Raleigh, NC – The Canes are off to a rough start in 2020. Though a valiant effort was brought by the Canes to make their way back from a 3 goal deficit in their January 3 game against the Capitals, their comeback came up short. Their most recent game on Sunday did not yield a better result, either.
Instead of playing like it was the start of the second half of the season, the Canes played as if it were an early-season game or even a preseason game with several mistakes and lackluster play all over as they faced Tampa Bay.
Just like the last game against Washington, the Canes entered the game with a 2-0 record against arguably the top two teams in the east. And just like the last game, the Canes found themselves in a hole early and kept digging, making the hole deeper. The Lightning played in Ottawa the night before and with customs issues, didn’t arrive in Raleigh until 3 in the morning but they were the faster team on the ice, holding on to an early lead, eventually winning 3-1.
Canes In A Hole Early
Sebastian Aho won the first drop of the puck and the Canes had a good entry into the Bolts end with good puck control and movement but the Bolts defense didn’t allow a shot. The Jordan Staal line likewise had control of the puck deep in the offensive zone for nearly their whole shift.
As the Bolts started a breakout, both teams started to make forward line changes but due to the play, neither team could make a full change that resulted in split lines and confusion for the Canes. Nikita Kucherov, one of the most talented players in the NHL, was the lone first liner for the Bolts still on the ice, dangled the puck then passed over to fourth-liner Carter Verhaeghe in the near circle. Rookie Mitchell just came over the boards going down the left wing with speed and unchecked. Verhaeghe made a gutsy cross-ice pass to Mitchell who came in the back door for just the second goal of his career. Bad start for Petr Mrazek as it was just the first shot of the game and yielded the first goal at the 2:36 mark.
A little over 2 minutes later, with the Canes pressuring in the Bolts end, the Bolts cleared the puck the entire length of the ice. The 18000 plus in attendance along with any player wearing red thought it was icing. Dougie Hamilton got control of the puck behind his own goal, went around the left side of the goal and Kucherov’s stick lifted Hamilton’s arms, that if there was a video for penalties, this would be the example for hooking, but no call. Hamilton knew, or really thought, it was a penalty as he looked back at Kucherov and the referee while the puck slid onto Steve Stamkos’ stick who had all the time in the world to choose where he’d bury the puck. Second shot, second goal. Not a great start for Mrazek, the Canes, Caniacs or maybe even the refs.
Late in the period, with the Canes on a man advantage, Hamilton had the puck in the high slot with everyone hoping for some type of salvation for the earlier miscue, and he let go one of his bombs. The puck was blocked off a body but went right to Andrei Svechnikov who took a quick wrister but with the puck on edge, had the shot go 4’ wide of an almost empty net as Andreo Vasilecsky hadn’t recovered from Hamilton’s shot.
Poor Line Change Hurts Canes
The second period wasn’t much better for the Canes. The Bolts should have been weary from playing the night before and getting in so late and maybe the Canes were counting on that but that’s not how the Bolts played. Their solid forechecking lead to their third goal. With the puck deep in the Canes end, Warren Foegele had the puck hit his skates along the near half boards as he attempted to gain control for a clear. Stamkos put a check on Foegs with his stick on the ice digging for the puck. The puck was knocked loose to Kucherov in the corner who sent the puck towards the net, banging off the rounded corner along the ice with Brayden Point picking up the puck just 5’ in front of the net, skated backward and lifted a backhander top shelf for a highlight goal.
While the Bolts have a roster fully capable of loading up on the score, it certainly appeared their game plan changed to just protect the lead. They pummeled Mrazek with 17 shots in the second but only a few were serious scoring chances with Mrazek making key saves. The Bolts forechecking in the second was the best the Canes faced all season as they were only able to get off 5 shots on goal which included 2 powerplays.
Pat Maroon, not one to shy away from anyone including the folks on the ice wearing stripes, got called for holding Jake Gardiner late in the period, possibly didn’t agree with the call and may have wished a ref something other than a Happy New Year as he also got a game misconduct. Still, the Canes were not able to convert on their powerplay with the Bolts man down defense like a wall at the blue line making entry disorganized for the Canes.
Svechnikov Breaks Shutout
Coach Rod Brind’Amour had to lay into the players during the second intermission as the Canes stepped up their play in the third. Not by much but any improvement was sorely needed. The Canes forechecking was revived but give the Bolts credit, the ability to have a clear shooting lane rarely existed.
Midway in the period, a play that is sure to be repeated numerous times in the future, Brett Pesce stole the puck in his end and passed up to Jaccob Slavin going through the neutral zone with speed. Slavs carried the puck along the far boards, looked up for a teammate and made a hard backhand pass to the slot right to the tape on Svech’s stick who swiped the puck under the pads to get the Canes on the boards.
Those 3 players are going to be the cornerstones of the Canes future. Scoring gets headlines but the defensive play and overall ice smarts by Slavs and Pesce are hidden gems that most Caniacs and all Canes brass recognize. Svech has the talent to be a huge star. He has the size, the speed, the talent, the attitude and spunk the Caniacs like to see. He almost tried his patented Svech-lacrosse move that had the entire arena buzzing. Halfway through the move he knew it wasn’t the right time and flipped the puck back to himself.
The game ended 3-1 which considering the play of both teams, was a gift for the Canes. The next game is Tuesday, Jan. 7 against the Flyers. Both teams are in the wild card spots and one thing Brindy wants is a better record against metro division teams. Be there!