Canes Take Sweep in 2-Game Series over Predators

Cary, NC — After coach Rod Brind’Amour used the word “awful” to describe the teams’ last performance and after a day off on Tuesday, it was back to work with a hard practice on Wednesday last week to address the multitude of issues he (and the Caniacs) saw during the past two games.

It was also the first practice for Jani Hakanpaa to quickly learn Roddy’s system and expectations. The first impression from nearly everyone is “this is a big dude.” Jani is 6’5” and is listed at 218 but that may have been his wedding weight as his appearance is massive.

The Canes responded to Roddy and had an impressive team 4-1 win over the surging Nashville Predators.

Game 1: Canes Top Predators 4-1 With Solid Effort

Roddy rarely passes up a move to show class and had Hakanpaa start the game so the new team jitters would get over right away. Steve Lorentz won the opening faceoff but the Preds had the first serious attack in the Canes zone.

Hakanpaa’s linemate, Jake Bean, standing at 6’1” and 186 now looks tiny. Bean got checked hard by Tanner Jeannot along the backboards, got up and went back at Jeannot with a cross-check in the back, flattening Jeannot into the boards.

After the play stopped, Bean did his best “who me?” alter boy look, had to know it was a legitimate penalty, but was probably more concerned with Father Brind’Amour at the confessional.

The Canes man-down defense was solid killing off that penalty backed by some outstanding save by Petr Mrazek along with aggressive play upfront with Mikael Granlund hooking Sebastian Aho about a minute into the penalty making it a 4-on-4.

The period was fairly physical as each team was not passing up any opportunity to land a hit. The biggest hit of the period, if not the game, was when Hakanpaa leveled Granlund in an open-ice hit right in front of the Canes bench. You could almost read the lips of everyone on the bench saying “sure glad that big dude is on our team.”

The other Cane added a month ago, Cedric Paquette, is also a hitting machine and some sandpaper which is what the Canes sorely lacked.

Foegele Scores First with Set-Up From Staal

The 25-year-old left wing Warren Foegele celebrates on home ice in a pre-COVID-19 game.

Late in the period, the Canes opened the scoring and the Preds tried a dump and chase to no avail as Mrazek came out of the crease to send the puck up along the boards to clear the zone.

Nino Niederreiter was tied up at the blue line allowing the puck to go deep. Jordan Staal used those long legs to get to the puck just ahead of Jeremy Davies, eyed over to the slot, saw Warren Foegele had a stride on Ben Harper, backhanded a saucer pass to Foegs who spanked a backhander over Juuse Saros’ pads for the important 1-0 lead.

Svechnikov, Trocheck Have Great Looking Goals

Jordo won the initial faceoff in the second drawing the puck back to Jaccob Slavin.

Slavo settled the puck, calmly passed over to Dougie Hamilton who exited his end then, when halfway in the neutral zone, threaded a beautiful pass to a speeding Andrei Svechnikov facing down the middle. Svech snared the pass, went between two defenders, went right then with his arms extended muscled a backhander between Saros’ arm and pads into the net with just 14 seconds gone in the period.

Great looking team goal and more importantly is the start of Svech having pucks go in the net. His play has been excellent, except for maybe a few ill-advised penalties, and his skills are simply off the charts. A little over 5 minutes later, great defense by Brett Pesce forced a turnover by the Preds in the Canes end.

Martin Necas baked the loose puck into the neutral zone with the Preds getting control. Jordan Martinook did a sweep check knocking the puck off Davies’ stick that Vincent Trocheck picked up, entered the Preds end sending a change up directly at Saros.

Saros made the easy pad save with the puck kicking back to Troch who snapped the puck high to make it 3-0. Clever move if Troch actually planned on that kick save coming back to him.

This was the 5th game this season between these teams, just the right amount of time for players to start remembering certain plays, hits or chirps from previous games. Svech and Mattias Ekholm both must have good memories as they were going at it once again.

With 3-1⁄2 minutes left in the period after swatting each other in the shins, cross-checks to the back, after Svech shoved Ekholm to the ice, Ekholm grabbed Svech with both wrestling each other and the linesmen taking charge to keep things under control as both were sent off for holding.

Svech likes a physical game and he’s capable of standing his ground but geez, no one wants a repeat of his first and only fight. He’s paid to score goals not score boxing points.

Aho Seals Win With Late PP goal

The Canes knew the Preds would come out hard in the third and fortunately Roddy had them prepared. The Preds forechecking was better in the third but the Canes seemed to also put their game in a higher gear.

Necas got called for an early slashing penalty and once again the Canes defense was solid. Mrazek did bail them out with 2 very good saves that had goal written all over them.

In the 9th minute, due to the aggressive play by Paquette, Matt Benning hit Paquette up high for a penalty giving the Canes a great opportunity to fully put the game out of reach. Late in the powerplay, with the puck bouncing, Fishy attempted to carry the puck into the Pred’s end.

With all of the Canes in position to enter the offensive end, when Fishy lost control of the puck, Colton Sissons head manned a pass up to former Cane, Erik Haula who went in on Mrazek all alone sending a hard wrister past Mrazek to break the shutout and close the score 3-1.

Late in the period, with confusion about pulling the goalie when the Canes dumped the puck, the Predators made a huge error when they were caught with too many men on the ice giving the Canes the late powerplay. Staal won the faceoff, with Svech getting possession, then passed down to Troch along the near side of the goal line.

Troch assessed the landscape and to everyone’s surprise, passed cross-ice to Fishy inside the far circle who one-timed a slap shot to punctuate the game. Great bounce back for the team and from what we saw of the new big dude, he’ll fit right in and bring something to the party.

Game 2: Canes Beat Nashville, 3-1

If anyone looked to the corner in the north end behind the glass in section 114 at the start of the second period, you might have gotten a glimpse of one of the chefs at the PNC Arena looking for something, because, in the first period, the Canes threw everything at Preds’ goalie Juuse Saros, maybe including the kitchen sink.

The Canes managed a season-high 24 shots on net in the first, but to the Predators’ credit, just one got by Saros, while completely dominating the first en route to a solid 3-1 win.

Slavin’s Pinch Pays Off

The only possible thing to make the first period even better would have been putting more pucks in the net, as the Canes played as good of a complete first period for a team as you’ll ever see.

The Canes normally are up there among the teams that lead the NHL on shots for a complete game, but 24 shots in a period is higher than the Canes got in an entire game just a few games back. Speed — that one word says it all as not only were the Canes shooting but their team speed was in high gear.

Some hockey “analysts” are saying Colorado is going to be the team to beat for the Stanley Cup this year and the speed they bring to every game is impressive. Seeing a series between the Canes and Avalanche, both playing at top speed, could be one highly entertaining series.

It’s not that Alex Nedeljkovic was knitting sweaters in his crease, he faced 7 shots, several were grade-A chances that had the potential to be a backbreaker. Nearly every Cane registered a shot on goal with everyone getting off shots, the difference being some were wide, some high, some blocked or hit the post or crossbar.

The Canes were expecting the Preds to play the game heavy as they are a good team having won 13 of their past 17 games and making a desperate push to be the fourth spot in the Central/Discovery division for the playoffs. Maybe that was why the Canes came out like they were shot out of a cannon.

Maybe it was because first place, which is becoming more important every day, was on the line as the Canes and Tampa Bay were tied at 60 points with Florida at 59, with those teams playing each other on the same night. A loss by the Canes would allow either team in Florida to take over first place.

Turns out Florida also won and now occupies the second position but Tampa Bay has a game at hand. In just the fifth minute of the game, the Canes got off 5 shots on Soras who made saves he didn’t know he made as he was twisted like a pretzel with the Canes jamming at the puck trying anything to get it over the goal line.

At the other end, Ned certainly wasn’t as busy but likewise, had to come up with some difficult saves. If the Preds had ended the first up by a goal with the Canes not scoring, no doubt the final outcome could have been different. Very late in the period, Mr. Quite Guy But Does It All, Jaccob Slavin finally put the Canes on the board.

With the fourth line on the ice, the Preds won a faceoff to the right on Saros but Steve Lorentz forced a turnover. Cedric Paquette had a shot blocked by Norris Trophy winner Roman Josi with Morgan Geekie quickly pouncing on the rebound nailing a shot that Josi also blocked.

Lorentz tried to get the loose puck but had his stick swatted out of his hands expecting a Predators slashing penalty but wasn’t called, kicked the puck that eventually was cleared to the neutral zone by the Preds. Geekie pushed the idle puck back to Slavo, turned and got a return pass going in the offensive zone along the far half boards.

With his head up, Geekie made a sweet pass over Josi’s stick right onto Slavo’s tape as he was pinching in down the left-center with Slavo settling the puck then sending a snap wrister high blocker side to break the scoreless tie.

Norris Trophy Winner Josi Ties Game

Whatever Preds coach John Haynes said during the first intermission made a difference as it was a whole new ball game in the second. The Preds, who are missing a few key players, really came out as a different team.

The biggest noticeable improvement was their forechecking and the quality of their shots. The Preds more aggressive play got the Canes an early powerplay. The #1 powerplay team in the NHL really could have used a goal to help tone down the Preds and at least have the score reflect the game up to that point but the Preds defenders had other plans.

Right after the penalty, the Preds had the puck in the Canes end with their forechecking doing an outstanding job. Former Cane Erik Haula intercepted a clear along the far boards rimming the puck along the boards. Jake Bean used the ref as a screen allowing him to get puck but quickly was challenged by Nick Cousins.

Bean made an ill-advised inaccurate backhand pass meant to go to Nino Niederreiter but Josi grabbed, went to the high slot and in one motion twirled around flinging the puck to the net that somehow found the back of the net without hitting any of the 4 players screening Ned to tie the game.

Great players make their own luck and Josi is a great player. The rest of the period was scoreless but again, highly entertaining. The Canes and Preds were exchanging hit-for-hit, faceoff-for-faceoff, and shot-for-shot. Just good hard hockey setting the game up for the next goal all the more meaningful.

The period ended with a big change in shots with the Preds knocking out 11, a respectable number with the Canes limited to “only” 7.

Big Man, Huge Shot: Hakanpaa Lights the Lamp, Svech Seals Win

Coach Rod Brind’Amour, a man of very few words, probably just said “keep doing what you’re doing” in between periods as how the Canes were playing was very good.

Count on it that John Hynes may have said the same thing as the Preds were still in the game, just look at the score of 1-1 and nothing they were doing was wrong. As expected both teams were doing whatever they could to get those precious two points with a win.

Several minutes of the period was 200’ hockey with each team getting a rush to the opposing end, getting off a shot or two then off to the races to the other end, having that goalie make another key save, a fight for possession than either another shot or back down 200’ while somehow getting a line change without losing the puck or momentum.

After a massive blast by Dougie Hamilton from the right point that Saros gloved, forcing a faceoff. Both teams took advantage of the stoppage and changed all 10 skaters. Having had just a couple of practices under his belt, Jani Hakanpaa is still learning Roddy’s system and a few set plays off the faceoff.

As both Hakanpaa and Vincent Trocheck were getting on the ice, Troch said with confidence that he was going to pull the puck back to Hakanpaa and to “let ‘er fly to the goal.”

As planned, Troch, who was outstanding in the faceoff circle all night, won the draw, Hakanpaa took a stride and laid all 216 pounds into a slap shot that looked like a wounded duck but fluttered in for his first goal this season. Speak of a welcome to Raleigh! Turns out that would be the game-winning goal and at the end of the game the Covid sellout crowd chanted, Jani-Jani-Jani, making him feel like the King of Finland if there was one.

The rest of the Canes had to want that goal to be the determining goal as their forechecking and speed just wouldn’t let up. The refs sensed this was a hard-fought, clean game and didn’t call any penalties in the third even though there were some plays by both teams that may have been questionable.

The decision not to call penalties was good as the flow of the game was overall a great game of hard competition and allowing players to play, not worrying about a ticky-tack call made the game that much more enjoyable.

With Soras pulled in the last few minutes, only then did they get shots, 3 in total, on Ned since Hakanpaa’s goal midway in the period. After Ned made a quick pad save off a shot by Colton Sissons, Sebastian Aho, going for the puck, was hit by Matt Duchene with Hamilton getting the loose puck.

Dougie passed back up to Fishy on the Canes blue line in front of his bench, made a cross-ice pass to Andrei Svechnikov right at the Preds blue line who made a quick hard wrister into the empty net for his second goal in as many games sealing the win.

Hakanpaa was named the game’s first star and his smile after the game was fantastic. Give credit to both goalies as each made the game tight and they both made numerous grade-A saves on shots that easily could have gone in.

End result is the Canes retained first place as they head out for a 6 game road trip starting Monday in Florida playing first Tampa Bay for 2 games then onto play the Panthers.

Story by Bob Fennel. Photos courtesy of the Canes public Facebook page and Predators public Facebook page. See more Canes coverage on CaryCitizen

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