Fast and furious is a successful movie franchise. It is also a key ingredient in winning a hockey game in the NHL. The Winnipeg Jets landed on the ice in Raleigh, NC last night with their turbo thrusters blazing. The first ten minutes of the first period was like comparing an accelerating F-16 to a coasting biplane. Like laser-guided missiles, shot after shot was fired at Carolina Hurricanes goalie Cam Ward. At one point the shots on goal differential was 10-1, eventually 13-6 by period’s end in favor of the Jets. Not the fast and furious start the ‘Canes want when the puck drops. Afterwards, Cam Ward agreed, “We were a bit out of sync.”
Fast and furious forechecking
The Jets’ forechecking in the first period was relentless. The greater part of the stanza was played in the Hurricanes’ zone, and primarily in Cam Ward’s face. Eventually the tenacity of the Jets was rewarded at 5:29, with a Blake Wheeler tip-in of another Jets laser, this from Mark Stuart. 1-0, Winnipeg.
The goal really could not have been laid at Ward’s feet as far as blame is concerned. The onslaught of incoming pucks were swatted away by Ward successfully, until a crowded goal mouth and a tapped puck whizzed by. His play the remainder of the first period was nothing short of spectacular, keeping his team in a game that could have very easily been 3-0 or 4-0 with lesser goaltender play. Cam Ward had his team’s back for sure.
Cue the “Swedish Beast”
Play in the second period settled to a more familiar pace for the ‘Canes, as the fast and furious play of the Jets settled to resemble high-altitude cruising speed. The F16 perhaps in need of refueling. At 3:44, the Hurricanes – up a man with Zach Bogosian in the penalty box for hooking – ramped up and found the back of the net. From Riley Nash to Nathan Gerbe, “The Swedish Beast,” Elias Lindholm looped around and knocked the puck home.
It was his 6th goal of the season and tied the game 1-1. The game’s pace and momentum seemed to favor Carolina. Unfortunately for the ‘Canes, it was short-lived.
Fast and Furious Part 2
Around halfway the second period, the Jets returned to being fast and furious. The team is naturally a team that will play heavy, but this was heavy with speed. The Hurricanes are not built for optimum performance against a bigger team, they need to skate up-tempo and with precision. The Jets were doing both, and shortly after raising the tempo back up, the Jets’ Blake Wheeler found the net again 13:02, in a goal that was nearly identical to his first.
Once again it was not the play of Cam Ward that could be questioned concerning this goal. Another crowd in front of the goal and another deflection and literally nothing Cam Ward could do to stop the puck. Cam said of Wheeler, “He’s a big-body guy, and obviously he has some good hand-eye coordination.” Wheeler’s two goals marked his sixth and seventh for the season. An empty net goal by Winnipeg’s Michael Frolik with 1:30 left in the game made the final score, 3-1.
Eric Staal started on the wing against Winnipeg. He had been playing the center position previously. Coach Peters felt that the move was a natural one for Staal that could possibly accentuate his scoring opportunities. Victor Rask was to center this newly configured line with Jiri Tlusty on the other wing. THe idea was good on paper, but never got off the ground against the Jets. The game devolved into a lot of switching and mixing and matching that is not at all what Coach Bill Peters wants. He acknowledged the obvious in the post-game gathering with the media:
“We had a bunch of lines that didn’t work,” Peters said.
Beyond the failed experiment with the lines, the biggest problem with the Hurricanes tonight was their lack of energy, once again at the beginning of the game. This is a characteristic of the ‘Canes that has been of part of their identity over the past few years. It’s easily the most frustrating part of being a Hurricanes fan. Coach Peters identified this as something to correct before the season even began. It is something that he will have to give is full attention to if this team is going to turn their identity into that of a consistent winner.
Veteran Tim Gleason summed it up
In the locker room after the game, a visibly disappointed Tim Gleason shared his thoughts. He nailed it right on the head.
“I think we just weren’t ready to play, to be honest. It showed in the first period especially.”
The question remains and looms large, “Whose responsibility is it to get the team ready to play?” Is it all on Coach Peters? Is it on the players? They are professional athletes who the average fan could not fathom lacking motivation or preparation. Is it the fans? The attendance at the PNC Arena in Raleigh has been disappointing. No doubt the team could use the boost that a sellout crowd can give when they are all in. But it doesn’t seem the fans are buying in yet to the ‘Canes recent success. Many are waiting to see if they are for real.
In the end it is the guys on the ice that are responsible for their play. Coach Peters can cajole and yell and whatever else, but when a guy puts on a NHL sweater and laces up the skates, he should be ready to play hard with a desire to win. It’s called heart. The Winnipeg Jets had it – they were fast and furious. As Cam Ward stated pretty directly, the Hurricanes did not.
Ward on tonight's loss: "Today wasn't good enough. We're gonna have to be sharp in practice tomorrow."
— Carolina Hurricanes (@Canes) November 14, 2014
There is a tomorrow and a game Saturday against the recently reeling Boston Bruins. They have been hammered in their past two games losing 6-1 to the Toronto Maple Leafs and 5-1 to the Montreal Canadiens. Still a big team even without the injured Zdeno Chara, will the Bruins come out fast and furious? Will the Hurricanes? If they hope to win, they better.
Mark lives in the Raleigh, NC area and covers the Carolina Hurricanes.