Are These Hurricanes Hungry?

So I ventured out last night to the first Carolina Hurricanes home game of the exhibition season. The opponent was the Tampa Bay Lightning. I was pumped for some long-awaited home-team hockey. About five minutes into the game I began to get the impression I was more pumped about it than the team. After a few minutes of watching guys hanging back and seeming to stand around it occurred to me that hunger is what was missing.

Easy to Critique, I Know

I understand that I’m not the biggest hockey expert covering the sport. I also understand that it is the preseason and the level of intensity is not going to be the same as it is in the regular season. It’s possible players are trying to avoid injury. Maybe there is a little bit of ‘all of the above” in the equation. But, I have to think that guys trying to make a team in the NHL would be playing like their hair was on fire.

Eddie Lack scores, Eddie Lack, Carolina Hurricanes, NHL
Eddie Lack looked hungry against the Lightning (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Some of these players are on their second or third trip around the training camp ice. If they don’t impress ‘Canes head coach Bill Peters now, the window of their opportunity will close a little more. I would think this is especially true in an organization like Carolina’s, where the pool of young prospects is growing ever deeper under the watchful eye of General Manager Ron Francis. Again, I get that it is preseason, but I don’t get not leaving it all on the ice when you are fighting for a spot on the roster.

2-1 OT Loss

The game was really slow most of the time. At times it looked like a scrimmage. The 6,600 or so in attendance were pretty chilled out for the most part, like the players on the ice at the start of the game. I was amazed that some of the younger guys seemed lost at times. ‘Canes goalie Eddie Lack played well, one of the few players that looked hungry, not taking his spot for granted.

The play was described by one of my colleagues as “choppy.” The first two periods were rough. Assistant coach Rod Brind’Amour described them perfectly after the game:

It was a sloppy first two periods for both teams, really. There wasn’t a lot going on. The neutral zone was really poor. A lot of turnovers, and we never really got a good forecheck going. Our third period was a little more exciting.

I agree. The third period looked a lot more like a team that wanted to excel. The Hurricanes put up 16 shots in the third, compared to 12 in the first two periods combined. They had six power-play opportunities in the game, finally scoring on the sixth at 18:55. Jeff Skinner grabbed a rebound and knocked it into the net, tying the game at one apiece.

The ‘Canes lost in overtime on a breakaway goal by Lightning Ondrej Palat picked up off of a Ron Hainsey shot that nearly went in. Carolina and Tampa Bay both have a win against each other now in the preseason.

When the Cat’s Away…

Peters was not behind the bench Friday night, having just completed his stint on Mike Babcock’s Team Canada staff in the World Cup. He was back in Raleigh running camp today.

I can’t help but wonder if the intensity level will rise now that he is back. With no disrespect to Brind’Amour or assistant coach Steve Smith, Peters brings the fire and the demand that everyone play hard every shift. I know one thing for sure and that is that these young guys that are trying to make the team better get hungry right now, or they’ll be watching the ‘Canes from Charlotte or someplace else.