At times the Carolina Hurricanes look so good it’s hard to understand why their record has been so abysmal over the past six years. One of the most frustrating endeavors for me as a writer covering the ‘Canes and for fans as well is trying to figure out what it is that makes this team click, or more importantly, not click. Unfortunately not clicking has been the norm too often. I’m sure coach Bill Peters would love to figure it out, also.
Thursday night in Raleigh’s PNC Arena the team clicked beautifully. At first. Sloppy defensive play the first two minutes gave way to a power play goal by Justin Faulk – a rocket that blew by Minnesota Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk and caused Faulk to have to get a new stick from slapping the puck with such force. It was Faulk’s sixth power play goal of the season
A few minutes later Andrej Nestrasil got his first goal of the season on a play that was originally waved off for goalie interference, but challenged successfully by Peters. Hurricanes’ Jay McClement was shoved into Dubnyk and the ‘Canes were up 2-0. Clicking early.
A Tale of Two Teams
The Hurricanes were shut out Tuesday night by the New York Rangers, finding frustration in the combination of Henrik Lundqvist being tough to get by, and having good scoring chances bang off the post or whizz by the net missing by inches. A look at the scores of Carolina’s first 15 games reveals six games wherein they have scored only one goal or less. Scoring has been elusive resulting in a 6-9 record thus far. This would be the team that does not find a way to click.
I wrote a few days ago that the “Canes Three Stars are Starting to Shimmer.” Team captain Eric Staal, brother Jordan Staal and Jeff Skinner have shown signs of getting their offensive games going of late. With all of the ‘young guns” on the team, leadership by example from these three is crucial. Unfortunately it has been slow in coming this season. A couple of those one-goal games could have used some production from these guys and possibly have given the ‘Canes a better record.
Sometimes the team looks amazingly different, as if they do belong in a playoff chase. It makes me and others wonder why they can’t seem to grab hold of a consistent high level of play and bring it to the rink every night. Sure there are going to be off nights for every team. But, that should be the exception. Carolina is missing something that will keep energetic, focused and determined play the rule and not the exception.
Against the Wild
I’m writing this during the game versus the Wild, a perfect example of what this article is saying. In the first period the Hurricanes looked like an excellent hockey club, skating fast, shooting, making crisp passes and giving Dubnyk all he could handle. The ‘Canes outshot the Wild 19-5. Then came period two.
In the space of an intermission things changed. Minnesota – who is a very good team – came out on fire and judging by intensity it seemed as if the teams had changed sweaters. The ‘Canes were scrambling around and looked as if some of the guys had decided that the intermission time actually extended into the game. A tale of two Hurricanes teams was again unfolding.
The Wild outshot the Hurricanes eight to three with a goal by Thomas Vanek tying the score at two. What was a 2-0 lead for Carolina had evaporated, and all that remained was to see which ‘Canes team would emerge from the locker room for the third period.
Only 3 SOG for the #Canes in the 2nd period. Peters needs to light a fire under this team at the intermission.
— Ben Pope (@CanesReport) November 13, 2015
The first half of the third looked as if both teams had evened out and good, fast hockey was played on both ends of the ice. Jeff Skinner had two excellent scoring chances go by the way, and a ‘Canes three-on-two failed at the last second. Most of the (only) 9,511 fans stayed and were treated to the fabulous tension that is only found in a tied hockey contest in the final minutes.
Carolina outshot Minnesota 14-6 in the third period but could not solve Dubnyk and the game went into overtime. Three-on-three is exciting, especially if the opposing team commits a penalty. This is a four-on-three advantage in OT, and Carolina was poised to get the extra point. But, they started the power play in a disjointed fashion and when they finally did fire a few shots Dubnyk’s way, it was to no avail.
Let’s not forget that Dubnyk came on strong last season and has been stellar this season. He saved 37 of 39 shots against the Hurricanes.
Not all of the blame for frustration lays at the feet of the ‘Canes, (except for the lackluster effort in the second period.) Sometimes a good or great goalie is just that. At least the team was shooting, (except in the second period.) Yes, there is a theme here that Carolina must find itself and stop taking periods or games off. Peters said it all after the game and he was spot-on:
“I would have to look in the mirror if I was a player, and I’d have to say, ‘Was I mature in my approach? Did I play 60 minutes? Did I empty the tank?’ If I was frustrated, I would dig in and do something about it.”
Peters was referring to the second period, but his statement rings true for every time the ‘Canes lace up the skates.
Eventually the Wild killed the OT power play and promptly scored, Jason Zucker getting his second goal of the game. Another loss for the Hurricanes that was softened slightly by getting a point, but not really. Carolina needs all the points they can get on this five-game home stand or they will be staring Thanksgiving in the face with little hope of making the playoffs – again.
It can be said that the Hurricanes are not laden with top-level talent across the team. They are rebuilding and have a lot of young players. That does not answer the frustrating fact that the team needs to find a way to click for sixty minutes a game, and for more than a game here or there.
Soooo predictable #Canes. So brutal, so lame. Oh wait, I probably said this last year.
— Lets Go Canes.com (@lgc_com) November 13, 2015
It is frustrating because at times the team shows that they can compete at a very high level. I promise you that if they would consistently bring to the ice what they brought in the first period Thursday night against the Wild, they’d seriously be looking at getting back into the playoffs. Here’s hoping that they will.
Mark lives in the Raleigh, NC area and covers the Carolina Hurricanes.