We Keep Losing the Puck! Hurricanes Come Up Empty

“We Keep Losing the Puck!” Instead of going to the Carolina Hurricanes vs the Washington Capitals game Thursday night, I stayed at home. Watching from the comfort of my living room, my wife decided to join me during the third period. She is not what I would describe as a hockey aficionado. She will watch games with me on occasion. For ‘Canes home games, I’m usually at Raleigh’s PNC Arena, so it was rare for me to be watching from the couch.

I was quite taken aback when she announced, (quite correctly), “We keep losing the puck!” The reason I was surprised was that the Hurricanes control of the puck had become very poor towards the end of the third period, and was so poor that even a casual observer like my wife could see it with absolute clarity. Her exclamation was actually kind of funny, if not for the disappointment attached to another Hurricanes loss.

How to lose the puck

I truly am a fan of Riley Nash. He plays tremendous hockey and is usually very sound fundamentally. However, a brief lapse in puck control in the waning moments of the game gave the Washington Capitals the game winning goal. You, too, can see the obvious:

At 15:58 in the third period, Tiri Tlusty had the puck. He dished it over to Riley Nash who was either trying to pass it off or just plain lost control. Instantly, the 6’4″ 212 lb Eric Fehr scalped the puck and ate Anton Khudobin up for the go-ahead and eventual game-winning goal. My wife sat back and had this kind of, “Well, what did I tell you?” look and I had to agree with her conclusion. We keep losing the puck.

She wasn’t watching when this happened

I’m not sure whether or not it is a good thing, but my wife hadn’t started watching the game with me when Jay Beagle scored the game’s first goal. Had she been, her pronouncement on puck management would have come much earlier. It was unfortunate for the Hurricanes:

Michal Jordan has been pretty reliable in his five games in a Hurricanes sweater since being called up from the Charlotte Checkers on November 25th. Tonight found him making an uncharacteristic mistake with the puck at 2:19 in the first. It hurt. The Caps’ Jason Chimera took quick advantage of the lapse, and barreled down on Khudobin. Anton was there to meet the challenge, but the rebound popped away and Jay Beagle found the net. 1-0 Capitals.

The lament, “We keep losing the puck” had reared its ugly head early. It would reappear later to cost the ‘Canes the game, and any thought of getting the all-important points at home. As a side note, both Beagle and Fehr also scored on Khudobin in November when the two teams met in Washington.

The monkey won’t leave

Anton Khudobin is a very good NHL goalie. Unfortunately, he has a monkey on is back that he has not been able to shake. He just can’t seem to get a win. After the loss to the Capitals, a somber Khudobin said:

“I can’t get rid of the monkey on my back.”

Coach Bill Peters concurs, acknowledging that Khudobin has played well, but is not getting the support he needs from his teammates:

“We need to score when he’s in the net. He’s been good. It’s tough. If you’re going to win in this league, you have to score some goals.”

And team captain Eric Staal shared in the sad but accurate reflection:

The fans may want to get frustrated with Anton Khudobin, but it’s really not entirely on him. He is more than capable as he proved last season and many times against the Capitals Thursday night.

Everyone agrees that he has his team’s back. They need to start having his, too.

My wife got that, “I was right” look again when Khudobin was asked after the game about the team’s puck management. He simply replied, “Not much I can say.”

Speaking of monkeys

Alexander Semin finally broke through to his 500th point Thursday night against the Capitals. The elusive milestone has been his personal “monkey on his back.” It’s gone. He has his first goal of the season and his 500th carer NHL point. He shook the monkey off on this excellent play:

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It was a night of mixed emotions for teammate Anton Khudobin. As Semin put the puck past Capitals goalie Braden Holtby at 3:19 in the third, Kudobin was genuinely excited. He had offered words of encouragement earlier in the game:

“I’m really happy for him. In the second period, I came to him and said, ‘Hey, don’t put your head down. Keep shooting the puck, and you will get something.'”

Anton was excited for Semin, but obviously very distraught over still not having a win this season. This Caps fan had this observation:

The ‘Canes are genuinely happy for Semin:

Rob Vollman of ESPN wrote today that, “there’s value to be had with Semin, and there are particular teams that should get on the phone with Francis, should he elect to put the winger on the block.” Even with no goals scored this season prior to Thursday night, Alexander Semin is thought of by some as a player of value. Others might tend to disagree.

The real question going forward is “Will Alexander Semin begin to put the puck in the net more consistently now that he has broken through?” For the Carolina Hurricanes to have any real succes, the team’s elite scorers like Staal, Semin, and Jeff Skinner need to be shooting the puck and scoring regularly. Anton Khudobin would definitely agree. Oh, and quit losing the puck.