Staal family went through and is still going through with the loss of their precious infant daughter or the players pride, it doesn’t really matter as the Canes did everything right. Dundon and the sales/marketing group have unbelievable deals and it must be working as it was a good crowd. The Canes’ #1 job was covering the NHL’s hottest player, Taylor Hall, who is on the best consecutive game scoring streak for any player in two years. Both teams used their speed early on with play up and down the ice and, if lucky, getting just one shot off. Derek “Doc” Ryan seemed possessed from his first shift which was a nice change as he’s been either snake-bit or appeared just overwhelmed in several of the past few games.
Like many Canes, he’s not a big guy at all but fits the sharpshooter mold; maybe not as much as Jeff Skinner or Sebastian Aho but he does have some sniper skills. Around the three minute mark, Doc took a shot from an impossible angle and while my first reaction was “Why?,” the shot bounced off the near post missing a goal by a few millimeters. On the other end of the ice, Ward wasn’t challenged as much with the defense, especially Jaccob Slaving and Brett Pesce, having great games. The Devils have some excellent young players, including #1 overall 2017 pick Swiss born Nico Hischier, who is going to be a super star someday.
Nordstrom Gives CaryCitizen Exclusive Interview, Ryan Scores
Unfortunately, Joakim Nordstrom got a stick under his visor in the Philly game resulting in some stiches and other eye problems so he watched the game from press row. Good for the CaryCitizen.com as he sat next to me and we talked most of the game during stoppages and in between periods. Years ago, in talking with Canes President Don Waddell, he said besides being a good player, character was something the Canes management looked for in a player. Nordstrom fit the mold of exactly what Waddell was talking about. Nordy was friendly, outgoing and even being out of the game was cheering his team by applauding (lucky guy, I got hammered for doing that years ago on press row) at good plays and goals. He’s the middle of three brothers and had a few stories that could have been three boys in Cary. He absolutely loves this area, due to weather and friendliness of the folks. He hangs out with fellow Swede Elias Lindholm the most and is impressed with Sebastian Aho and Jaccob Slavin as key young Canes. He has a very impressive hockey resumé with a Stanley Cup with Chicago and a member of the championship Swedish National team. When the Canes had their first penalty, you could see he wanted to be on the ice as he is a key penalty killer with his size, speed and energy key attributes that Peters likes. All the best to him of getting a fast recovery.
Doc Ryan, still having a solid game, opened the scoring just over midway in the first. Noah Hanifin carried the puck into the Devils’ end, passing over to Victor Rask. Rask passed down to Doc who went around one defender, saw Lee Stempniak fighting for position in front of the net sending a hard pass across the crease. Instead of making it over to Stemper, the puck bounced off a defenders skate popping over Keith Kinkaid’s pads to end Doc’s scoring blight and putting the Canes up 1-0. Late in the period, Doc got called for a holding penalty allowing the Devils their second power play and second time Nordy was getting antsy in his chair. Sami Vatanen tossed a shot from the right point that Hall made a great redirection that found its way past Ward continuing his scoring streak. No fault by anyone, just call it a nice play.
Williams Seals the Deal
It was the Devils that came out in the third with more energy. But after a few shifts, looking over to the bench I saw Rod Brind’Amour bending over to players more than usual, surely advising on what went wrong and would change on the next shift. Whether it was Brind’Amour or Peters taking to his note card, but the Canes kicked it up a notch. With the Nordic line on the ice, Lindy used his grit to win a puck along the back board passing to Pesce on the right point. Pesce took a quick shot right at Teuvo Teravainen in the dirty area. Teravainen jumped, not sure if it was to allow the shot by or out of fear, but the puck hit his boot going past Kinkaid for a 2-1 Cane lead.
Both teams kept the pressure on knowing the next goal would be the game changer. The Canes rookie Lucas Wallmark got called for tripping putting Hall and the Devils on a powerplay again. The Canes successfully killed off that penalty and bore down on defense the rest of the game, protecting the lead. After Kinkaid was pulled, and after a few questionable clears by the Canes, Cary resident Justin Williams showed the younger players how to score an empty netter to seal the win. Whether it was Tony Romo in attendance, the team support for the Staal family or just grit and determination, this was the first home win Dundon has seen at the PNC.
Canes Grounded by Jets, 3-2
The Carolina Hurricanes lost 3-2 to the Winnipeg Jets, coached by former Canes coach Paul Maurice in a game that wasn’t as close as the score. The Jets are a big, make that very big, team with 13 roster players six feet three inches tall or better. They have four players hurt or with a healthy scratch and each are at least that big. It takes a big player to knock Jordan Staal down and when that’s down without much effort, that’s a big, big player as Staal is no slouch himself, at six feet four inches, 220 pounds and as strong as an ox. The team’s superstar, 19 year old Patrick Laine is six feet five inches and 206 pounds but moves swiftly like his good friend and fellow Finn, Canes sensation Sebastian Aho.
Teravainen Extends Career Best for Goals
For those that followed hockey years ago, the Jets were the Atlanta Thrashers before moving to Winnipeg and were a good team to have as a local rival as the Canes dominated those games for years. Bad seasons can lead to good draft picks and most of those are paying off for the Jets. This kid Laine is the real deal. He scored his first NHL goal against the Canes early last season and makes scoring look easy.
The first goal came as Nikolaj Ehlers of the Jets had the puck down low in near circle early the first. Laine was initially right in front of Ward but smoothly backed up the slot to an open area. Ehlers either sensed Laine went to the high slot or Laine called for the puck, and when the puck came, Laine snapped one past Cam Ward glove side for the 1-0 lead. The Canes forechecking was noticeably diminished over the past couple of games, maybe because the Jets’ large bodies made protecting the puck easy against the smaller forwards.
The Jets are the third highest scoring team in the NHL with fairly balanced scoring. They have just four players with negative numbers, on the not-so-important +/- stat, whereas the Canes have just four players on the plus side. Maurice is known for riding a goalie when he’s hot and he’s doing that with the Jets, as Conner Hellebuyck was in his 53rd game already and has a new franchise record for wins at 34. Expect this team to go deep in the playoffs and look like they’ll be Canada’s only hope but I predict they’ll vanish after round two.
Late in the game, right after the Canes came off a good looking powerplay, Aho had the puck along the near boards and dropped a soft pass to best buddy Teuvo Teravainen. Staal was setting up camp in front of the goal with Teravainen noticing Staal drew three defenders, sent a hard centering pass just as Staal had his stick on the ice. The defenders collapsed on Staal but the puck hit someone’s stick, skate, shin pad or whatever and bounced in to tie the game.
Laine Wastes No Time
Early in the second, Seabass had an inadvertent high stick on Paul Stastny giving the Jets a powerplay. Laine scored his league-leading 17th powerplay goal just five seconds into the man advantage on a one timer that caught Ward by surprise going five-hole. It’s not that Ward was off on the shot; it was more that Laine gets his shot off so quick and with velocity. He very much reminds me of Alex Ovechkin but Ovie is also a wrecking ball on the ice. Finns are gentlemen and rarely do gentlemen do well in sports but this gentleman is an exception.
The Caniacs got back into the game when with the play in center ice, Seabass was mauled by bruiser Dustin Byfuglein, a half a foot taller and 70 pounds heavier, behind the Jets goal. Looked like a text book case of roughing but the refs let play continue under the guise of “didn’t affect the flow of the game,” I guess.
Staal Gives Canes Hope
The Canes matched the Jets speed in the third period but still were not very effective with the forechecking with turnovers based more on bad passes allowing for the Canes to have multiple shots. As Jim, part of the Stand Up Group, in section 120 accurately pointed out, the Canes spend too much time “dusting off” the puck before shooting, meaning they’re just taking too much time on shots. Goalies like it when a player takes their time as it allows for the goalie to get in a better position.
Look at shootouts, all goalies stop far more attempts than allowing goals. These guys are huge by themselves – the average goalie is six foot two inches tall and with padding, covers over 50 percent of a goal just standing there. Cut down an angle and that percentage goes to more than 80 percent. Late in the period, after Brock McGinn won a battle in the corner send the puck up to Jaccob Slavin. Slavs sent a hard shot to the net that was blocked but Staal in the right place at the right time gave a quick slap back at the puck going in on the short side to cut the lead to one with a little over four minutes to play.
The Canes pulled Ward with a little over two minutes but just weren’t able to penetrate the Jets defense. A win would have put the Canes in a playoff spot in a log jam with five other teams trying for that last slot.
Next game is Tuesday, March 13, 2018 against the Bruins. Be there!