GDB R1G3 WRAP UP: EX MACHINA
(Photo Credit: Keith Hershmiller)
Since today’s game day preview was focused on the dangers of artificial intelligence and the “singularity”, it only makes sense to carry on with the analogy. Tonight the word is ‘Ex Machina’ (pronounced MOCK-IN-AH… cause it drives me crazy when I hear MASHEENA… and yes I’m that guy). It’s a latin term that originated from a Greek phrase that means “a god from a machine”.
Now you’re probably thinking, that’s great and all Brock, but what does it actually mean. In its simplest form, it means something or someone that enters a story in the last possible moment (and out of nowhere) to solve a previously unsolvable issue.
It’s also the name of a great movie that references the dangers of artificial intelligence and the potential threat of the singularity. Now we’ve come full circle.
What I’m really getting at with ‘ex machina’ is that tonight the hero for the Pats was Rykr Cole – the unlikely but convenient problem solver. He’s not the guy anyone expected to score the game-winning goal, but he did, and it helped the Pats win a game that might otherwise have eluded them.
More after the jump.
Tonight’s game started with something we never like to see… an injury – or at least it looked to be an injury. Cory Millette went hard into the boards on a hit from Hilsendager under two minutes into the contest and, after laying on the ice for over a minute, made his way to the dressing room. The Hurricanes were unable to score on the ensuing powerplay, but already they appeared to generate more chances than they did on Saturday evening.
Maybe it was because he had just watched his teammate take a hard hit, but just few minutes after the Canes finished their PP, Carter Folk made a poor decision to follow through on a dangerous hit. Folk targeted Pats defenseman Friedrich, left his feet, and the primary point of contact was the head. It was effective, but it was dirty and he received a five-minute major and a game misconduct.
Things looked dire. The Canes had seemingly lost both Millette and Folk in the first five minutes and now were tasked with killing a lengthy Pats powerplay. Funny enough, it wound up working out just fine for the road team. Regina looked casual on their powerplay, and when Ben Duperreault forced a turnover in the Pats zone, it wound up on Estephan’s stick in the slot. Giorgio made no mistake as he split between Harrison and Sanford before backhanding the puck passed Brown for the 1 – 0 lead.
The Canes would almost get another goal out of the Folk hit when Vandervlis was sprung on a breakaway out of the box (he had been serving the penalty). Ryan made a nice move but fired wide on the backhand and the score remained 1 – 0. Regardless of the rocky start, overall the period was controlled by Lethbridge. Despite having a lengthy powerplay, the Pats had recorded 0 shots by the midway mark of the first (they would get their first in the 13th minute)! Things opened up late when Wagner had a breakaway and Zablocki ran over Nielsen to create a chance, but Skinner was there to make the saves.
The hard-hitting hockey continued in the second period, and while things did open up a little off the bat, it didn’t take long before the two teams started to tighten up again. It was a well contested period in what was a well-contested game. Both teams took their fair share of penalties in the middle frame. Estephan went twice, Babenko went once, Williams and Hilsendager sat for the Pats, and eventually the parade did pave the way for a goal.
With Regina on a late 5 on 3 powerplay, Skinner made a highlight reel save that seemed like it would be a defining moment. Unfortunately for him, the Pats were able to retrieve the puck and seconds later, Cole Sanford wired a hard snap shot passed a screened Stuart Skinner to tie the game at 1. There were a few more chances in the dying moments, but the second period would end with the game tied 1 – 1.
The third period wasn’t good for the Hurricanes. I’m just going to get that out of the way right now. Right out of the intermission the Pats took control and dictated the pace. Lethbridge was called on 6 straight icing’s in less than three minutes and it took its toll. The Canes looked slow and uninspired. They repeatedly skated into Pats defenders on the attack and more often than not it resulted in an odd-man rush the other way.
Stuart Skinner was doing his part to keep his team in the game. At the 12 minute mark Cole Sanford broke in alone down the right wing and Skinner denied him with the glove. The win was still very much up for the taking – or at least is was up for the taking.
The turning point of this game was what I can only deem an idiotic penalty by Canes defenseman Andrew Nielsen. He delivered a hit to one of the Pats forwards well after an offside whistle had been blown. Before you could blink the referee’s arm was up and the Canes were headed to the penalty kill.
As fate would have it, Sam Steel finished off a sensational passing play at the bottom of the right circle and put the Pats up 2 – 1. It was their first lead of the night and they wouldn’t let it go. Just a few minutes after Steel gave them the lead, Rykr Cole was able to finish off a 3 on 2 rush to extend the Pats advantage and drive a stake into the Canes efforts to tie.
The Pats took a late penalty and with Skinner on the bench, Andrew Nielsen would rip one through Brown to get the Canes back to within one – but that’s as close as they would come. The Hurricanes led for a good portion of this contest, but when push came to shove, they let it slip away. Final score, 3 – 2 Pats.
- After being on the receiving end of a 1st period boarding penalty and going to the dressing room, Canes overager Cory Millette returned to tonight’s game.
- After Carter Folk received a (somewhat deserved) 5 minute major for his hit on Freadrich (who would also return later in the game), the Canes didn’t surrender a goal and actually got a shorthanded tally from Estephan. Win!
- Aside from a few sketchy moments early in the 3rd, Kord Pankewicz and Brady Reagan have been the Hurricanes best defensive pairing. They’ve been eating big minutes and in the case of Pankewicz, I’m always impressive with his ability to protect the puck from forecheckers and start back up on the rush.
- Ben Duperreault was sensational tonight. I mentioned how he was a standout back in the second period when he was again making things happen on the penalty kill and it was great to see him rewarded with tonight’s 3rd star. Ben was tenacious as a penalty killer. The Canes lone goal wouldn’t have been possible without his effort in-on Pats defender Chase Harrison.
NOT SO GOOD
- The Millette incident was a little scary. I know he returned, but let’s hope it doesn’t come around on him tomorrow.
- Egor Babenko had me pulling my hair out tonight. He impresses me from time to time with his battle along the boards, but more often than not he is just a giveaway machine. He reminds me of Taylor Hall (the bad stuff) when he skates in down the wing and directly into two defenders for an easy turnover. Babenko refused to dump the puck in when there were clearly no other options. Time and time again the Pats defenders would just poke-check it off his stick and send it up ice for a counter attack.
- Where is the offense? I’m looking and it’s just not there. Burke, Wong, Babenko and Estephan… there’s just nothing happening right now. The Canes have scored one goal in the last two games at it was shorthanded. When your scorers can’t score you look to the depth guys, but there’s nothing happening there either. The team is cold and there’s no one riding in on a white stallion. They’re gonna have to figure it out and figure it out fast or this series is headed in a direction that most of us aren’t too excited about.
- I haven’t pulled out the ugly section in a while but I’m a little ornery tonight. The ugly is a lack of discipline. This player’s not alone, but when it’s the playoffs and every play has consequences, it needs to be talked about. I am of course talking about Andrew Nielsen’s roughing penalty… a game breaking penalty I should add. A hockey game is 60 minutes long, and the team had additional issues, but you could make a strong argument for how Andrew Nielsen’s late hit cost the Hurricanes this contest and I would struggle to argue. When you’re a repeat offender there’s even less leeway and that’s the case with #6. It was lazy, unnecessary, and worst of all, selfish. To make matters worse, Merezhko took a bad one just a few minutes later… what more can you say. I can’t guarantee they would have won had Nielsen not taken that minor, but I can guarantee you it would have improved their odds.
THIS AND THAT
- Once again the Pats did a great job of “clearing the house” around Tyler Brown. I also felt that Brown was better tonight than Saturday. There weren’t as many errant rebounds left around the crease.
- The Pats keep jumping their D men up into the play and it’s led to countless counterattacks. They have the horses and it’s giving the Canes all they can handle
- I would argue this was probably the hardest hitting game of the series. There weren’t an immense number of hits, but the physicality was ramped up. Folk, Harrison, Hilsendagger, and Hobbs all either connected on massive hits or just missed. There was good reason to keep your head up with a few players looking to do damage.
- Was really impressed with Hobbs’ game tonight, particularly on the offensive side of the puck. He was active on the rush and on more than one occasion I figured he was going to score a goal.
- I asked in the pregame if we might see more of the Pats 3rd line with the last change and we did. I don’t have exact TOI numbers but I would reckon they played a few more minutes. Rykr Cole scored a goal so I guess the Pats will have to consider it a success.
Let’s try put a simple bow on this game. I’ll start with the obvious observation that the Canes just need to be better. Everywhere (except for in goal). We can point to all sorts of moments, but a few broad issues are coming to light now that we’re three games into this series.
The Pats elite point-scoring forwards have been better than the Hurricanes. Adam Brooks, Austin Wagner, Cole Sanford, and Sam Steel have been able to produce while the Canes top guys just havn’t. I know Estephan got a goal tonight, but I’m really focusing on their overall play at even strength. Not only are the Pats elite forwards scoring while the Canes’ aren’t, in the case of Lethbridge’s top guys, they aren’t even generating many chances. Between Saturday and tonight, you could probably count the number of true-blue AAA scoring chances by Wong, Estephan, Burke, and Babenko on one hand. Hard to win games when you don’t score…
Which is extra concerning when you think about how the Hurricanes have gotten stellar goaltending. They’re getting the saves and have still dropped two in a row. That hurts, because if Skinner has even an average night, it’s big trouble. They’ve wasted two excellent outings from their goaltender.
Another concerning trend is the team is playing worse as the games go by. There were allot of similarities in that regard between tonight’s game and Saturday. Aside from the final two minutes where the Canes pulled Skinner and had a powerplay, they were clearly the second-best team on the ice in the 3rd period. You could see the Pats goals coming a mile away. Nielsen’s penalty was bad, but based on the full body of work in the 3rd, Lethbridge didn’t deserve to win. Perhaps justice was served…
Tomorrow just became a must-win game for the road team. Now we just have to wait and see if the Hurricanes’ top players can step it up or if they will need to find an ‘deus ex machina’ of their own.