Bill Peters, head coach of the Carolina Hurricanes, had no clear response to my question in the media gathering after the game about his Carolina Hurricanes team starting fast and playing hard, but coming up short. He did state that.
“Obviously we gotta find a way to score, we gotta have a little more finish. Maybe a greasy one, maybe a deflection, something off your a** maybe, I don’t know.”
Bill Peters was at a loss, as was his team, who fell 2-0 to the visiting San Jose Sharks. The reason for his lack of a clear solution was Troy Grosenick. The American Hockey League’s leading goaltender was called up from the Worcester Sharks and was center stage in Raleigh’s PNC Arena.
Troy Grosenick made his first NHL start in-goal Sunday afternoon against the Hurricanes. The 25-year old faced 45 shots and saved 45 shots. If you’re any good at arithmetic you immediately will deduce that he was not gripping in the least. That’s a 100 save percentage. Pretty good for his first time. Here is a sample of back-to-back saves he made on Victor Rask at 11:35 in the first period.
The fans on hand knew that there was something special with this young goalie. but nobody expected him to shut the ‘Canes out in a game in which they left everything on the ice.
The Hurricanes had arguably their best start
of the season Saturday against the Boston Bruins, a game that they lost 2-1 in Boston. They had an even better start against the Sharks, and a complete effort for the full 60 minutes. Grosenick’s NHL debut was not against a sluggish, low-energy opponent, but an aggressive oft-shooting, hungry group of Hurricanes. He was repeatedly peppered and repeatedly was up to the challenge. The ‘Canes couldn’t find the back of the net, but it was not for a lack of trying.
Carolina had a 16-6 shots on goal advantage end of the first period. Yet a pinch by Ron Hainsey that was not followed-through on led to a two on one rush by the Sharks, and Tomas Hertl pushing the puck by Anton Khudobin. Advantage Sharks 1-0 at the period’s end. Coach Bill Peters described the goal best:
“We’re not going to outscore our mistakes. We’ve got to tighten up and not give away freebies.”
It was Anton Khudobin’s first start at home this season, and the only goal he allowed. facing 18 shots and saving 17. He acknowledged the good effort of his teammates as well as the play of Troy Grosenick after the game:
“Guys played really, really well. The other goalie was on fire today, and it was his first NHL game which probably pumped him up even more.”
The score stayed the same through the second period.
It was not due to a lack of effort on the part of the Hurricanes. For example, players like Justin Faulk have become more and more reliable for Coach Bill Peters. He played another great game, giving great effort and helping the transition game give his teammates opportunity to score. Faulk has 9 points in the last 8 games.
He’s been shooting really hard and playing well away from the puck. This according to Carolina Hurricanes assistant coach Steve Smith. So far in November, he trails only Calgary Flames’ Mark Giodarno (12) points among NHL defensemen. Justin Faulk is a huge key to the Hurricanes’ building efforts under Coach Bill Peters.
Jeff Skinner nearly tied the score with just seconds left
But once again, Troy Grosenick was up to the task. The Hurricanes were swarming the Sharks’ zone and Eric Staal shot hard and Jeff Skinner tried to get the rebound in, but Grosenick’s night was not to be blemished.
Skinner has been playing well of late, but still has not broken through to the consistent scoring he has demonstrated over the past few seasons. He is a threat to score almost every time he is on the ice. His team needs him to find whatever is missing and soon. Without Skinner’s scoring prowess, it will be a long season for the Carolina Hurricanes. After Skinner was denied by Grosencik, Joe Thornton got the empty net goal for the Sharks and the game was over.
It’s a maddening time for Coach Bill Peters
He is being faced with different challenges seemingly every time out. At least over the past three games the results have been the same – a Hurricanes loss – but the actual games have been strikingly different. The past two starts have been what he wanted. His team has come out of the gate firing on all cylinders. And against the Sharks, it was a total effort the entire game. But, something is missing offensively.
Coach Peters on this weekend's back-to-back games: "Our last two starts have been good. We played hard. We've got to find a way to score."
— Carolina Hurricanes (@Canes) November 17, 2014
The coach is right. His team is coming along, but not putting it all together. With tough road games ahead starting in Texas against the Dallas Stars, in Los Angeles verus the Kings, and in high-altitude Denver against the Avalanche, it’s not getting any easier. I’ve heard Bill Peters say repeatedly after games, “It’s a tough league,” and he is living that reality currently with his team.
The ‘Canes came out of the gate in November making up for their horrendous injury-laden October. But the last three games have been maddening. Some say this team is just destined to be bad all season. I disagree. If it all comes together for Coach Bill Peters soon, his Hurricanes could be a legitimate force to contend with in the Metropolitan Division. If not, they’ll be looking for a “greasy one” or something.
Mark lives in the Raleigh, NC area and covers the Carolina Hurricanes.