Cary, NC — The Carolina Hurricanes, with their 2-1 wins over the New Jersey Devils on Saturday and San Jose Sharks on Sunday, have won 7 of their last 8 games. In case you missed the action, here’s a recap of their weekend victories.
NJ Devils: Raanta Saves Canes in 2-1 Win
The last time Antti Raanta played was New Year’s Day in the wild game against the Blue Jackets as he was out with a nagging injury and like so many others, on Covid protocol.
Even with the 4 weeks without a game under his belt, he stole the show playing what may have been his best game as a Hurricane. He was one full pad save away from a shutout but his performance in the second period of stopping 3 breakaways was the saving grace of the game.
Whalers Night, Throwback to the 80s
It was just one week ago they stuck a pitchfork in the Canes after the Canes were up 2-0 and were dominating the game when the Devils got, well, possessed and turned what looked like a sure loss into a helluva win. Athletes at all levels tuck a memory like that and, if on the winning side, want to duplicate what went right and if on the losing side, want redemption.
Jordan Martinook was ready to go after dealing with a nagging injury of his own and also Covid, so the decision Rod Brind’Amour had to make was who would be the healthy scratch. Everyone wants to play and everyone wants to win but if you’re not 100%, it’s not helping the team. Teuvo Teravainen opted out of the morning skate and wasn’t any better for the warmups so Rod’s decision was easy. Somewhat easy.
The second and third lines have some great chemistry and play so well together. The fourth line had the revolving door of players in and out but this line was playing great so Rod penciled Marty on the first line.
It was also Whalers night and a sellout so the PNC Arena was rocking. During warmups, the Canes all came out wearing either Whaler baseball caps or the real throwback to the ’80s, headbands a la Ron Dugay or Dave Schmidt.
Thank You, Dougie Hamilton
Like their last match-up, the Canes started out strong. The top line of Sebastian Aho, Seth Jarvis and Martinook had the game’s first scoring opportunity with Fishy and Jarvis having an impressive give and go from the neutral zone into the Devils end with Jarvis getting off a shot from the far half boards that went wide by an inch.
As play went in the other direction, Raanta made a point-blank save, directing the puck to the near boards. Brady Skjei was first to the puck, but as he turned he got clipped pretty good (fortunately on his visor) but was stunned a bit and fully expecting a call for the high stick. Between being stunned, expectedly slow on the recovery, and no call, it allowed an extra Devil on the crease with both Raanta and Brett Pesce coming on strong.
During the first TV timeout, there was a nice recognition for former Canes defenseman, Dougie Hamilton, who is currently sidelined with a broken jaw. Dougie made an appearance at the runway in the South corner with a broad smile and raised his hand to thank the crowd. Classy move by the Canes and a quick look over to his good friend, Andrei Svechnikov. Svech smiled, pointed over to Dougie then tapped his stick on the ice which is the hockey player’s form of applause.
Martinook’s Spin-o-Rama, Svechnikov’s Strength Give Canes Lead
Martinook was the first on his line to make a change, grabbing the puck in the neutral zone and dumping it deep to allow for the full change. Marty followed the puck to the near corner, won a board battle but flubbed on the shot that Devils goalie, Jon Gillies, easily made the save and held the puck for a faceoff.
Fishy won the ensuing faceoff, drawing it back to Pesch up on the right with everyone getting into position. Pesch made the pass over to Skjei on the right who rimmed the puck along the boards. Jarvis then made a great play to win the battle, passing up to Marty on the perimeter of the circle. Fishy was circling the net and evading his defender when Marty surprised everyone by doing a spin-o-Rama, sliding the puck along the ice into the far corner for just his second of the year.
Later in the period, Tomas Tatar carried the puck into the Canes’ end along the near boards, laying a perfect lead pass to Andreas Johnsson for a tip-in but Raanta came up with the save, directing the puck to the corner. Ian Cole was first to the redirection wasting no time to pass up to Svech.
Svech can go from 5 to 55 mph in no time and quickly picked up speed going down the near boards a step ahead of Colton White. Martin Necas joined on the right with Ty Smith attempting coverage but Svech didn’t have a clear pass so he lowered his shoulder going to the net as White hooked him from behind. Svech put the puck on the backhand and forced it under Gillies’ pads, sliding in just as Vincent Trocheck crashed the creased for a “just in case Svech needed help” moment.
Hopefully not a deja vu moment as the Canes were up 2-0 last week against the Devils.
The Devils got a goal of their own late in the period. After the Canes were threatening in the Devils’ end, Pavelski Zacha backhanded a 9-iron from beyond the goal line to over the red line. Jane Kuokkanen was first to the puck, going into the Canes end, circling the net passing up to Jimmy Vesey who eyed the goal but passed over to Jesper Boqvist all alone on the right, taking a shot that Raanta aggressively came out, flopping on the pads for the save with the puck trickling in off his right pad to cut the score in half.
Raanta Not Once, Not Twice But Three Times Stops Breakaways
The Devils have some excellent young players and should be a force to reckon with in a year or two. It’s somewhat surprising their powerplay isn’t more successful and maybe the Caniacs should have been glad Hamilton was sitting this one out as he was a very big part of the Canes powerplay when he was here.
The Canes had to kill off nearly the full 2 minutes of a penalty Jarvis took late in the first doing an excellent job as any kill is good but being on fresh ice with an opportunity to tie the game made that kill that much bigger. Raanta came up big again shortly after the Devils powerplay when poor positioning by a Cane allowed another point-blank shot.
All teams have set plays and expectations. For the Devils, one play appeared to be when in doubt, throw the puck to the blue line in front of their own bench. That happened numerous times in the second period with a Devils player more times than not, ready for the no lock pass. Ethan Bear had 2 consecutive shots at Gillies with the last save going up to Boqvist for a breakaway. Raanta calmly came up big with a fantastic pad save. Midway in the period, Dawson Mercer had a second breakaway that Raanta again came up with a big save.
Late in the period, Pesch drew a tripping penalty behind the goal giving the Canes their first powerplay. With the second unit on the ice, after a shot be Nessy, Jarvis got bumped off the puck allowing a pass to Nathan Bastian along with Bratt for a 2-on-0 breakaway. Bastian held the puck shooting a wrister at the last possible moment that once again, Raanta made a huge save.
Canes Start Playing Canes Hockey
Despite the score of 2-1 for the Canes, it was the Devils who were having the better play in the first two periods. If the Canes were going to come away with 2 points they were going to have to change their ways and get back to Hurricanes hockey. Good chance Roddy gave his opinion of what needed to change as it was a different team in the third.
The Canes had only 13 shots in the first two periods while giving up 22. The Canes were physical upfront with the defense having one of their best games blocking shots, 16 all game. Neither team scored in the third but the Canes turned it around getting off 10 shots while yielding only 3. The defense adjusted in the third with few clear opportunities for pinching as one little turnover could result in another breakaway for the Devils and you can only ask your goalie to make so many odd-man rush saves unless you have an inside for divine intervention.
Jordan Staal, in a severe scoring slump, is still a beast on the ice doling out 8 massive hits and his positioning is still excellent. Linemates Jesper Fast and Nino Niederreiter are a great compliment with Quickie earning his moniker and Nino being a combination of both speed, grit and skill. A fun fact is there are few Swiss players in the NHL but the Devils have 4 which I’m sure is the most for any team.
No rest for the Canes as their next game came just hours later on Sunday at 5 PM against the Sharks, making it their third game in only 70 hours.
Canes Top Sharks, 2-1, with Late Goal from Svechnikov
This game had a familiar line: the last time the Canes played the Sharks in San Jose early in the season, the Canes entered the third with a 1-0 lead then the Sharks scored in the third to tie. The Canes wound up losing in OT, 2-1 and they were determined not to have that happen again.
After the Sharks came back to tie it in the third, Andrei Svechnikov scored with 3:44 left while Frederik Andersen, and great defense by the Canes, held off the Sharks for a 2-1 win in regulation.
Thank You, James Reimer
Former Canes James Reimer was in goal for the Sharks and played an excellent game. As a Canes player, Reims became a Caniac favorite. Back then when Reimer was selected as the first star of the game, he’d sit for the post-game interview, dripping wet but with that’s folksy smile, always soft-spoken and always quick to give credit to his teammates and the boisterous Caniacs.
Once again, the Canes management staff had the class to show some Reimer highlights and say Thank You to a great former player and super nice guy. But once that puck dropped, it was game on with the Canes shooting for what they thought were Reims’ weak spots while Reims anticipated players’ favorite moves and shot areas.
The Sharks are still without defenseman Erik Karlsson who was having another phenomenal year prior to going out with surgery required on his forearm. I’ve read where the surgery went well but have not read if the surgeon was able to line up all his tattoos.
Trocheck Fools Reimer
The Canes’ Vincent Trocheck lit the lamp first on a typical sneaky Tro-type goal.
Both teams needed line changes so after the Canes failed to get the puck deep, Ryan Merkley picked up a loose puck at his blue line along the near boards making a hard pass to Nick Bonino just above the Canes blue line. Ethan Bear made a great stick check just as the puck got to Bonino, knocking the puck to Ian Cole on his left.
Trocheck just hopped over the boards going right to the center dot where Cole fed him while in stride. Tro had speed going into the Sharks end with Marc-Edouard Vlasic about 10’in front of Tro and still backing up negating any chance for a stick check. Tro, being the seasoned and sneaky veteran, took advantage using Vlasic as a shield and snapping a hard shot from 43’ out through the defenseman’s legs going glove side fooling Reimer for the early 1-0 lead.
Shortly after that goal, on a broken line, which may be a glimpse of a future line, Jesperi Kotkaniemi made a great-looking pass to Svech on his off-wing side, quickly taking a shot that had goal written all over it but Reimer made a better save. Not to be outdone, Andersen shut down Jeffrey Viel. That move had Viel looking up to the rafters after he thought he had the goal. Unsure if that had any bearing but shortly after that save, Viel tackled Svech right at the Sharks’ bench as the door opened, bear-hugging Svech to the floor while both were jostling.
The refs made an unusual call of 4 minutes for Veil and 2 for Svech, which had alternate captain Sebastian Aho questioning why. The simple answer is because the refs wear the stripes with the orange band and what they say goes.
Svech got another call later in the period when he was a little too aggressive with a hit on Logan Couture that while Svech may have disagreed with the call, headed straight to the box. During the Sharks’ powerplay, Andersen faced only one shot by Jonathan Dahlen which looked like it was going to be stuffed inside the near post however Andersen anchored his boot along the post for a toe save keeping the Canes up by 1.
Andersen, Reimer Solid in the Second
Early in the second period, both teams started getting chippy on plays. A little extra bump here, a whack with the stick there and the inevitable glove in the face at a whistle was becoming all too common.
Similar to lighting a fuse on a stick of dynamite- unless someone defuses the situation, sooner or later there would be an explosion. Credit the refs, and maybe the coaches, as after about the 8-minute mark much of that chippiness passed. Forechecking was the order of the day as 6-½ minutes into the second, the Canes only had 3 shots on net while the Sharks had just 1 and that was a long shot from the point that Andersen saw all the way.
That would change, mostly for the Canes, as they got off another 8 shots while limiting the Sharks to a total of 4 for the period. The best scoring opportunity the Canes had was when Nino Niederreiter was coming full speed across the ice getting a slick pass when Radim Simek slid along the ice taking out Nino on what could have been an injury but the strong Swiss player shrugged it off.
The Canes were 45 seconds into the powerplay when Tro got a call for tripping evening it up at 4-on-4. Rod Brind’Amour started an odd duo of Seth Jarvis and Jordan Staal as the first forward line on the 4-on-4, sort of like strength and defense along with skill and offense. They frankly played well together as Jarvis is sneaky good and reads the play well beyond his young age. He plays a similar game as Tro with Tro having a tad more sandpaper to his game.
They were joined by Brett Pesce and Brady Skjei who have together been playing some outstanding hockey. The period ended where it started, 1-0 in favor of the Canes. Just like last October in San Jose.
Svechnikov Slaps Home the Game Winner. Again.
I have no doubt both coaches told their teams during the intermission to keep out of the box and maybe the refs got that same memo as there were no penalties called during the period.
Some may have occurred but not called so it was going to be whoever wanted it more. San Jose coach Bob Boughner, not pleased with just 4 shots in the second, must have said the standard ‘you can only score if you shoot’ speech as the Sharks got off a game-high 13 in the third.
The Sharks tied the game at the 3:36 mark on a bad clear by the Canes. The Sharks dumped the puck deep with Andersen stopping the puck behind the net, rimming it back to the near side. Jesper Fast had his back to the puck when Rudolf Balcers raced down, tipped the puck forward, putting it on his stick skating across through the top of the crease. Skjei lost his footing going down right in front of Andersen allowing Balcers to lift the puck into the net for the tying goal in the third. Just like in October.
Except for that incident, Andersen was clearly on his game tonight stopping everything being tossed at him with the defense making it somewhat easy as they were clearing the lanes for the best sight of the puck. Svechnikov made sure it would not go into overtime, just like October.
Fishy won a faceoff in the Sharks end in the far circle, slapping the puck to the boards recovering it then quickly passing up to Pesch on the right point. Pesch saw Svech and Fastin front of the goal sending a slapper into the traffic. The puck hit one of the 4 bodies in front of the net, popped loose to the near side with Svech eyeing the puck, with his stick being held, yanked it away while turning, the shaft bending almost to the breaking point, then with the puck on its edge, swatted the puck to the far upper corner that hit the twine just inside the post bouncing out as fast as it went in it looked like it may have hit the post.
Svech, along with the ref, knew immediately it was in for the all-important goal. Unlike last October, his second game-winner of the weekend and a great way to start the winter break with the All-Star game later this week.
The next home game is February 16 against the tough Florida Panthers. Be there!
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