I've been very critical of Hurricanes head coach Kirk Muller this season for a number of reasons. He isn't the sole reason why this team's season has gone down the drain but his system and certain habits have played a role in it. Muller is very strict about having players stick to his system and "staying the course," so he usually sticks with the same lines for most of the game and his approach also stays the same. We saw this change last night against the New Jersey Devils.
Mid-way through the second period, the Hurricanes were down two-goals and were getting thoroughly outplayed by the Devils. This is when he decided to make some major changes to the lines and go with an "all-in" approach to try to claw at least a point out of this one. He loaded up his first line with the two Staal Brothers and Alexander Semin, slotted Ryan Murphy on the first defense pairing with Andrej Sekera and had the Hurricanes take a much more aggressive approach. Instead of dumping and chasing, they were constantly trying to enter the zone with as much speed as possible, showing more creativity than we've seen while and taking more risks in the offensive zone instead of settling for safe plays. The result? The Canes scored twice in the third period, one goal coming while playing shorthand, and Carolina was in a much better position than they were before.
The end result was another loss, but I have to give Kirk Muller some credit for making adjustments and at least getting the Hurricanes back into the game. Unfortunately, this effort ended up being all for naught, as the Devils scored less than a minute after Carolina tied the game and it came after a very poor decision by Muller. He elected to send out the forward unit of Manny Malhotra, Drayson Bowman & Jeff Skinner for a defensive zone faceoff while the Devils countered with their top line. The Hurricanes ended up losing the draw and Skinner lost his man in the high slot, who ironically was former Hurricane Tuomo Ruutu, and just like that, the Devils recaptured the lead.
Loading up the first line caused some of the other forward groups to be jumbled, but I would love to hear Muller's reasoning for putting Skinner out for a defensive zone faceoff. Skinner's strengths are at the other end of the rink and his weakness is that he frequently gets lost in his own end. Sending him out for a defensive zone draw (against a top line nonetheless) just seems like a losing strategy. A big part of coaching is setting your players up in a position to succeed and Muller clearly didn't do this here.
There were still about six minutes in the game after that point, so that one decision shouldn't have cost the Hurricanes the game, but it ultimately was one of the deciding factors and the Hurricanes ended up taking another loss. A nice effort with some individual standouts, but a few big mistakes and coaching decisions ended up spoiling that.no comments