The Carolina Hurricanes posted their fourth loss by four or more goals this season in a 7-1 evisceration at the hands of the Boston Bruins on Saturday. The loss was disheartening, to say the least, for a variety of reasons. Firstly, the Hurricanes had held a wild-card playoff spot for almost two weeks making the defeat that crushing. Not only has Carolina fallen out of the spot, they have given it up to the Pittsburgh Penguins, a team the Canes just recently whooped 4-0.

Who is to blame for blowing the team’s lead in the standings? These huge losses are not ok and fans are beginning to voice their displeasure with Carolina’s goals allowed average.

Newbie Scott Darling has been far from perfect this season, allowing 2.97 goals per game and clocking a .893 save percentage in 24 starts. His .33 winning percentage ranks in the bottom five among goalies with at least 20 starts. Aside from the stats, Darling has been fairly solid. Many of his allowed goals could easily be blamed on defense. While he has seen his fair share of gaffes this season, the blame should not be placed on Darling.

Darling was named the starter when he came over from the Chicago Blackhawks over the summer and it was assumed that longtime starter Cam Ward would assume the backup role. However, since December 1, Ward has started 11 contests while Darling has started just seven times. Darling only managed an overtime loss and one win, although it did come in convincing fashion against a solid Columbus Blue Jackets squad. On the other hand, Ward won 8 games in the stretch, matching Darlings total season win total.

Ward is known for his hot hand at the turn of the year, so his play shouldn’t come as a surprise. Coach Bill Peters needs to stick with the hot hand, and Ward’s play in the crease has been immaculate as of late.

So, going forward, who is truly deserving of the starting role? Many Caniacs might be quick to say Ward and stick with the familiar comfort his name brings. However, this team needs to stick with Darling. Darling was proclaimed the starter for the reason and showing confidence in that decision is important for this team to maintain consistency.

Ward is still a vintage goaltender with good hockey left in him, but Darling is the future. If the rest of the team is to be based on an accumulation of youth talent that will develop into eliteness, I don’t see why Darling shouldn’t be included. It would be hypocritical. Let Ward continue to mentor him and his time will be here before we know it.

Darling will get a chance to make an immediate statement with a game at the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight. If you don’t know, Tampa Bay leads the league in goals, shooting percentage, and allows the second least amount of goals on defense. They have the current leaders in points, goals, and wins on their roster. So, that’s good.

I don’t think there will be a whole lot of pressure on Darling due to Tampa Bay’s elite level, but if he took over the game it could be another big step for Carolina this season. They have now tasted a playoff spot and this young team is now more motivated than ever to get it back.

This article first appeared on isportsweb.com and was syndicated with permission.

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