The Carolina Hurricanes suffered an embarrassing 5-1 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers Saturday afternoon. Or it would have been an embarrassing loss, if the Hurricanes were invested in the game in the first place. Sean Couturier scored just 53 seconds into the game and the Flyers never looked back. Even when the Hurricanes got within a goal off an Eric Staal powerplay tally early in the second period, it was quickly answered by three straight from Philadelphia.
Anyone who has followed the Hurricanes closely could have predicted a loss of this magnitude from a mile away. Even ignoring how just bad the Hurricanes are this year (and this game certainly showed that aspect of the team), Carolina’s historical record against the Flyers is terrible, and their record in afternoon games isn’t much better. Put the two together and this game had loss written all over it before the puck even dropped.
City of Brotherly Love
The Carolina Hurricanes rarely beat the Flyers. That’s not a conclusion reached by watching the games and biased by the eye test. That’s statistical fact. In the 122 games played against the Philadelphia franchise, the Hartford/Carolina franchise holds a 34-64-14-10 record. That’s 92 points earned in 122 games, or a .377 point percentage. Only the Calgary Flames boast a better record against Carolina than the Flyers do.
The Canes did break the curse last year, sweeping the season series, finishing it off in the final game of the season, a 6-5 victory in the shootout. However, before those four games, Philadelphia had won 15 of the previous 17 games. That includes an 8-1 loss at home in 2010, and a 6-5 shootout loss that saw the Flyers score four unanswered goals in the 3rd period to force overtime.
Much like their record against the Flyers, the Hurricanes cannot get themselves prepared, mentally or physically, for games in the afternoon. Perhaps it’s the change in the usual gameday preparation, but if there’s a matinee game for the Canes, one can skip the first period and not miss anything, because Carolina almost certainly will. This year, the Hurricanes have played in five afternoon games and lost four of them. They have been outscored 14-6 and have only scored two first period goals in those five games.
Last year was not much better. Of the 11 afternoon games in the 2013-2012 season, Carolina held a 4-6-1 record, with two of those wins coming (ironically) against the Philadelphia Flyers. Perhaps most interesting about those 11 games were that four game against Western Conference teams, where the change in the game’s start time should have been even more jarring. The Hurricanes lost every one of those inter-conference matchups, concluding with an horrible 2-1 loss to the Edmonton Oilers.
After that Oilers loss, Eric Staal summed up his team’s troubles in matinee games:
“It’s frustrating,” said Staal. “There are times when we play so well and do a lot of good things playing smart…and then there are times when it’s just not working. It’s frustrating, for sure.”
Never in It and Lacking EffortThough the Canes are in the midst of a five-game losing streak, in the previous four games, one could never question the effort the team put forth. They played hard and just could not get the bounces to fall their way. After the 2-1 loss to Tampa, Head coach Bill Peters told the News and Observer that the issue isn’t the effort, but rather than execution.
“It’s not a matter of competing,” he said. “I think our team competes hard.”
They didn’t Saturday. The Hurricanes were never in this afternoon’s game. From the opening puck drop, the Flyers controlled the play and seemed to score at will. The Canes’ breakout was broken, the defense was left defenseless, and the effort that had been present in so many losses this year was noticeably absent.
Jonathan Gardner currently lives in Raleigh, NC and covers the Carolina Hurricanes.