‘Canes versus Red Wings. Not a bad way to spend a chilly evening in Raleigh, NC. The ‘Canes were well rested, having last played Thursday night, losing 2-1 to the Washington Capitals. It was a frustrating loss characterized by poor puck management. So much so that even my wife – not a huge hockey fan took notice.
The Detroit Red Wings had played Saturday night, winning their match with the New York Rangers, 2-1. In a theory that a good friend of mine has studied closely of late, the back-to-back road games should have equaled tired legs for the Red Wings, a possible advantage for the ‘Canes. In the end, it was not to be a night of tired Wings, as they played a near perfect game and left Raleigh with a 3-1 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes.
Speaking of being well-rested
At 2:31 in the first period, the ‘Canes’ Tim Gleason was given 4 a minute double-minor for high-sticking. He was given a few additional minutes to prepare for the game from the comfort of the penalty box.
The ‘Canes kill on this four-minute penalty was outstanding. In fact, the Hurricanes have been very good on the penalty kill of late, having killed 20 of 21 in the past 9 games, allowing only one goal in that time span. In particular, Cam Ward – having missed Thursday’s tilt against the Caps with a lower body injury – was fantastic.
The Red Wings spent the first of the four minutes chasing the puck back to their zone. Regrouping, they launched multiple shots at Ward, and he handled each of them with grace. The four-minute minor was killed and a feeling of momentum for the ‘Canes began to build in Raleigh’s PNC Arena. Cam Ward seemed fully recovered and stood tall against the barrage that was this particular power play.
By the way, I noticed early on that the Detroit Red Wings are very fast. In fact, they are the fastest team I have seen so far this season. I did not give them their proper due in my recent article predicting who will win the Stanley Cup. After seeing them up close tonight, I am very impressed. I am not dismissing their chances to go deep into the playoffs one bit.
Despite the back-to-back road games, their legs looked anything but tired. They were flying up and down the ice, getting quickly to the Hurricanes zone with what looked like ease. I began to get a sinking feeling halfway through the first period that the ‘Canes were seriously outclassed against these speedsters from the Motor City.
Pavel Datsyuk is stupid good
I’ve had the pleasure of seeing some of the NHL’s best players live this season. Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Shea Weber, and Jonathan Quick to name a few. Pavel Datsyuk is the latest I’ve had the privilege of watching, and he is so good it’s stupid. His first period goal was his 12th of the season. He also recorded assists on a later goals scored by Tomas Tatar. Including his outing in Carolina, he has registered eight multi-point games so far this season and four in the last five. That is stupid good.
Datsyuk is good in a variety of ways. Obviously he skates well. Obviously he is fast and very quick. But, his game is not stupid good solely because of his skating skills. He is extremely smart, also. Hurricanes Coach Peters gave Datsyuk high praise after the game:
Watching him pick a lane away from a ‘Canes shift to give himself a clear path to the goal is one example of his clear, smart thinking on the fly. His handling of the puck is fluid and seamless. His passes are crisp and well thought out. He is not what I would call “cerebral,” but just smart at the game by nature. Former Red Wing Andrej Nestrasil said it’ got to be fun for the fans to watch Pavel:
I’m not ready to go as far as Coach Peters and gloss him “the best player in the world” just yet. There is Sidney Crosby and a slew of others who might deserve that distinction a bit more. But anyone who has seen Pavel Datsyuk at his best will have to agree that he is a stupid good hockey player. ‘Canes radio pregame and post-game radio host Mike Maniscalco said even Siri agrees about Datsyuk in this Tweet:
In case you were wondering, Pavel Datsyuk is a very good hockey player. #Analysis Don't believe me, Just ask Siri who the Magic Man is…
— Mike Maniscalco (@mikemaniscalco) December 7, 2014
‘Canes nasty habit
Going back to their 3-2 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on November 29th, the Hurricanes have a way of making backup goalies look great. They couldn’t solve Thomas Greiss. Prior to that, they could not get past Troy Grosenick of the San Jose Sharks on November 16th. It was Grosenick’s first NHL start and the ‘Canes lost 2-0. A nasty habit seems to be developing wherein they are making backup goalies look great.
Enter Petr Mrazek, the 22-year old Czech who was starting his third game in-goal for the Detroit Red Wings this season. He entered the contest 2-0 with a 3.36 goals against average. His save percentage was .875. He exited the Hurricanes’ home ice with a record of 3-0 with a 2.59 goals against average and a save percentage of .912. Thank you very much.
Mrazek was not standing on his head as did Thomas Greiss of Pittsburgh. While he did save 34 of 35 shots, the ‘Canes just kept shooting right at him. He made this nice save on a Jeff Skinner shot at 13:11 in the first period:
The Carolina Hurricanes must be more aggressive at the net. They are not crashing the net after shots with any type of consistency. Coach Peters acknowledged after the game that this is indeed an area that needs improvement:
“Traffic. Got to be in the goalie’s eyes and make it very hard for him. We have shots, but we don’t have net-front traffic. We’ve got to do a better job of that not only tonight but moving forward. If they see it at this level, they’re going to save it.”
Are the ‘Canes surging hard to the bottom?
Before the game I got the following text from a Hurricanes fan: “The ‘Canes have dropped to next to last place in all of hockey. Ten games out of a playoff spot. A win tonight would be great. Would move us up past several teams.” It is unfortunate that there is so much truth in that text. The ‘Canes are not making any headway in their efforts to move up in the standings. Getting points at home is a must in the NHL for a team to have success and get into the playoffs. They just have not been able to win at home and the rest of
December is not going to be easy. The New Jersey Devils come to Raleigh Monday night. Then the ‘Canes go on the road to face the Tampa Bay Lightning, Philadelphia Flyers, and Montreal Canadiens. They ring out 2014 with the Lightning, Canadiens, and Penguins. It might not be a very Happy New Year for Carolina unless they can start winning. Getting to the net for second and third chances would be welcome presents for Coach Peters here during the Christmas season. Let’s hope Santa comes early. Monday night would be good.
*Note: Captain Eric Staal was hit in the foot by a slapshot from Justin Faulk and was seen on crutches after the game. It is not known at this point whether or not he will be in the lineup Monday night against the Devils. Sheesh, did someone say “Grinch?”
Mark lives in the Raleigh, NC area and covers the Carolina Hurricanes.