The Hurricanes have another game in about 14 hours and I'm sure many fans want to forget about last night's 5-2 loss to the Lightning as quickly as possible, so let's get the statistical analysis over with now. This game will be remembered as a complete stinker for most Carolina followers, but that mostly applies to the third period. Let's not forget that the Hurricanes were reasonably in this game for the first 40 minutes. They played terrible in the third period and that is what everyone will remember because that's why they ended up losing the way they did. There is no excuse for how the team played during that frame and it was s terrible way to end this brief homestand, but saying that the season is over because they had a bad 20 minutes is just ridiculous.no comments
Coming into this game off two straight losses and no divisional wins to their name, many fans considered Carolina's game against the Tampa Bay Lightning a "must win." It's still too early to consider any game a must win, but the Canes would have done themselves a huge favor down the line by getting a win over Tampa Bay at home. It would have been a great way to lift some sprits before going on the road again for the next two games. This wasn't a must win, but it was a big game for the Hurricanes but you wouldn't know that judging by the score, as Carolina ended up losing 5-2 on the back of a terrible third period which rivals the Florida game as some of the worst hockey this team has played this season.
Carolina gave up the first goal yet again, but they managed to hang tough with the Lightning for a good portion of the game despite not being able to solve goaltender Mathieu Garon for the first 40 minutes. Down only 1-0 to begin the third period, the game was still in reach and the Canes could have easily found a way to get a point out of this game. Unfortunately, they came into the third period flat and let Tampa Bay walk all over them. The Lightning out-competed the Hurricanes, were able to easily maneuver around their defense and added on four goals for good measure.
The Hurricanes injury problems and lack of depth showed in a bad way tonight, but even with that there is no excuse for how bad they played in the third period tonight. The game was still within reach after 40 minutes but it looked like the Hurricanes thought the game was over before the third period even started. This kind of performance shouldn't be acceptable in any game but it's especially troubling when it happens against a divisional opponent who has already beaten you once this year. Again, the injury bug has hit this team hard right now with five players on the shelf in the span of a week, but that didn't stop them from staying competitive against Winnipeg on Thursday. Where was that in the third period tonight?
Usually this is where I'll say that the team needs to "forget about the loss and regroup," but I think a lot more work needs to be done here. You have to wonder if this is just one bad game or a sign of things to come? Hopefully it's the former.no comments
Goaltenders are a tricky bunch to figure out. Fans will either love or hate them depending on how they perform in a ten game stretch. If they stand on their head for and steal a couple of games for their teams, the goalie will be heralded and be a front-runner for Team MVP. Whereas if they have an awful or sub-par stretch for ten games, fans will want their netminder on the first bus out of town and their back-up to get the majority of the starts. We've seen this in plenty of cities over the years (Vancouver and Philadelphia specifically come to mind) and are beginning to see glimpses of it in Carolina with incumbent starter Cam Ward.
Ward is normally beloved in Carolina for playing a critical role in the Hurricanes winning their only Stanley Cup in 2005-06, but his play as of late has left many Canes fans frustrated. He is currently sporting a save percentage of .896 and has given the Hurricanes only four games that fit under Hockey Prospectus' "quality start" guidelines. Goaltending can play such a critical role in winning and losing and what the Hurricanes have gotten from Ward so far isn't good enough to win games. His most recent outing against the Winnipeg Jets was especially bad, as Ward let in three very soft goals which ended up being the deciding factor in a game that the Hurricanes played well enough to earn at least a point.
As frustrating as Ward's start to the year is, I don't think there is much to worry about with him. Some may think that his is a sign of his career being on the downturn but let's not forget that he went through a worse bump in the road in the first half of last season.no comments
Carolina has been a poor defensive team for the majority of this season, which makes it very surprising that two of their best defensive performances came in games where they were missing two of their top blue-liners. Those games being last week's win over Toronto and last night's 4-3 loss to Winnipeg. Carolina yielded only seven even strength scoring chances to the Jets and ten overall, which are season lows for the team an a testament to how well the defense played. The only lapse by the defense unfortunately came at the worst time when Joe Corvo made a poor play in the neutral zone which allowed the Jets to get the go-ahead goal in the third period. This mistake along with a terrible performance in net from Cam Ward are the main reasons why Carolina lost this game despite a great performance by most of the team.
This goes down as the most frustrating loss of the season but the Hurricanes injury-riddled roster did show us a lot of good things that could instill some confidence going forward.no comments
Losing is always tough and losing when you outplay your opponents is even more frustrating. This is what happened to the Hurricanes tonight, as they dropped a 4-3 decision to the Winnipeg Jets despite outplaying them for most of the game and remain winless in Southeast Division play this season. With the roster crushed by injuries right now, you have to make the most out of good performances like this, so coming away empty handed really stings here.
This really would have been a great game for the Hurricanes to win. They managed to outplay a divisional opponent by outshooting them 29-17 and outchancing them 19-13 and get a glimpse of the future with Ryan Murphy playing well in his NHL debut. Unfortunately, they came away with nothing to show for their efforts except for another loss and no points earned in the standings. There are a lot of positives you can draw out of this game, especially with the Canes roster being in the shape that it is, but it's kind of hard to look on the bright side when your still winless in divisional play and just watched your team lose a game they probably should have won.
In the end, the Hurricanes couldn't get a timely save from Cam Ward and had a defensive lapse at the worst time, which sealed a frustrating loss. They will have to look past this and hope they can get a better performance in goal this Saturday against Tampa Bay. The Hurricanes recent success on their road trip means that the division isn't going to slip out of their hands any time soon and they should win more games in the upcoming weeks if they play like they did tonight.no comments
Winnipeg Jets at Carolina Hurricanes
7 p.m., PNC Arena
TV: FS-Carolinas, TSN - Jets
Tonight's game against the Winnipeg Jets will be the Hurricanes first game against a Southeast Division opponent since the second game of the season where they were blown out by Tampa Bay. They've played fewer games within the division than any other team in the Southeast but this will change in the next week or so, as three of their next five games will be intra-division. I mentioned in an earlier post that the Canes have a great chance to gain an advantage over the rest of the Southeast, but they may have to do it with five key players out of the lineup. In the past week, the Canes have seen Joni Pitkanen, Jeff Skinner, Jamie McBain, Tim Gleason and Tim Brent all sustain injuries and a few of them are going to be out for longer than a few games. This is going to put a lot of pressure on their top players to produce because there isn't much depth present in the rest of the lineup.
The Hurricanes are going to be especially thin on defense tonight, so much that they needed to recall junior defenseman Ryan Murphy from the Kitchener Rangers to play tonight. Murphy was the team's first round pick in 2011 and he has shined as an offensive defenseman in the OHL. His counting numbers haven't been as impressive this year and he has been prone to defensive lapses from time to time, so it's not certain that he's ready for the NHL but he will be getting a test tonight and might even see top-four minutes.
Carolina's entire organizational depth is going to be put to the test during this stretch of injuries and it will be interesting to see how some of the younger players perform. There are a lot of prospects who are confined to the minor leagues or fourth line minute because there's no room for them in the lineup but injuries are going to force at least one youngster into a bigger role for the Canes these next couple of games. It's up to them to take advantage of this opportunity and if Monday's game against the Canadiens is any indication, things could be very ugly. This roster is better than what they showed on that night, though so I have a feeling that we'll see a different team tonight against Winnipeg.no comments
If you were to poll most Hurricanes fans right now, most would agree that Alexander Semin has been a great addition to the team. He has made their first line a real force to be reckoned with and is usually one of their best players every night. However, I'm sure that most people were hoping that he would have more than three goals 14 games into the season and only one at even strength. His current pace would give him roughly 10-11 goals on the year and that would be only 17-18 in a full-82 game season. It's not that Semin is playing poorly, but the goals just haven't been coming to him for whatever reason.
Going strictly by a goal-per-game rate, one might suggest that Semin is on a decline. He has scored at a rate that was between .4 and .6 goals-per-game for msot of his career but the last two seasons, he's dropped down to below .3. So if you were only looking at goals, then you could say that Semin is on the decline as an offensive player but it's not just all about goals and points. Something people often forget is that a lot of things need to go right for a player to score a goal. The most a player can do when trying to score is find a soft spot in the defense and do his best to pick an open corner in the net when firing a shot on net. I think most would say that Semin has been doing that so far.
So why doesn't he have more goals? To put it bluntly, he hasn't been receiving much shooting luck at all, especially when you compare his numbers with the rest of his career.no comments
Carolina went into last week with a depth chart that looked something like this:
Color key: Orange = Injured player, Blue = Not waiver exempt, Green = Non contract player
Since then, Carolina has seen five different players suffer injuries and now their depth looks more like this:
To sum things up, in the short span of one week the Hurricanes have a top-six forward, who is also their best scorer, their fourth line center along with three top-four defensemen. Replacing them will be two centers from the AHL who have played a combined eight NHL games and three defensemen who are currently undergoing their first season in the NHL. One of which was just recalled from junior hockey. Carolina's depth wasn't anything to brag about to begin with but they are going to be even more strained now with third liners and AHL-callups making up most of their top-nine.
Carolina's top-end talent is much better than it was last season thanks to Alexander Semin and Jordan Staal but after that top line, things get very dicey and I haven't even begun to talk about the state of the Canes defense. Justin Faulk might be having an outstanding season, but the cupboard is somewhat bare after him considering all of the injuries. At least one of Michal Jordan, Bobby Sanguinetti or Ryan Murphy will have to step up into the top-four if the roster stays as it is.
If there is a bright side to this situation it is that injuries are temporary and Carolina's roster isn't going to look like this for the rest of the year. In fact, they might be getting Joni Pitkanen back very soon but let's say that it does stay like this for a few more games. What will happen then?
Well, if Monday's game against Montreal is any indication it won't be pretty, but I hope that isn't the norm we will see from this roster on a nightly basis. Kirk Muller and the rest of the coaching staff know that this team has a realistic chance of making the playoffs so it's going to be up to them to get the most out of the hand they've currently been dealt. It's not an ideal situation but the Hurricanes aren't completely hopeless either.
Many of the guys who were called up were among their AHL affiliate's best players and now is a good time to see what they have to offer. Both Riley Nash and Jeremy Welsh were possible candidates to make the team out of training camp but ultimately got lost in the numbers game and started in the AHL. The injuries give these two a chance to show the coaching staff what they have and if they are cut out for the NHL. Zac Dalpe is also an option to be called up and he honestly doesn't seem like a bad option in Skinner's absence.
The defense is in a similar situation only a couple of these players weren't expected to make the NHL until at least another year. Then again, Michal Jordan was an AHL All-Star this year and has been one of Charlotte's best defensemen, so giving him a taste of the NHL now may not be the worst thing in the world. The high number of injuries also allows Carolina to give Ryan Murphy a tryout without the risk of burning a year of his ELC. I still think he isn't ready but playing him in one or two games can't hurt right now with the shape Carolina's defense is in.
Injuries are something that every team has to deal with and unfortunately for the Hurricanes, they all seem to be happening at once. I mentioned in an earlier post that Carolina doesn't need to overacheive that much to make the playoffs or win the division, but they might need to if the injuries to Skinner, Pitkanen, McBain, Gleason and Brent are prolonged. Hopefully this stretch of injuries doesn't last for more than a couple weeks but until everyone gets healthy, it's going to be up to the coaching staff to get the most out of this roster and the players to perform. If Monday's game is a sign of things to come then hard times might be ahead for Carolina, but I have a feeling that they are better than what they showed that night.
In case you didn't know, the Southeast has been clearly the weakest division in the NHL so far. After Tampa Bay's 4-2 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs last night, they are now tied with the Hurricanes for first place in the division with 17 points. Both team's records would put them no higher than third in any other division and make them bubble playoff teams if the automatic qualifer was done away with. I said at the beginning of the year that this division would be very weak but somewhat competitive and so far it's proven that with the Lightning and Hurricanes tied for the top spot and likely alternating throughout the course of the season. The Winnipeg Jets are also not too far behind with 13 points and could find themselves back in the hunt with a good winning streak.
This all begs the question, what will it take to win the Southeast Division this year? The cut-off point for a playoff spot has been predicted to be about 55 points which would equate to roughly 94 in a full 82-game season. Florida had 94 points and won the division last year and I'm hoping that it will take more than that this season, but we could be looking at a similar finish if things continue to stay as they are.
Let's say that 55 points is what it will take to win the division. How close are the Hurricanes from getting to there compared to their Southeast adversaries? The good news is that they are ahead of the pack, albeit only slightly.no comments
Thanks to a plethora of injuries, the Hurricanes went into last night's game short on talent and forward depth and came away with their worst offensive performance of the season. Carolina's injury depleted lineup created only nine even strength scoring chances, four of which coming in the final two minutes of the second period, and eleven overall. Both are season lows for this team and about what you would expect from a squad that's missing their best scorer and top offensive defenseman. If there was ever a game for Montreal to start Peter Budaj, last night was ideal, as the Hurricanes could not generate much of a sustained attack on the veteran back-up. All of which resulted in the team's first shutout loss of the season.
I mentioned in my recap that Carolina had a good gameplan going in, as they were able to get the puck deep and had a few great shifts where they were able to keep the puck in the Canadiens zone but couldn't generate many shots. The scoring chance report reflects this well as the Canes did not have many quality chances but they didn't allow many to the Canadiens either, allowing only 10 at even strength on the game. Carolina's depth forward did not do much and they are partially to blame for the low offensive output, but the Canes top line was still in-tact last night and they did not do much either. Some credit goes to Montreal's defensive play but Carolina's first line definitely had an off-night for their standards.
We'll take a closer look at how they and the rest of the team played last night after the jump.no comments