The Hurricanes do not have many pleasant recent memories from games against the Tampa Bay Lightning and the 5-0 white-washing they took last night was just another chapter added to the book of what has been a painful three weeks for this team. It seems that each loss is more frustrating than the last and last night's game may have been the worst of the last 11 games, which is odd to say because the Hurricanes did not play as bad as the final score indicates. They certainly don't lose any points for work ethic from me, since they had a pretty huge territorial advantage over Tampa Bay in this game and fired 78 shots at the net during even strength play alone. The 45 that actually got on net were turned away by Tampa Bay's newly acquired goaltender Ben Bishop, who frustrated and shut down the Hurricanes all night to earn his second career shutout.
Sometimes there's nothing you can do when you run into a hot goalie and Bishop played as well as any goaltender that Carolina has faced this season. Considering that 24 of the shots he faced were scoring chances, I think it's fair to say that he was the main reason Tampa Bay won this game, but he also got a hefty amount of goal support from the team in front of him. Part of that was due to some shaky goaltending on the part of Dan Ellis and brutal defensive breakdowns by the Hurricanes in the third period. Ellis took the blame for the loss after the game and while the first and third goals he let in were awful, the Canes defense left him out to dry on the other three.
Tonight's game was pretty much a microcosm of what this entire season has been for the Hurricanes. They outplayed the Lightning in the first period but did not get rewarded for it, gave up an early goal in the second period and then everything just seemed to snowball after that. "Fragile" has been the word of choice to describe this team lately for this exact reason, since everything seems to become more difficult for them whenever they fall into a hole. I wouldn't say that they "give up" whenever they are in a tough spot, but I do notice that they get rattled easily, become too afraid to make mistakes and it results in them getting away from their game and leading to more mistakes. This is what I saw after the Hurricanes fell down 2-0 and it's becoming a common theme for this team lately. Bishop stopping everything thrown his way probably added to their frustration.
The Canes had no problem responding to adversity earlier in the season, so I'm not exactly sure what happened to them over the last three weeks. If a team is playing well but falls behind due to unfortunate circumstances, the coach's response is usually just to "stick to their game" and that hasn't been happening for awhile now. The team was able to win games despite their flaws earlier in the season but now it seems that all of their problems are insurmountable. I'm also not sure what Kirk Muller needs to do to fix this since it's been almost a month of these performances and we've yet to see much of a change. It's disappointing, but the end of this season really can't come soon enough for the Hurricanes. They are beaten up physically from all the injuries and mentally since nothing has gone their way for over three weeks. It might be easy from the fan's standpoint to tell them to "just suck it up and win the game," but hockey is a tough game and the Hurricanes are making things a lot more difficult than they need to be right now.