Many people believed that tonight's game against the Boston Bruins would be a good test for this Carolina team that appears to be on the upswing but still has plenty of kinks to work out before they can be called a contender. The Hurricanes gave the Bruins a good run for their money for the most part in this game but ultimately came up short as the same bad habits occurred yet again and they ended up costing the Hurricanes. Those who have watched these first five games probably know what these said habits are by now; slow starts and bad special teams play.
Carolina got off to an awful start by giving up a shorthanded goal and followed it up by surrendering a powerplay goal shortly after. Their play at even strength was strong for the first two periods or so but the fact that they couldn't do anything with the six powerplays they were given came back to haunt them as it gave them multiple opportunities to get back into the game early on. Despite the bad powerplay, the Canes managed to rally back in the second period on the back of strong five-on-five play and some good linematching by Kirk Muller to eventually tie things up at 3-3 heading into the second intermission. That's when you would think that Carolina would begin to tip the scales in their favor, but they came out flat in the third period, couldn't get any offense going and were dominated by the Bruins. It resulted in David Krejci scoring the game-winner with less than two minutes remaining and the Hurricanes taking their third loss of the season.
The Bruins were playing to win the game while the Hurricanes were simply trying not to lose. Considering that the Bruins are one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference and the Hurricanes were playing with basically five defensemen, things could have been a lot worse, but it's still frustrating to see them a lose a game that they could have won had they not fallen into the same old habits.
Obviously it's a long season and a young team with a lot of new pieces like Carolina are going to suffer some growing pains, but the Hurricanes not being able to create any sort of offense in the third period is a large concern in my eyes. So is their powerplay dropping another goose egg despite getting six attempts and their tendency to come out sleeping for the first 5-10 minutes of a game. They are all fixable errors and they will be corrected in time but there is less time to fix things like this in a shortened season, so the Hurricanes will need to right the ship quickly. Fortunately for them, they have the next few days off before they take on the Ottawa Senators on Friday. That should allow them some time to get healthy and work on some of their flaws in practice before it's too late.
Corey's 10 Thoughts
I don't care how good Boston's penalty kill is (they have yet to give up a powerplay goal against), it is inexcusable to give up shorthanded chances the way the Hurricanes did tonight. The Hurricanes would almost be better served to decline penalties because the Bruins were creating most of their opportunities shorthanded and the Hurricanes had nothing going offensively. They struggled to enter the zone and when they did, they couldn't keep the puck in for more than 10 seconds at a time. Before this game, they were at least creating chances on the powerplay and moving the puck around. None of that was happening tonight.
Carolina was able to rejuvenate themselves and the crowd at the PNC Arena before the end of the third period on the back of goals by Jeff Skinner and Eric Staal. They played very well in the second period and it was good to see them get rewarded for it. Unfortunately, they could not capitalize on this in the third period, as they created zero scoring chances in that frame and couldn't seem to establish possession in the Boston zone now matter how hard they tried. I'm not sure if it was fatigue from having so few defensemen available or if Boston just had them on lockdown but it wasn't pretty.
Jeff Skinner, Alexander Semin and The Brother Staal all got on the scoresheet tonight and were Carolina's main source of offense for most of the game. One thing to be happy about with the Hurricanes is that their big name players are definitely living up to their billing. It hasn't resulted in many wins but they should come in due time if they can avoid another nightmare performance in the third period.
The team seemed to come alive after Tim Gleason's fight with Milan Lucic in the first period but other than that, #6 looked pretty bad for most of the game. Everyone in the building saw Nathan Horton make him look like a pylon on his goal and he was one of the many players who couldn't get the puck out of the Carolina zone on Krecji's game winning goal. Very disappointing performance from him tonight. Hopefully Justin Faulk's return can help him a little bit.
Carolina had their worst game while playing five-on-five tonight and they were still only outshot by three, so I have a feeling that the law of averages will even out for them there soon enough. However, if they continue to bleed powerplay goals and not continue to take advantage of their own man-advantage opportunities, it isn't going to matter as much as it should.
In the preview, I said that Boston was the best face-off team in the NHL and it would be interesting to see how the Canes do at the dot after dominating the last two games against Buffalo. They were only 41% effective with Eric Staal winning only 5 of 17 draws and Jussi Jokinen winning only 5 of 13.
I would be hard pressed to blame this game on goaltender Cam Ward even if he allowed four goals but he did look a bit uncomfortable in net for a good chunk of the game. His attempt to make a few "desperation" saves ended up costing him on the Marchand, Horton and Krejci goals and he looked a bit awkward on a few saves. There is no way his numbers will stay this low but his struggles are getting frustrating to watch.
Earlier I mentioned that the Hurricanes were playing with only five defensemen and I said that because Joe Corvo played less than eight minutes total and played only one shift in the third period. Either he is hurt or he will have a nice cozy seat in the press-box the next game. I'm sure we'll find out soon enough.
Scoring depth might appear to be bigger of an issue for the Hurricanes than some thought it would be at the beginning of the season. All but one of their goals from forwards has come from either Eric Staal, Jeff Skinner and Alexander Semin. Part of this is related to bad luck because players like Jiri Tlusty and Drayson Bowman have been active offensively and creating scoring chances, but others such as Chad LaRose and Jussi Jokinen are off to slow starts. The top two lines have enough fire power to carry the load but some of the other lines need to chip in eventually.
The distribution of ice-time among defensemen really shows how much missing Faulk hurts this team. Joni Pitkanen and Jamie McBain were the leaders in overall time on ice with 29:13 and 25:48 respectively. The next closest player was Jay Harrison with 17:28 followed by Tim Gleason with 16:40, Bobby Sanguinetti with 15:17 and Joe Corvo with 7:51. Gleason's fighting major obviously affected his ice-time but things were still heavily skewed towards the top pairing and something tells me things would have been more spread out if Faulk was healthy.
Carolina has a few days to figure things out before Friday's game against Ottawa and then they begin a long road trip which might set the tone for the rest of the season. Let's hope they can come out stronger then.