A night that began with excitement and tension ended in disappointment and frustration as the Carolina Hurricanes dropped their first game of the season in a blowout loss to the division rival Florida Panthers. With the schedule being so heavy on divisional play, getting wins or at least strong performances against teams like Florida, Washington, Tampa Bay and Winnipeg is going to be important and the Hurricanes got off to possibly the worst start imaginable. This is only one game, though and the Hurricanes certainly were not the only team to lay an egg on opening night. I know that they need to avoid a bad start, but this is just one game out of 48, so the most they can do now is put this loss in the back of their mind's and move onto their home opener on Tuesday night against Tampa Bay.
Blowouts have an odd way of working because what is shown on the scoreboard isn't always indicative of what happened during the game. This was the case tonight as most people who watched the game would agree that the Hurricanes played better than the 5-1 loss may lead some to believe. They outplayed Florida at even strength, doubling them up in shots 33-16 and had plenty of good chances that were brushed aside by Jose Theodore. The problem was that the Hurricanes fell behind early, took bad penalties and Florida made them pay for just about all of them, resulting in the Panthers getting a 4-0 lead in the first period. In addition to that, they couldn't make the Panthers pay for the mistakes they made and went 0/6 for the night on the powerplay. After Alex Kovelev scored a soft goal at the side of the net to kick off the second period, the lead was insurmountable and all the Canes could do was peel away at the lead. They had a few good chances to make the game somewhat competitive including getting a few powerplay opportunities, but Theodore had other plans and they ended up taking home a 5-1 loss.
This is a crappy way to start off the year but if anyone is planning on jumping off the bandwagon now then you probably haven't been watching hockey very long. Special teams and goaltending were the main differences tonight and this is just one game in a long season. It's too early to claim that the sky is falling but this game did cause some major concerns for Carolina, specifically on the penalty kill.
Corey's Ten Thoughts
– Again, special teams was the major difference in this game. Carolina's huge advantage in shots is largely due to them playing from behind but Florida did most of their damage on the powerplay even in the early stages of the game. They scored three of their five goals there and recorded 4 of 12 shots with the man advantage in the first period. Carolina was the better team at even strength but that doesn't excuse how bad their penalty kill played. Not only did they allow three goals but I'm pretty sure they didn't even successfully clear the puck once. The only time Florida even had to re-enter the zone was when Brian Campbell shot the puck too hard and the rebound came all the way to the other end of the rink. The Canes didn't have a good penalty kill last year and it got weaker with Bryan Allen leaving in the off-season. Maybe I am just overreacting to a terrible performance, but the PK has to be better if this team expects to make the playoffs.
– You have to tip your hat to Florida goaltender Jose Theodore, who stopped 41 of 42 shots in net and he certainly had to work for most of those saves, especially in the second period. The Hurricanes didn't have a lot of trouble when it came to creating offense and scoring chances, but Theodore showed up with his A-Game. At the other end, Cam Ward was pulled after giving up 4 goals on 12 shots in the first period and he would probably like to have the second Campbell goal back. Other than that, I don't think there was much he could do as the Canes parade to the penalty box in the first period put him in a bad situation right off the bat.
– Jordan Staal looked alright in his first game with the Hurricanes. He got tagged with a -2, but the second goal he was on ice for was a softie on Ellis' part. He created a couple of scoring chances and nearly had a goal early in the third period on a nice deflection. He also had two shots on goal, six shot attempts and went 8/15 at the faceoff dot, which isn't bad. Carolina was pretty brutal on faceoffs tonight aside from him and Jussi Jokinen.
– Carolina's best player was probably Drayson Bowman, who had a team leading five shots on goal and a few very good chances. Bowman also made a key play to start the rush on Carolina's only goal of the night. He really adds a jolt to the fourth line and makes it a solid unit that can take advantage of other team's depth lines and bottom defense pairings. Having someone who can make a big impact in less than 10 minutes of ice-time is nice, but the fact that he was the team's best player kind of speaks volumes about how the rest of the club performed.
– Corsi stat sheets from Time On Ice are not available yet but I'm willing to bet the Hurricanes dominated in that category. They had 42 shots on goal, at least 20 of which were legit scoring chances and also had a whopping 25 missed shots compared to only four for Florida. A memorable one was Bobby Sanguinetti's golden chance from the slot that went off the goalpost. Sometimes you don't get any breaks and the Canes didn't tonight.
– Jonathan Huberdeau got a chance to step up with Kris Versteeg and Sean Bergenheim out of the lineup. He ended up doing that and more with five shots on goal, three scoring chances and scoring his first NHL goal to boot. Florida came into tonight with a depleted lineup but Huberdeau and Kovalev's performances made the injuries hurt not as much.
– Florida's defense corps was also extremely banged up with three players missing. I mentioned that Carolina had to take advantage of it and well…they did at even strength by outshooting Florida by a wide margin. Theodore was able to keep the game a blowout. The powerplay could have been a lot better, though. Seeing how Florida was missing one of their top penalty killing defensemen in Mike Weaver and had to rely on a couple of AHL guys to play heavy minutes on the PK.
– Carolina's defense was very, very sloppy even at even strength. Both Pitkanen and Faulk certainly made it happen in Florida's end of the rink but they were a bit careless with the puck in their own end and in the neutral zone. Pitkanen in particular had a ghastly turnover that led to a breakaway for Tomas Fleischmann. Bobby Sanguinetti also had a miscue on Huberdeau's goal and Corvo just looked just plain awful. Defense was a concern for Carolian coming into this year and while it may appear they did their jobs at shot prevention, they have a lot of work to do, especially on the penalty kill. Some of their flaws were masked because Carolina had the puck more than 50% of the time.
– Zac Dalpe had a decent game from my viewpoint. He seemed to fit in well in Jordan Staal's line and was doing a nice job of going into the dirty areas to create chances. Boychuk, on the other hand, didn't play much of an impact on Eric Staal's wing and the only noticeable thing he did was draw a penalty in the third period. Again, it's just one game but after how strong Jiri Tlusty played on the third line, he could be up for a promotion if things continue this way.
– We got a taste of both good and bad Sasha tonight with Alexander Semin. I thought Semin played pretty well offensively and he was one of Carolina's few bright spots on the powerplay, but he was also called for a blatant cross-check and got an extra two minutes for mouthing off at the official. We'll probably see a lot of that this year. Hey, as long as he gets it done on the ice and starts to score I'll be fine with it.
Again, there's nothing to do now but put this loss aside and look forward to Tuesday where we will hopefully see some better special teams play.
Scoring chances and more coming in the next couple of days.