One question answered earlier in the day was whether Andrei Svechnikov would play in the opening game. Throughout the training camp, Svech expressed confidence in his goal to play, but obviously, the doctors and coaches had different thoughts. In the last full practice, it appeared Svech missed a few shifts, which may have been nothing or precautionary. He’s a phenomenal player who plays a physical game, and if he’s not 100%, then nearly 19,000 in attendance were disappointed, but certainly understood.
Rod Brind’Amour went to the whiteboard four times at the last full practice and went over plays. Hockey is more like organized chaos, but there is a reason why the Canes are rated highly. First is the coach, and then comes the talent. This team certainly has the talent, but interestingly enough, no player was in the top 50 by a popular hockey publication. Yet, the team was predicted to be in the Stanley Cup finals by 7 out of 9 ‘hockey editors’.
This Game Had It All
In a game that had everything—plenty of scoring, plenty of penalties (mostly because the refs called a tight game both ways), a powerplay goal, a penalty shot, two shorthanded goals, a couple of milestones, and fancy rally towels that illuminated—the Canes won the game 5-3 against a much-improved Ottawa squad.
The Senators’ top line is very talented, and their top defensive pair is one of the best pairings in the East. The game had the usual first game of the season delayed due to the extended introduction of the team, with the loudest ovation for Rod Brind’Amour, who gave a fist pump that further ignited the crowd.
Then it got down to all business.
Both teams started ‘slow,’ which in hockey just means cautious, somewhat like prizefighters starting a bout by sparring. It was the Sens that started the scoring. Shortly after a weak penalty on Brett Pesce ended, the Sens had a 2-on-1 rush that Freddie Anderson made a quick pad save on. Parker Kelly retrieved the puck, passing it up to Artem Zub on the right point. Zub let go of a hard slap shot that Matthieu Joseph deflected from 15 feet out to put the Sens up 1-0.
That might have been a wake-up call, as after that goal, it was all Canes for most of the period. At the 6:16 mark, Jesper Fast, getting behind the defense, took a headman pass and went in on Joonas Korpisalo all alone until he was slashed just as he shot. A penalty shot was awarded, but Quickie couldn’t convert to tie the game.
Like the last preseason game, Brind’Amour went with seven defenders, with newcomer Brendan Lemieux the healthy scratch.
Welcome to Carolina, Michael Bunting, Turbo Pots Beauty
The second period had the Canes tie the game and then get the lead they never relinquished. With the Canes on a powerplay with a new look, Tony DeAngelo passed to Sebastian Aho at the top of the near circle. Aho passed down to Michael Bunting, who made a quick power move across the crease, held the puck long enough for Korpisalo to make a move, then slid the puck in to tie the game.
The play on both ends of the ice picked up in intensity, speed, and nastiness. On a Canes turnover in the Sens end, Martin Necas used his speed to thwart a potential 2-on-0 with some impressive defensive skills. Late in the period, the Canes got the lead on a very sweet-looking goal. Brady Skjei took a long slap shot from the left point, which allowed Necas to get the puck inside the far circle. Necas wasted no time in finding Teuvo Teravainen inside the near circle, making a perfect, crisp, and gutsy pass that Turbo had lined up to find the millimeters available on the lower right corner. That was a thing of beauty, and hopefully, this is a sign of things to come for Turbo after having an injury-filled and disappointing season last year.
Canes Defensemen, Skjei and Slavin Close Scoring
Unlike the first two periods in which the Canes started slow, the third was the start Rod had on the whiteboard. After Jordan Staal won the draw back to Brett Burns, Burns passed over to Jordan Martinook along the near boards. Martinook dumped the puck deep, and Staal put pressure forechecking on the defense, which resulted in a turnover that Martinook got along the half boards.
Looking up, Martinook passed back to Jordan, who used his body to protect the puck going to the top of the crease and then lifted a backhander to put the Canes up 3-1 with just 20 seconds gone. The Senators came back with two quick goals. With the Canes on a powerplay, Dmitry Orlov took a shot from the top center point that was blocked, giving the Sens a 2-on-1 breakaway they converted. Only 35 seconds later, Tim Stutzle sniped a shot from the outside perimeter of the far circle that beat Andersen to tie the game and silence the very biased crowd.
Just two minutes later, the Canes’ forechecking led to what became the game-winning goal. Just as the Sens were about to clear the puck, Martinook pickpocketed Stutzle just before clearing the zone, dumping the puck to the far corner. Staal got the puck, passed to Quickie behind the net, and held for just a second before passing up to Skjei, who had speed and slammed the puck into the upper left corner.
A little over three minutes later, with Pesce back in the box on another weak call, the Canes got their own shorthanded goal. Jesperi Kotkaniemi’s forechecking led to a turnover at the Sens’ blue line. KK dumped the puck into the far corner, which Seth Jarvis won in a skating contest, then passed behind the net to KK.
KK carried the puck along the boards, drawing in two defenders, with Jaccob Slavin making a gutsy cut towards the net. KK made a nifty backhand pass between the two defenders right to Slavin’s tape and went to school on Skjei’s shot, hitting the top upper left corner for the insurance goal. Have to check the records, but this may be Slavin’s first shorty.
It was a great first game and a great crowd that was Canes Crazy all night. The next home game is after the long road trip due to the Fair being in town on Thursday, October 26, against Seattle. Be there!