Seven goals. That is all the Hurricanes have scored in their last six games and unsurprisingly they have gone winless during this stretch and are slowly falling out of the playoff picture. The defense and goaltending is going to receiving the bulk of the blame for Carolina's recent struggles, but you also need things called "goals" to win games and the Hurricanes aren't getting any of them right now. Either they run into a hot goalie, don't get any scoring chance production or get stuck in their zone way too much. Tonight, Ondrej Pavelec gave them a lot of fits, stopping 38 of the 39 shots he faced and the Hurricanes own defensive play left a lot to be desired and it resulted in yet another 4-1 loss.
Most people thought the Hurricanes would come out strong tonight after four days off and a grueling bag skate in Friday's practice, but the team looked off from the get-go. Winnipeg had more energy and scoring chances in the first period and only fell behind early because the Hurricanes got an early powerplay and took advantage of it. Even with the rough start, the Canes were tied with Winnipeg 1-1 at the first intermission and had a chance to take control of the game in the second. They actually had the edge in territorial play for the first part of it, but they ended up losing any momentum they had gained after Jordan Staal took a hooking penalty and Winnipeg scored on the ensuing powerplay. This was followed up by an odd goal from Nikolai Antropov a few moments later and the Hurricanes found themselves in the same situation that they've been in for the last two weeks. Playing from behind and having their opponents dictate the rest of the game.
It feels like we have been forced to watch the same game on repeat for the last couple of weeks and it's no joke that the fans are sick of it. This is the most important part of the season and all the Hurricanes have done is lay down while other teams continue to leap frog them in the Eastern Conference. They've already los ta ton of ground in the Southeast Division race with this loss tonight and have yet to show any urgency during any of their last six games. I'm not sure what needs to be done right now but what I can say is that what we are seeing right now is not a playoff team. This squad can play at a much higher level than what they've shown recently, but they have no confidence right now and their time is running out. Some serious work needs to be done if this team wants to put together a huge run and the responsibility falls both on the players and coaches.
Corey's Ten Thoughts
– Much of Carolina's struggles with this game stemmed from their inability to contain Winnipeg's top line of Andrew Ladd, Bryan Little & Blake Wheeler. They didn't get on the scoresheet tonight, but whenever they were on the ice, the puck was usually in Carolina's zone. The Jets outshot Carolina 29-12 during 5v5 play when Ladd was on the ice and none of Carolina's lines seemed to have an answer for them. This line was able to win their battle, forced Carolina to adjust and their second line of Evander Kane, Olli Jokinen and Antti Miettinen reaped the benefits with a productive night.
– Winnipeg's first line rose to the occasion tonight while Carolina's struggled mightily. Sure, Jiri Tlusty scored Carolina's only goal but that came at the tail end of a powerplay. When these three were together, they were crushed territorially at even strength and Eric Staal had one of his worst games of the season. They actually had a decent night when it came to producing chances but they gave up twice as much in their own end. Whenever your first line center gets outshot 16-30 during 5v5 play, there's a good chance that you'll end up losing the game.
– There were a lot of players who had poor outings tonight, but the scapegoat among fans was Jamie McBain and the criticism was deserved. McBain played probably his worst game of the season and was responsible for both Winnipeg goals he was on-ice for. The Olli Jokinen goal happened after McBain made a pinch and failed to keep the puck in, resulting in the Jets getting an odd-man rush the other way and eventually the game-tying goal. That was bad, but his second blunder was much worse. After failing to keep the puck in at the blue-line (again), the Jets were able to transition the other way but Joni Pitkanen got back in time to break up the centering pass. McBain would then try to clear the puck an inadvertently shot it into his own net. That might have been a bad break for him, but how many times have we seen McBain be on the wrong end of a scoring chance because he made a bad pinch or failed to keep the puck in? The answer is too many times and these mistakes are going to be more costly when he plays more minutes like he did tonight.
– While McBain had a very bad game, some of the blame has to fall on the coaching staff here. Why? Becuase they kept throwing him out there against Winnipeg's top-six even though it was clear that he wasn't up to the challenge. I hear so much about how McBain & Pitkanen have great "chemistry" together and they don't want to break that pairing up, but the only chemistry I'm seeing is one trying to make up for the other's blunders. These two are getting trusted with tough minutes with Faulk out and McBain clearly is in over his head with this role. It did not make sense for Kirk Muller & Dave Lewis to keep using them in those situations when they have another option in Jay Harrison, who has played the toughs before and was limited to only 16 minutes tonight. The players obviously can take the heat for their effort and compete level, but the coach has to step in and know when enough is enough at some point.
– If playing poorly wasn't bad enough, it also seems like absolutely nothing is going this team's way right now. They actually had a decent amount of scoring chances tonight (19) but only one was able to get by Ondrej Pavelec, a goalie with a below-average save percentage. They had nine shots on goal in six minutes of powerplay time but no goals to show for it (technically) and had one of their own players score on them. Whenever something bad happens to this team, it tends to snowball and their play for the rest of the game is effected. It's the sign of when a team has no confidence and they are going to need to shake out of this funk very soon. I'm not sure what they can do about it other than work hard and stick to their game, something that they've only been doing for parts of the last six.
– If I were to commend anyone for their efforts tonight, it would be Jeff Skinner, Jordan Staal and Chad LaRose who were the Hurricanes best players. They had a great night in terms of puck-possession and were able to constantly keep play in the offensive zone whenever they were on the ice. Part of the reason for this was Skinner's 10 shots on goal (!), and seven individual scoring chances. How he did not score tonight was a mystery because he could have easily gotten at least one goal tonight with how he was playing.
– The special teams battle ended up being a wash with the Hurricanes having nine shots on goal in six minutes of powerplay time and their first goal coming seconds after their first PP expired. Meanwhile, their penalty kill gave up what was the game-winning goal on a Winnipeg powerplay in the second period.
– Justin Peters did about all he could to keep the Hurricanes in this game and this loss is nowhere near his fault, but it's hard to expect him to steal a game for your team. All four goals he gave up were scoring chances (one of which coming off the stick of his own teammate) and the defense made critical mistakes prior to to that, but I feel like the Jokinen and Antropov goals were stoppable or preventable by Peters. He was a little slow getting over to Jokinen's shot on his goal and he had a chance to cover up a rebound on Antropov's goal. Peters is an AHL goaltenders and there is only so much you can expect from him, so goals like that are going to happen. Which is why the play in front of him left a lot to be desired.
– The shot attempt report tonight is pretty interesting and rather alarming concerning the first line. Just about every other player was above water in 5v5 shot attempts but the first line got hemmed into their own end so much that it brought the team's entire average down. Yet another case of the guys who are supposed to be Carolina's best players not performing up to their potential.
– This loss gives the Hurricanes only one out of twelve in their last six games and four straight losses at home. Considering how important this part of the season is, that is inexcusable and the blame should go all-around in my opinion. The players deserve to be blamed for playing poorly, the coaches deserve to be criticized for not getting the most out of this roster and management and making some odd adjustments and management is also not completely blameless. When you have a team that is playing as poorly as the Hurricanes are right now, it's more than just one person who is at the center of the problem.
I'm pretty much at a loss for words with this team right now. It's hard to say that things would be better if they had a healthy roster but injuries are a part of the game that every team has to deal with and the Hurricanes have done a poor job of it so far. Carolina is not going to be destined for the playoffs with the way they are performing right now and the blame extends to all parties involved. People can scream, yell and play coach/GM all they want but it's not going to mean much until we actually see it. The players obviously need to perform better than they are right now but Muller also needs to get more out of this roster. In addition to that, management might also need to step in and realize that this team could use some help from the outside because the current roster is having a lot of trouble getting things going.