The Carolina Hurricanes secured victories in their first two preseason games, defeating Tampa Bay 5-2 and the Florida Panthers 4-1 on consecutive nights.
Prospects Show Promise
In the matchup against Tampa Bay, Coach Rod Brind’Amour fielded only four defensemen and Freddie Andersen from the roster. Everyone else was either a prospect or a player on a PTO (Professional Tryout Offer). Watching newcomer Dmitry Orlov team up with Tony DeAngelo was a highlight, as they clearly stood out. Orlov’s solid performance raised hopes among Caniacs that he would maintain this level of play throughout the season. His powerful presence on the ice, akin to an immovable oak tree, was impressive. Surprisingly, his passing skills and a deadly shot were also on display. During the Canes’ first powerplay, which initially appeared lackluster, he narrowly missed a goal, hitting the post on a quick give-and-go. It seemed that many were more focused on precise passing than taking a shot.
Tampa Bay opened the scoring on a powerplay due to a slashing penalty by Brendan Perlini. Alex Barre-Boulet capitalized on a blocked shot at the point, maneuvered to his left, and, despite traffic in front of Anderson, expertly picked the corner with a 60-foot wrister, putting the Bolts ahead 1-0. Just eight seconds later, Jayden Halbgewachs seized an opportunity, picking up a puck deflected by the defense to tie the game. The Canes’ relentless forechecking led to the second goal, with Caleb Jones converting a beautiful passing play involving Ryan Suzuki and Felix Unger Sorum. Jamieson Rees was positioned on top of the crease. In the second period, with Pyotr Kochetkov now in goal, he saved a soft shot, passed it to Perlini, who carried the puck into the Bolts’ zone. After his shot was blocked, DeAngelo seized the loose puck, launching a hard one-timer from the point that extended the Canes’ lead to 3-1. In the third period, Noel Gunler scored a splendid goal off a precise pass from Dylan Coghlan, while Kieffer Bellows closed the scoring with another well-executed play, assisted by DeAngelo and Cory Conacher.
Brind’Amour must have been pleased with the game’s outcome, emphasizing that the prospects’ understanding of Hurricanes hockey is more crucial than the score. It’s an excellent approach for a coach, although players inevitably desire victory.
Against the Panthers, Canes Start Slow, End With a Flurry
In the second game, the Canes featured more veterans, with Jaccob Slavin and Brett Burns paired up, along with Brett Pesce and Brady Skjei. Up front, Roddy assembled a new line consisting of Jesperi Kotkaniem, Stefan Noesen, and newcomer Michael Bunting. The second line comprised Jack Drury, newcomer Brendan Lemieux, and PTO candidate Zach Aston-Reese (ZAR). Among them, ZAR had the most NHL games under his belt last year, with 77 appearances. This line stood out for its diversity, featuring players with distinct styles: one skilled with soft hands and a sniper shot, another unafraid of physicality, and a hard-nosed grinder in the corners.
First Game For Most, And It Showed
The first two periods were predominantly played in the neutral zone, with minimal penetration across the blue line by either team, quickly resulting in the puck being dumped out. The Canes had an early powerplay, which, like the night before, appeared weak. Interestingly, the penalty, initially assigned to Skyler Brind’Amour (yes, Rod’s son), was correctly changed to Grigori Denisenko. Rod later confirmed the correction. The underwhelming powerplay’s performance, typical for this stage, doesn’t overly concern the coach, as it offers insights into areas that require improvement. In the last practice before the two games, an extended session focused on new powerplay strategies. Such changes take time, and there’s no need to fret at this point. With 7:36 left in the period, the Canes held a significant shots advantage at 11-1, largely due to two powerplays and impressive forechecking during even strength. The only misstep occurred during a Cats’ powerplay at the 13:01 mark when Kevin Stenlund passed to Gerry Mayhew in the right corner of the net, while Pesce was checking Mathew’s stick. Unfortunately, the puck found its way into the goal.
2nd Period: Eh…, 3rd Period: All Canes
The second period saw both teams playing up and down the ice with minimal scoring opportunities. The Cats managed 6 shots, while the Canes had just 5. Neither coach was likely satisfied with their teams’ performance during this period. It’s probable that Rod mentioned the need for more shots, given that the Canes had greater possession time with the puck. The Canes then began scoring early and frequently in the third period. Noesen scored with his signature tap-in after a brilliant pass by KK. Just over 2 minutes later, Suzuki skillfully maneuvered behind the net, evaded a hard check, and continued around the net, lifting a soft wrist shot into the upper shelf to give the Canes the lead. A mere 16 seconds later, with the Canes still playing aggressive hockey, Bunting had the puck on the far side. He spotted Skjei cutting to the goal, made the pass, and Skjei one-timed it for the third goal. With 1:39 left, and the puck deep in the Canes’ end, Paul Maurice pulled the goalie. KK intercepted the puck, passed it to Slavin, who calmly found Bunting on the near boards. Bunting sent the puck 100 feet into the empty net, sealing the final score at 4-1. Notably, the game-winning goalie was Yaniv Perets, Skyler Brind’Amour’s college roommate.