Cary, NC — In case you missed it, here the latest 2-game recap of the Carolina Hurricanes hosting the reigning Stanley Cup champs in Raleigh.
Game 1: Canes, Nedeljkovic Ground Lightning In 4-0 Win
Don’t look now but the defending Stanley Cup champions, the Tampa Bay Lightning haven’t scored a goal against the Canes yet this season. Granted they’ve only played each other twice, but the feat is still impressive.
In an odd fluke with the schedules being constantly modified with Covid issues, as well as some weather issues, the Canes were to play the Blackhawks Saturday night but less than 24 hours before the game, the NHL changed it to the Lightning, who, due to rescheduling, haven’t played since Monday and will play the Canes for 4 consecutive games. Maybe.
More changes will occur throughout this strange season and Coach Rod Brind’Amour has the perfect approach: plan for the day, no further. For this rescheduled game, rookie goalie, in just his 8th game in the NHL, earned, really earned, his first shutout in a solid team effort in a 4-0 win.
Talent vs. Talent
Tampa Bay is a big team. A really big team. Their defense could easily play for the Super Bowl Champions Buccaneers as the “runt” of the litter is Ryan McDonagh at 6’1”, 207 with All-Star Victor Hedman coming in at 6’6” and something north of 240.
The Canes defense can match height with Jake Bean the short man for the Canes at 6’1″ but tips the scales, probably in full gear at a svelte 186. The Lightning and the Canes have other likenesses—both are well-coached, have 4 solid forward lines, solid D-corps and potent special teams.
The game started out like both teams were shot out of cannons as the play was end to end and appeared to be non stop at times. Possibly the best goalie in the NHL was between the pipes for the Bolts, Andrei Vasilevskiy sporting a 9-2-1 record with 1.92 GAA and .933 save %. Brind’Amour is not a big fan of most stats with the main one he concentrates on is the Win column as he says ‘ we go out and expect to win every game’.
The Canes got an early powerplay all due to the aggressive play by Warren Foegele when Eric Cernak tripped Foegs. The Canes couldn’t convert with the man advantage but the movement of the puck was excellent by both powerplay units. Any Canes forward tapped to provide traffic at the top of the crease earned his pay as Hedman is an animal.
The only Cane that has the beef and strength to stay in the dirty area effectively is Jordan Staal who paid the price many times over. Like the Canes, the Bolts average well over 30 shots per game and with their potent offensive skills, convert roughly once every 8 shots whereas the Canes score once every 10.
Averages are good to fill in articles and friendly debates but once again, Rod doesn’t pay attention to stats or averages. The powerplay allowed the Canes to have the shot advantage in the scoreless period, at 9-6.
Trocheck Smacks One Home, Aho Nets Beauty
The second period started off just like the first, with tight forechecking by both teams especially is both scoring ends of the ice. Early in the second, Martin Necas crossed the Canes blue line carrying the puck into the neutral zone, passed to Nino Niederreiter in the center who quickly passed to Vincent Trocheck on the left wing.
Troch brought the puck in then sent a hard pass along the rim back up to Necas charging along the near boards. With McDonagh closing in, Necas slung the puck to the goal with El Nino redirecting it. Vasilevskiy blocked the shot but Troch was on the side doorstep to hack the puck between the goalie’s skate for the all-important first goal of the game.
The forechecking by both teams was really a clinic. No real cheap shots, just good hard hockey. Late in the first, the Bolts were clearing their end when Brock McGinn did a quick button hook causing a turnover as he hit the defender’s stick that had the puck. Andrei Svechnikov picked up the loose change, saw Sebastian Aho open along the near boards
dishing the puck to him with Fishy wasting no time going right for the net avoiding a defender off his left then when 4’ in front of the goal flipped one top shelf for a pretty goal and more importantly a 2-0 Canes lead. The Bolts got a game-high 13 shots on net during the second period aided by one Carolina penalty.
The man down teams, especially the defense, and with Ned stopping everything tossed at him. Twice during the period with Tampa Bay attacking, shooting and creating havoc in front of the goal, Ned did gymnastics, including losing his stick twice, to thwart Nguyen from entering his net.
Paquette Nets First With Canes, Svechnikov Seals it
Just 6 days ago, Cedric Paquette was playing for Ottawa when he was told he’d been traded to the Hurricanes. Rather than take commercial transportation that would have required a quarantine period, Paquette rented a car, got his dog and drove 830 miles to join the Canes.
Paquette played for the Stanley Cup champs Tampa Bay last season and was traded to Ottawa during the offseason due to salary cap issues in Tampa, so playing against his old buddies would give him an extra incentive. Early in the third, rookie Steve Lorentz won a hard battle along the corner near boards knocking the puck over to Jordan Martinook.
Marty took a couple of strides sending a wrister that Vasilevskiy blocked directing the puck left. Beaner was in the perfect position to snare the rebound, settled the puck, centering it to Paquette in the mid slot. Paquette wasted no time for his only shot of the game but it was an effective shot as it went 5-hole for a formidable 3-0 lead and left only one question for the game.
The unmentionable. A shutout. The Canes wanted the shutout, not because it would be against the Stanley Cup Champs, and for the second time this season, but for Ned. The Canes got a little help as the Bolts got called for a penalty late in the game. Scoring a powerplay goal would have been nice but just as important was controlling the full 2 minutes.
Bolts coach, Jon Cooper pulled his keeper with about 3:40 left in the game as that time there was a faceoff in the Canes end. The Canes cleared the puck from their end with the Bolts gaining possession and re-entering the Canes end along the far boards. Ginner tied up his man along the boards while Svech poked at the puck, goosing it up to Fishy in the neutral zone.
Fishy saw Hedman closing in on him then made a cool pass over to Svech in center ice who easily wristed a shot to the center of the empty goal to seal the win. All hands were on deck for the final 2:19 to make sure Ned got his shutout. The win put the Canes in first place of the Central division as Florida lost earlier in the evening.
Right now, first place only means bragging rights, nothing more, but sure is nice to see the Canes up there. The next game, actually the next 3 games (as of now but subject to change), is against the same Tampa Bay Lightning Monday.
Game 2: Fast Scores 2 As Canes Lose 4-2 Against Bolts
In the Zoom Call with the press after the morning skate, when asked about how he expected the Lightning to respond in the rematch, Coach Rod Brind’Amour made it clear the previous game might have had a 4-0 score, but it wasn’t a 4-0 game. The Lightning certainly had great chances and both teams are high caliber, highly skilled teams that play similar games.
In the rematch, the Bolts won 4-2, and were the better team this game, turning their game up a notch and not sure how, but also increased their speed and most notably their forechecking in the offensive zone.
Reimer Has Solid First Period, Fast Knots First As A Cane
James Reimer was in goal for this game and got engaged real early, as the Bolts were sending rubber at him from every angle and if it wasn’t for his gymnastics, the game might have been out of reach before the Canes got off their second shot on goal.
Several times Reims was sprawled on the ice flopping like a blue fish just reeled into the boat, each time, impressively and amazingly making the save to keep the Canes in the game. Having the Canes take the first two penalties, especially with penalty killers, Brady Sjkei and Jordan Martinook getting nearly back to back penalties, in the box wasn’t making Roddy comfortable behind the bench.
Players know when Rod’s not comfortable, no one on the bench should be comfortable. Sjkei has been fantastic on the man down defense but the Canes D did a great job blocking shots, clearing the lane and when a shot did get through, Reims had a lock on everything. At the 11:22 mark, Haydn Fleury carried the puck over the blue line going deep along the near boards, made a centering pass but All Star Steve Stamkos slashed Fleurs giving the Canes a powerplay.
The Canes first unit looked very good, finally getting shots off as up until then the Canes only had 1 shot on net. The second unit was on the ice when the penalty ended but kept the puck in the offensive zone. Martin Necas won a faceoff drawing it back to Brett Pesce who saw a lane and carried the puck along the near boards going below the goal line.
Pesch passed to Jesper Fast on the corner of the goal who realized he didn’t have good position plus a defender was on his back so he passed up to Jake Bean on the left point. Beaner surveyed the lane but no teammates were in front decided to pass over to Necas filling in on the left point.
Necas held the puck just long enough to allow Quickie (Jesper Fast) to get in the dirty area then sent a slap shot that was blocked with Quickie locating the sweet rebound, extending his stick and slung the puck in for a 1-0 Cane lead on just their second shot on net 5 seconds after the penalty expired. That goal got the Canes back into the game as something was needed to light a fire beside a loud voice on the bench.
The remainder of the period was a 50-50 game with both teams in high gear with hits coming almost after every pass. Victor Hedman, all 241 pounds of him, led the Bolts with 5 hits while 186 pound Beaner doling out 7 for the Canes. Taking a hit is part of the game, and usually not fun on the receiving end but given a choice, I’d opt for a hit from Beaner over Hedman any day.
Hedman is not a dirty player but a couple of other hits from Bolt players looked more like severe boarding calls should have been made with Brock McGinn and Jordan Martinook on the receiving ends of those questionable no calls.
Fast Scores Second
The Bolts didn’t need more of an incentive to dig deeper as they were on their A game but Sebastian Aho got called for hooking Hedman at just 39 seconds into the second period. While Fishy’s stick was raised across Hedman’s midsection, does anyone think Fishy is going to have any effect slowing Hedman.
Pesce, Jaccob Slavin, Dougie Hamilton and Sjkei were playing excellent in the man down situation. Several times they cleared the puck 200’ forcing the Bolts to regroup. Like Alex Ovechkin, Stamkos always sets up on the top of the left circle with his stick ready of a one timer, just as the penalty time was coming to an end, Hedman, at the top of the center, passed over to Stamkos who blasted one that Reims hit with his blocker but the puck had the velocity to flop over into the goal to tie the game.
Just under midway in the period, Jordan Staal lost a faceoff against Stamkos who drew the puck back to Mikhail Sergachev who passed over to Hedman. Hedman had no one in front of him, read into that missed coverage, so he skated a few strides to the goal. Pesch was in his defensive position and did the gutsy move of going down for a block but Hedman had all the time and space needed to pick a corner
sending a hard wrister to put the Bolts up by 1. Late in the period, Vincent Trocheck carried the puck from his defensive zone all the way into the Bolts end, flipping it over to Quickie just as he crossed the blue line. Quickie saw Pesch open and charging down on the left so he sent a lead cross ice pass right on the tape. Pesch snared the puck in stride, took a couple more strides
then sent a hard wrister that Andrei Vasilevskiy kicked out with his left pad. Once again Quickie was in the right position at the right time and punched the puck back in to tie the game for his second of the game, second as a Cane with just 45 seconds remaining in the period.
Luck Not On Canes Side
The Canes needed that late goal in the second as the momentum was clearly going with the Bolts. The Canes were playing good, the Bolts were playing just this much better. Coaches and analysts will say better teams create their own luck and whether that was the case or it was Lady Luck the Bolts got the go ahead goal on a lucky play.
With the Lightning crashing the crease for the Nth time, Sjkei knocked Ondrej Palat off the puck laying him out in the blue crease. While Sjkei’s momentum and insurance that Palat stays down, the puck hit the laces on his boot, kicking it to the goal with Reims moving to lock onto the pipe but the puck hit the inside of his pad to squirt into the net.
Unfortunate goal to give up but credit the Bolts constant pressure in the dirty area. The Canes hit a higher gear after that goal as they knew the game was on the line and the Bolts are a well coached team that knows how to keep a late lead. The Canes sent a game high 17 shots on goal in the third period with several serious scoring chances but Vasilevskiy was on his game blocking everything thrown at him.
Roddy pulled Reims late in the game and the Canes had one good rush but the Bolts sealed the game with 40 seconds left with an empty netter. The Canes won’t like watching the first period on tape but will use it as a learning tool to prepare for the next game against these Bolts Wednesday at 5 in another rescheduled game.
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