The Carolina Hurricanes win streak came to an end Tuesday night, as the team struggled mightily to penetrate the Chicago defense. They ultimately fell to the desperate Chicago Blackhawks, 2-1.
The opening period was all Canes, but even then the Hawks kept most chances to the perimeter. Blackhawks netminder Kevin Lankinen made a solid save or two, but rarely felt truly tested.
After the first period ended deadlocked, the Blackhawks struck twice early in the second. After a neutral zone turnover led to a 2-on-1, Dylan Strome beat Alex Nedeljkovic off his shoulder and in to the short side. Shortly after, Dougie Hamilton took a not-great slashing penalty, Brett Pesce had a tough turnover of his own with a great chance to ice the puck, and Alex DeBrincat quickly buried a power play goal.
The Hurricanes got a glimmer of hope late in the second. Brady Skjei would throw a seemingly harmless shot from a bad angle towards the goal after a faceoff win, and it would deflect off Andrei Svechnikov, then off a Blackhawks defender, and past Lankinen for the Canes’ only marker.
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Vincent Trocheck had some nice moments including an assist, and the defense held Chicago to just 16 shots (though at least a part of that is because the Blackhawks’ sole purpose seemed to be to clog their defensive zone for the last 20 minutes or so of the game).
Otherwise, there is not a whole lot of good to say. The Hurricanes were very sloppy with the puck, lost too many battles, failed to finish when they carried the play early on, and were unable to get into the interior of the Chicago defense to create any consistent, meaningful offense in the final 40 minutes.
From the pregame keys:
- Trocheck’s Return: as mentioned, Trocheck played pretty well and showed no ill-effects after his three-week layoff. He picked up basically right where he left off, playing 18:57, winning 10-15 faceoffs, registering six shots on net, and picking up the aforementioned assist. He looked notably dangerous with the puck early on, weaving in and out of traffic nicely on a few occasions. A nice return for #16, and promising for the Hurricanes moving forward. One other note, a big part of this pregame key was the idea of getting Svechnikov going… despite the goal, that did not happen tonight. Svechnikov was fighting the puck as bad as I have seen him in his career. His decision making was poor (ex: blind pass to the middle late in the game with the goalie pulled that easily could have ended up in the net), he was fumbling simple passes, and struggled mightily to get shots through or on net. Still no reason to really worry about the kid, but Rod needs to figure out a way to jump start him at some point if this team is going to reach its potential.
- The Trap Game: Well… on one hand, the Canes actually came out firing and really carried the play in the first period. On the other, I made a comment late in the first that the Hurricanes needed to bare down and finish one of their myriad chances or get to the blue paint for a greasy goal, because the Blackhawks are a desperate team that will basically be in must-win mode the rest of the year. They were always going to push back, especially when that period ended 0-0. They capitalized, the Canes did not. That was pretty much the hockey game.
- Ned’s Puck Playing: it felt like the Hawks spent so little time on the forecheck – or even in the Canes zone at all, honestly – that this is pretty much a big *shrug*. It ended up having little impact on the game. Nedeljkovic barely seemed to be involved in the game at all, only facing 16 total shots – only five of which came in the opening period. He never looked like he found a rhythm. He then gave up a tough, short side goal – one he likely wants back – early in the second period. That turned out to be a huge play in the game, as the Blackhawks got a nice momentum surge and doubled their lead before the Hurricanes recovered.
On the bright side, Tampa Bay dropped a 3-1 decision to Columbus, so the Hurricanes did not lose any ground, maintaining their game in hand/one point deficit on the Central leaders (Florida did leap the Hurricanes, but are just one point ahead with two games in hand).
The Canes will have a chance to quickly bounce back and get some revenge Thursday night, back at the United Center against these same Blackhawks. The game will be on NBCSN (again), and John Forslund will be on the call (actually, this time, my apologies for thinking/writing he had Tuesday night’s game).