If there was any optimism left among the Hurricanes fanbase then tonight's 6-3 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs probably killed all of that. We've been treated to the same story for the last two weeks with the Hurricanes getting outplayed by their opponents, showing no desperation and getting blown out. Tonight's game was a little different. They were certainly outplayed by the Leafs, getting outshot 26-16 at even strength and outchanced 22-13 overall, but for the first time in awhile, the Canes showed some determination and were able to fight their way back into the game after trailing 2-0.
They got the help of a shorthanded breakaway goal from Eric Staal and a timely powerplay goal from Alexander Semin, but it just goes to show you how much winning the special teams battle can help a team. The Hurricanes had absolutely no business being in this game after how they played in the first period, but they were able put themselves in a position to win in the third period thanks to good special teams. They took advantage of this opportunity in the third period with Jordan Staal getting a mini-breakaway after a misplay by the Leafs defense and giving Carolina a go-ahead goal. For that moment, it looked like there was hope the Canes could break out of this slump and at least build some confidence heading down the stretch of the season.
The only problem with this theory is that they were still getting outplayed and continued to let the Leafs forecheck dominate them. Toronto would eventually get a powerplay out of this and scored on the tail end of it with a rocket from the point from Dion Phaneuf. Now Carolina was in a battle just to earn a point in the standings and that went away after Joffrey Lupul went coast-to-coast, skated around Carolina defenseman Joe Corvo and undressed Justin Peters to give the Leafs the go-ahead goal. The Canes were now deflated and began to sink to the levels that we have been accustomed to the last few weeks in their comeback efforts.
The final score might be a tad misleading because the Leafs added on two empty net goals in the final minute, but this probably could have been a blowout when you considered how much better Toronto was than Carolina. This was yet another bad performance by a team that does not look like they have playoff aspirations this season. I know their underlying numbers are promising and they are mostly just underperforming right now, but stretches like this can be a dagger in a shortened season, so anything the Hurricanes ground the Hurricanes make up after this could be too little too late.
The team's confidence is shot right now and they are playing at a level that is much lower than what should be expected of them and I'm not sure if anyone knows how to fix it. You can call for players to be benched or traded and for coaches to be fired but that isn't going to fix anything at this point. The problem with this team right now seems to be much bigger than that and the responsibility goes to everyone involved in the organization. There's not much they can do about this season other than ride things out and hope for the best.no comments