Hurricanes Have Chased Some Goaltenders…No, Really

The Carolina Hurricanes chased some goaltenders. Really. Yes, the same Hurricanes team that has struggled for as long as anybody can remember to score goals, ran some opposing goaltenders off the ice. Of course, Tuesday night they were on the verge of their own goalie being chased as the New York Rangers held a clinic and beat the ‘Canes 6-2.

Nevertheless, since Dec. 31, 2018, the Hurricanes have forced four opposing goalies to the bench. That was the night that Philadelphia Flyers goaltender Carter Hart sat down and got to watch Michal Neuvirth try to stop the offensive surge of the Hurricanes. Most recently it was Pekka Rinne who hit the pine early. This past Sunday afternoon his Nashville Predators were on the receiving end of a 6-3 loss to the Hurricanes.

See ‘Ya Carter

The Hurricanes closed out 2018 with a win over the Flyers. However, Hart, the Flyers’ starting goaltender did not close the year out on a very good note. He spent 22:19 between the pipes and gave up three goals on 10 shots. See ya. Enjoy the game.

Philadelphia Flyers goaltender Carter Hart
Philadelphia Flyers goaltender Carter Hart (AP Photo/Joe Skipper)

Neuvirth held fast and stopped all 23 shots he faced. The Hurricanes went on to win the game 3-1. That night it was not Sebastian Aho, Justin Williams or Micheal Ferland who combined for Hart’s undoing. It was the trio of Lucas Wallmark, Jordan Martinook and Andrei Svechnikov who tallied the night’s markers.

Bye Bye Bobrovsky

The Columbus Blue Jackets are a legitimate playoff-contending team. Sergei Bobrovsky is an elite goaltender, having won the Vezina Trophy as the NHL’s best goalie two times: 2012-13 and 2016-17. But on Jan 4, 2018, he was given an early rest courtesy of the Hurricanes.

The likes of Ferland, Dougie Hamilton, and newcomer Greg McKegg sent him packing, proving that even the best of the best can get lit up. Aho added an empty-netter and the ‘Canes bid the Blue Jackets farewell with a 4-2 win.

Move Aside Hogberg

Marcus Hogberg of the Ottawa Senators was the next opposing goaltender pulled as a result of this recent burst of sudden Hurricanes scoring. He lasted 26:13 and gave up three goals on 16 shots faced. He was kindly asked to remove his mask and blocker and watch Anders Nillson show him how to be a wall. That didn’t turn out so well as Nillson gave up two goals on 12 shots faced and the Hurricanes won the game 5-4.

Washington Capitals Tom Wilson Ottawa Senators Marcus Hogberg
Washington Capitals right wing Tom Wilson scores on Ottawa Senators goaltender Marcus Hogberg (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang)

Hurricanes Run Rinne

Rinne has been my favorite of the elite NHL goaltenders for quite some time. He has made some of the most amazing saves the game has ever been privileged to see. I was stoked to get to see him live when the Predators came to town to play the Hurricanes last Sunday.

I have to say I was a bit disappointed. I was thrilled of course that the team I cover won, with the Hurricanes hanging six goals on the Predators and only giving up three. But the Rinne I wanted to see and marvel at apparently did not make the trip. Either that or he was ready to leave a bit early as he took a seat on the bench after only 29:30 of play.

Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne
Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne (Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports)

He did allow five goals on 20 shots so perhaps he had had enough. Or maybe his coach had seen enough. For me, I was like a kid going to Disney World and not seeing Mickey. Rinne left me disappointed and left town with zero points for his team.

The suddenly potent Hurricanes – winners of seven of their last eight games at that point – were possibly whispering the “p” word again. (Playoffs?)

So, What is the Deal with the Offense?

Tuesday night’s loss to the Rangers notwithstanding, there has been a theme developing in Hurricanes games since the end of the year. That theme is that the same team that has struggled to score the last few seasons has come alive. Guys like Williams are lighting the lamp, leading by example as the team’s captain.

Ferland is putting the puck in the net and adding numbers to his contract demands every time, so much so that the team may not be able to afford to sign him, even though they need to. And Aho is being Aho, the All-Star this season and superstar in the making. His contract will need to be addressed by the Hurricanes, and it won’t be small.

Sebastian Aho Carolina Hurricanes
Sebastian Aho, Carolina Hurricanes – (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Sara Civian wrote recently for The Athletic that the default excuse for some of the many Hurricane shots not going in has been bad bounces. “They’re first in the NHL in both shot quantity and quality, despite a league-worst shooting percentage. They also boast a league-leading 510 high-danger chances (per Natural Stat Trick). While some of us have been knee deep in conspiracy theories in an attempt to explain how this is happening, the team generally surrendered to the bounces. Now the Hurricanes have been regressing to the mean, scoring at least three goals in each of their past seven wins.” (From “State of the Canes: The curse of the bounces and the team that keeps trying” – The Athletic, 1/14/18)

Maybe the Hurricanes are suddenly getting good bounces and hence scoring more goals. The fact is that they have led the NHL is shot attempts under the positional hockey of former head coach Bill Peters, and this season under the sometimes-chaotic scheme of first-year head coach Rod Brind’Amour.

Hurricanes head coach Rod Brind'Amour
Hurricanes head coach Rod Brind’Amour (James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports)

The question has been and remains, “Why do more pucks not go in for a team that blasts away more than any other in the league?” If anyone had the answer, they’d likely get rich quick selling it to the ‘Canes, who would surely love to know why. Maybe it’s a lack of real quality shot attempts, regardless of the volume of high-danger chances. Perhaps they just need an Alex Ovechkin who can post up 15 feet away and send lasers at the goaltender at will.

Peters said the guys needed to crash the net more and try to get the “greasy goals.” Maybe a more aggressive posture at the net is the answer. The bottom line is that there are as many reasons why as there are fans and sports talking heads. Maybe it is just the curse of bad bounces.

Recently the Hurricanes have enjoyed some bounces going their way. and opposing goaltenders have suffered as a result. (Except of course Henrik Lundqvist of the Rangers in Madison Square Garden where the Hurricanes have lost 16 straight).

Hurricanes Must Keep Scoring, Chasing Goalies and Winning

The Hurricanes face the Senators again Friday night in Raleigh. No doubt they will hope to score a lot again and chase yet another goaltender from the net to the bench. They will need to keep scoring and winning if they want to make the playoffs.

The frustrating reality is that even though they have won seven of their last 10 games, they have gained no ground on the playoff ladder. With 49 points, they are still seven points out of both a wild card and divisional playoff spot. All they can do is try to control their game, do their best and hope for the curse of the bad bounces to land on teams that are ahead of them in playoff contention.