Raleigh, NC – Following the Canes OT victory over the Flyers last week, the team picked up steam for an untouched weekend of hockey. Fans painted the arena green for Saturday’s Whaler’s Night, a throwback to honor the team’s heritage as the Hartford Whalers from 1972-1997. Read on to relive the weekend’s highlights as told by our writer Bob Fennel.
Game 1 – Carolina vs. Arizona
Canes, Mrazek Shutout Coyotes, 3-0
Petr Mrazek pitched his third shutout of the season making 32 saves in a total team game with every player getting in the plus column except for the Aho line. The Coyotes, now anchored by former NHL MVP, Taylor Hall, are a solid team but have now been blanked in two straight games. The Canes have not had many good starts in the past several games, something that Coach Rod Brind’Amour has been frustrated over and wanted changed.
If there was a downside to the game, it would be a stretch to say the powerplay which went 0-for-3 with the puck movement good however the entries were too many dump and chase rather than carrying the puck into the zone.
Foegele Converts Feed From Svechnikov
Both teams are built the same: fast upfront and solid defensemen with a good mix of the hard-nosed stay at home types as well as the offensive threats. Nino Niederreiter was clearing the puck along the near boards when he was tripped by Christian Dvorak giving the Canes the first man advantage of the game.
The puck movement was good with Brett Pesce ringing a shot from 70’ out off the right upright as the traffic in front of Antti Raanta blocked his clear view. El Niño, who has been snake bit on the goal-scoring front, let his emotions take over midway in the period and as this happens all too often, retaliated to a hard check with a cross-check getting called as the second offender. The penalty kill units were all solid allowing just 1 shot that Mrazek easily handled.
Warren Foegele opened the scoring at 14:20 of the first. Jake Gardiner had the puck up high on the left point passing around the boards to Andrei Svechnikov below the goal line. Svech dangled the puck going back and forth turning on a dime while holding onto the puck then went behind the goal, took a quick scan of the landscape then saw his good friend Foegs racing down broadway putting a crisp pass on the tape that Foegs went stick side for the first, and eventual game-winning goal.
The longer these two play together the better they get as their chemistry is great both on and off the ice. Later in the period, Erik Haula stole the puck in the neutral zone for a breakaway with 2 defenders right on his heels. Haula made a great move and beat Raanta but his shot hit the crossbar and came back under Raanta with Oliver Ekman-Larsson putting his stick behind the puck to ensure it stayed under the keeper.
Wallmark, Necas Score Late Goals
The Desert Dogs were pressing hard early in the second using their speed for attempts into the Canes zone. The Canes forwards had a great game forechecking all over but especially in the neutral zone that allowed the Canes defensemen to almost form a wall along the blue line.
The Coyotes were creating too much traffic in front of Mrazek for anyone’s liking with the ever-present pushing and shoving evolving with sticks fling about like it was a Star Wars saber battle. Haula got decked off the crease and when he got up his stick got tangled with Jordan Oesterle’s skates resulting in a tripping call. At first Haula, and a few Caniacs, thought the call was against the Coyotes.
The Canes PK units once again did a stellar job killing off the penalty with the first shot on goal coming from Foegs for what could have added to the league-leading shortie tally. Brock McGinn is one of the least headline players but his play on the PK was outstanding from ragging the puck to blocking shots, to just having his stick always in the right position. Coaches and teammates frequently are giving him pats on the shoulders after a shift on a job well done. Late in the period, the Pesce had the puck in the Coyotes zone just inside the blue line passing over to Dougie Hamilton.
Hamilton is never one shy about throwing the puck to the net and did just that with Lucas Wallmark tipping the puck for a change in direction that landed in the back of the net. Just over a minute later the final dagger was set. The Canes talented third line was on the ice with Haula and Dzingel passing back and forth when DZ dropped a pass to Martin Necas coming in off the left-wing, faked going in front of the net, went behind the net with speed then sent a hard backhander top shelf for a pretty goal.
Mrazek Gets The Shutout
The Canes forechecking went into overdrive in the third as it was all about protecting the lead and not giving the Coyotes any momentum. Arizona didn’t do themselves any favors as Vinnie Hinostroza got called for slashing Ginner on a breakaway. The Canes powerplay was disorganized at best as they just couldn’t get anything set up. Give the Coyotes credit as in the new NHL, coming back from a 3-0 deficit in the third is not that unusual, down 4-0 and call it game over.
Shortly after the Canes powerplay, they found themselves on the PK as Svech got called for a hook. In talking to Svech before the season I asked him if he thought some of the calls he had in his rookie season were unfair he immediately took full responsibility and said all were justified and was something he had to work on. Impressive honesty so this call albeit looked weak, no doubt Svech would say he did wrong. The Canes easily killed that penalty and that left everyone in the arena with one question: would Mrazek get the shutout. Both teams had the tight-checking with the Canes only getting a season-low of 1 shot on net while the Coyotes only had 7 with Mrazek stopping all with a fast glove and active pads. Great team win.
Game 2 – Carolina vs. Los Angeles
Canes, Reimer Blank Kings, 2-0, for Second Shutout in Two Nights
The Carolina Hurricanes posted consecutive shutouts for the first time since 2003 completing their season longest homestand with a 5-2 mark with a 2-0 win over the Los Angeles Kings in front of another sellout crowd. James Reimer was in net and made 41 saves while Nino Niederreiter finally broke his scoring slump for the first goal early in the game which turned out to be the game-winner.
Niederreiter Breaks Scoring Slump
The Kings arrived in Raleigh early Friday morning getting plenty of rest while the Canes were battling and beating the Coyotes 3-0 Friday night. This game was the Whalers throwback night with the team wearing the old green uniforms with the iconic whale logo encased with the letter H for Hartford. The warmups were worth the price of admission alone as several players donned green and white headbands, ala Ron Duguay style from the 1980’s. The Video Board introduced each player with mocked up headshots that were hilarious. When the puck finally dropped, everything got down to business.
The Canes won the opening faceoff and methodically carried the puck into the Kings zone. The chemistry between Andrei Svechnikov and Warren Foegele gets better every game. Jordan Staal is great on faceoffs with Svech and Foegs using their speed for fast entries into the O-zone. After Reimer made an excellent save, Jaccob Slavin picked up the rebound to start a clear. Slavs passed over to Dougie Hamilton who cross the Canes blue line passing cross ice to Sebastian Aho in the neutral zone going into the Kings end. Seabass went down low then passed to Teuvo Teravainen skating down the mid slot.
Turbo had a great shooting opportunity but instead passed to Nino Niederreiter camped out on the left post of the goal. El Nino quickly passed back to Turbo who shot the puck just a foot above the ice right into the mask of the Kings goalie, Jack Campbell, lunging for a save. El Nino was in the perfect spot to pick up the loose change slamming the puck in at 4:52 to give the Canes the early lead. Hopefully this goal jump starts El Nino into what he and the coaches expect from the power forward.
The Kings bounced back with their own offensive explosion shortly after that goal. On a 2-on-1 that had all the makings of a pretty goal Reimer made and fantastic save off Adrian Kempe’s shot. That was the moment the Caniacs knew Reimer was in his zone. The Canes penalty kill still continues to be strong and got their first trial when Martin Necas got called for a slash. The forwards forechecking for the second game in a row, made entry into the Canes end difficult for the Kings.
Reimer Stays Hot
The only excuse logical for the Canes play in the second period was possibly fatigue from playing the night before. Granted everyone on the ice is a professional and no team is in better shape than the Canes with Rod Brind’Amour as their coach and Bill Burniston as Strength and Conditioning coach but the Canes were a stride behind the entire period. The Kings are having an off year but had all the better opportunities in the second. Reimer and the defense kept the Canes in the game in what turned out to be the critical period.
Once again Reimer made a phenomenal save off a Kempe shot, who had to be wondering what is it going to take to beat this goalie as the shot certainly looked like it was a sure goal. The Kings held the Canes to just 8 shots in the periods, none of which would be classified as high scoring chances while Reimer stopped all 14 shits taken by the Kings. The Canes had their first powerplay of the game in the second with a golden opportunity for a cushion but the powerplay was powerless by both units. I suspect with the addition of Justin Williams joining the team, he will get time on the powerplay.
Teravainen Seals Win
The Kings continued their barrage of shots, getting off 17 in the third but Reimer remained hot. The Canes play improved in the second but were more concerned with preserving the win by playing smart hockey. No pinching by the defense, relentless forechecking by the forwards. Brock McGinn had another strong game as did Jordan Martinook with their aggressive play in all 3 zones. All the defensemen had solid games, Brett Pesce has sneaky speed most opponents don’t realize, Joel Edmundson is as hard nosed as they come, a reminder of how Tim Gleason played, Jake Gardiner and Trevor van Riemsdyk aren’t flashy but more importantly don’t make many mistakes.
With just under 3 minutes to go the Kings pulled Campbell for the 6th attacker. Roddy gives players the okay to go for the long shot if the opportunity is there at the risk of an inching call. Twice the Canes took the shot with the puck rolling wide both times. With 29 seconds left in the period Reimer made a save with the inside of his thigh where there is no padding and went down in some obvious pain. Mrazek was standing at the bench door but knew unless Reimer need a stretcher, he was staying in.
After a couple of minutes he was set to go, a gutsy move by the netminder. The Canes won the ensuing faceoff but quickly lost possession. The Kings clanged a shot off the left goal post, regained control sending the puck up top. Turbo was the lone front defender and knocked a pass from Alec Martinez out of the air, skated to the near boards in the neutral zone and calmly tossed the puck into the net out from 85’ with 3.9 seconds left. Canes got 10 out of a possible 14 points on this homestand wand hopefully is the start of another drive to the playoffs.
The next home game is Friday against Anaheim. Be there!