Cary, NC – The Carolina Hurricanes made it three-for-three in the preseason with a strong 5-1 victory over the defending Stanley Cup champs, the Washington Capitals.
Special teams once again were outstanding killing off all penalties and going two-for-five on the power play with the last one during the last 17 seconds in the game. Jacob Slavin had a big night with three points but once again it was the hopeful rookies that stole the show.
Canes Open the Scoring
On his first shift of the game, #2 draft pick Andrei Svechnikov controlled the puck at the near circle in the offensive zone while being covered like a blanket. He calmly made a leading pass to fellow Russian Valentin Zykov who redirected the puck past Braden Holtby for the early Canes lead they would never relinquish. Just seconds later, Zykov let go an 85 mph wrister that Holtby blocked and did a double take at Zykov as he skated around the net.
Sebastian Aho and Hayden Flury had penalties in the first period but the penalty kill teams were fast on the puck, very physical along the boards and clearing the crease. Dougie Hamilton is six feet, six inches, 230 pounds, plays with an edge and will be earning many steak dinners from the goalies. Midway in the first, Slavin pinched down along the left boards making a hard centering pass that bounced off Jordan Staal’s lower leg to make it 2-0.
All-pro, All-Everything, Nicklas Backstrom cut the lead in half when he was left all alone on the left side on a rare defensive zone lapse. Rookie hopeful Warren Foegele played a great game forechecking and ragging the puck on the PK while Flury was serving his penalty. Foegele chased the puck behind the net, beating his opponent, then making a perfect pass to Jordan Martinook for a short handed goal. Washington won the ensuing faceoff bringing the puck deep to set up their play, Foegele still in high gear, stole the puck and just missed sliding the puck in the far corner. If you recall, Foegele played a game or two last year and scored on his first shot with his family in the stands and stopped smiling three days later. This is a fun player to watch.
Canes Defense Very Solid
Both teams settled down in the second. The Canes again took two penalties, which is very unusual for Hurricane hockey. The PK team killed both very successfully without giving up a shot. The Canes were able to limit the Capitals to just three shots on net in the second with Petr Mrazek stopping all.
He stopped six of the seven in the first but with Mrazek only faced nine shots in his first game; I’m sure the coaches were somewhat hoping Mrazek would get more game-shots for a better evaluation. Late in the period, Foegele once again charged the net and got tangled with Holtby with Holtby grabbing Foegele’s stick and flinging it behind his back up to the far point. It’s preseason for the refs too so chalk up no penalty there to either preseason or benefit of a seasoned veteran over a rookie.
Slavin Scores a Beauty
The Canes started the third like they started the game: fast on the puck, taking the man against the boards and great passing. The Canes ended up with 35 hits compared to 20 for the Caps. Many of the hits were in the neutral zone which was missing last year. Despite he early penalty, Flury had an excellent game. Twice he was the lone defender on breakaways and did a Slavin-like body drop, perfectly timed that broke plays both time.
Flury lost 20 pounds over the summer with the workouts concentrating on speed and strength. Flury went all season last year without a goal and after the season played down in Charlotte scoring on just his second shift for the Checkers. I talked with him a few weeks ago and just mentioning getting his first NHL goal is something he’s really looking forward to but is concerned about what is in store for him from his teammates.
With the Canes on a powerplay late in the period, Staal passed over to Zykov on the near circle. Zykov threw the puck to the net as he saw Slavin charging from the left point. Holtby bumped the pass but Slavin adjusted his position and put a sweet backhander top shelf for another powerplay goal. Even with the game out of hand, the Caps pulled their goalie for the last minute extra man drill. Hamilton stole the puck in the D-zone, passing to Foegele along the boards who made a lead pass to rookie Martin Necas who protected the puck then calmly sent it in the empty net to close out the scoring.
Another impressive win that is going to make decisions for the coaches hard as to who makes the team or heads to Charlotte. This team has the potential to be a very good team. The biggest thing I’ve seen is how aggressive the Canes are on the puck. That’s the way coach Rod Brind’Amour played and obviously expects his players to play.
The next home game is Sunday, September 30, 2018 against the Nashville Predators.