So, last night happened. Columbus beat us. It was ugly. Not ugly like that weird looking cousin you see every 3 years when you go to that family reunion that has that side of the family you avoid. No no, this was worse. This was mid-surgery Bruce/Caitlin transition ugly.
OK, maybe I'm overreacting. We did lose in impressive fashion. For those who aren't sadomasochists, the Hurricanes lost 4-1 to the Blue Jackets. Know what's better than a 4 game win streak? A 5 game win streak. Know what we don't have? Consistent power play production. Oh, and a 5 game win streak. We also don't have that.
All is not bad in this effort though. Sebastian Aho managed to beat Bobrovsky once over the glove. It was a pretty slick goal too. https://www.nhl.com/video/t-2832868
Teravainen throws a beautiful pass from the board to the far post where Aho finishes. The chemistry is there with these two.
So, you're probably wondering, "where did they fall apart?"
Literally right after that goal. From that goal forward, until halfway through the 2nd period, there was nothing to be happy about. Some decent effort by guys like Teravainen and Aho and Skinner, but aside from that....this was a train wreck of a game. We had a 1-0 lead for....11 seconds.
After the tying goal, we were in a tied game for 35 seconds.
Then it kept coming.
Midway through the 2nd period, after letting in 4 goals on 19 shots, Cam Ward is pulled. Now to be fair, some were not his fault entirely. Jordan Staal screened him on a high ripper from the point and it just beat him over his shoulder. Another was a power move directly across the crease where he just couldn't keep up with a faster skater. Another was a tough rebound that was caused by not quite being able to glove the initial shot. The problem is that Cam Ward, over his last 15 games, has lead us to believe that he should be making all of those saves. And he can, as he has shown. I just think he was tired and Bill Peters was sold out on riding Cam until the wheels fell off. And fell off they did.
So, for those not in-the-know, Leighton got sent to Charlotte and Alex Nedeljkovic was called up. Nedeljkovic was an absolute monster in Juniors and showed great promise in the ECHL with the Florida Everblades before cracking the Checkers roster and struggling a little bit while showing flashes of brilliance. The idea was to give Leighton a brief conditioning stint and bring him back up once he's at 100%, while Nedeljkovic just backed Cam up.
I'm high on Nedeljkovic. Like, really high. I have gone so far as to say that Nedeljkovic is our future in net since I saw him play in Charlotte just before the holidays. Why? Well, first and foremost, his sick set-up.
Now, aside from those beautiful pads, he is a great goaltender. He's young (21) and he positions himself quickly and stays square to shots. He also seems to do well tracking rebounds and moving his head before adjusting his body. Really solid, fundamental goalie who is only going to improve.
Having said all that, for a guy making his NHL debut while down 4-1 while in his home state of Ohio....the kid did well. He faced 17 shots and made 17 saves. Now, I don't think he's ready to take Cam's job or anything, but this kid faced some tough shots and stood his ground on all of them. It wasn't like Columbus backed off when he came in. No, he faced blasters. Unable to link a decent video, but Google it.
Anyway, Nedeljkovic did good stuff and the rest of the team was terri-bad.
Our penalty kill did well. Water is also wet.
So, that was how the night ended. We couldn't establish any offense in the third whatsoever and we just looked flat. After those two back-to-back goals, the Hurricanes were deflated and you could see it watching them skate. Maybe this team is THAT much different on the road. Maybe the last 15 games got the team big-headed and they needed the humility. Maybe Kirk Muller slipped some of his blood into Bill Peters drink and took over his mind for a game. Who knows? All I know is we have a couple of days to prepare for a Penguins team that is looking to stick with Washington and Columbus atop the Metro while the Rangers, Flyers, and Hurricanes are slowly gaining. Depending on how Pittsburgh does in the game tonight, Friday night may well be them fighting to stay in the top 3 of the division. And depending on how Philly does, it could be us fighting to stay in the wild card hunt.
Big game coming up. Cam is getting the start. Start getting excited, folks. Our next 3 weeks will likely tell us if we're truly playoff worthy.