The Carolina Hurricanes where close to a comeback Sunday evening, ultimately dropping their sixth and final preseason game. Despite the loss, The Hurricanes look poised to deliver a strong start to the 2019-2020 season.
The Carolina Hurricanes came out swinging Sunday against a Washington team who has been incredibly productive during their preseason stint. It was the highly anticipated Caniac Carnival even that saw a packed house deliver a true regular season atmosphere; the players seemed ready to answer the call.
The Washington Capitals were as good as they had been all preseason, not missing a beat from their dominant performance last year. Their chemistry was evident, and they played a solid game from start to finish against a Carolina team who is still figuring out how to integrate the new faces and elevate many of the returning stars.
One thing was clear from puck drop; this game got very physical. Players where at each other, and it was easy to see that this Capitals team hasn’t quite gotten over their game seven loss to the Hurricanes during the first round of last year’s playoffs.
The physical play was matched with a determination from many of the team’s top players. Teuvo Teravainen threw his body around early, setting the tone for this team to embrace a physical style and lay hard checks on an often eagerly rough Capitals group.
Offensively, Sebastian Aho came to play, and he brought second year Russian sniper, Andrei SVechnikov, with him. It seems as though head coach Rod Brind’Amour is favoring a line of Aho, Svechnikov and Teravainen to start the year, as they were the primary offensive line. This is encouraging after both Svech and Aho delivered a two-point day.
The Carolina Hurricanes great offensive start was quickly met by the continued excellence of Braden Holtby. Again, delivering some pretty eye-popping saves, Holtby continued to force the Hurricanes to fight for goals early. The top stars, ultimately, gave Holtby a run for his money int eh games later stages.
There were two point of concern watching this game that have been evident all season; penalties and special teams. Both Carolina and Washington heard the whistle blown a lot, but it was Washington who capitalized on their man advantage; scoring twice in six chances.
Committing the six penalties was tough for Carolina, many of them being avoidable mistakes that costs them a scoring chance. It was scoring once in five chances that is a little more bothersome.
The power play was a massive detriment to this team last season, and for them to be able to excel this year, their special teams play has to be better. This preseason game was not an encouraging sign toward that goal.
Petr Mrazek had a decent day. He made some great saves, but still finished with a sub .900 save percentage. This season has put a lot of faith in Mrazek’s ability to be an above average starter in this league.
The platoon approach that The Carolina Hurricanes sported last year isn’t likely to return, as veteran Curtis McElhinney is off to Tampa Bay. An unproven backup and a veteran on the decline remain. The bright side lies in the dominant defense that Carolina can boast to assist a reliant Mrazek.
The team ultimately played well and almost got the victory despite their self-inflicted wounds. Players like Julien Gauthier proved again that he deserves a place on this roster, he continued to make NHL level plays that will undoubtedly force the coaches to consider where he’ll end up October 3rd.
He showed that his size translates to the NHL level, and is reminiscent of players like Warren Foegele, Lucas Wallmark, and Brock McGinn; guys who seemingly came out of nowhere to be necessary contributors for this team.
One thing is for sure, this was a positive step for the Hurricanes. Despite their shortcomings, they have shown growth. As their confidence ascends so too should their chemistry. It won’t be long before the Hurricanes really find their footing and are off to the races.