The Hurricanes are currently in the midst of a painful losing streak and it's something that all fans are used to by now. The team went through a similar skid of November of 2011 and the second half of last season, so all of us know how to get through these stretches. We are just tired of seeing them. All teams go through losing streaks because that's just the way an 82-game season works but the Hurricanes always seem to let their season spiral out of control because of one bad skid. In 2011, they were bound for a lottery pick until February when they suddenly began to right the ship and last year, they went from first place in the Southeast Division to the bottom-five in the league by winning only three games in the month of April.
As much as I would love to believe that this is nothing more than a rough stretch that the team will eventually climb out of, the Hurricanes don't exactly have a good recent history of responding to adversity and it might be too late by the time they get everything together. If they continue to play the way they have over the last five games, then I could easily see this team spiraling out of control and having a relapse of last season. In fact, it might actually be worse than last year because the Hurricanes have played some awful hockey over the last two weeks. Don't believe me? Let's dive into the numbers.
Team Performance (Five-on-Five)
Last year's "fragile" team was one that was doomed by bad luck in the second half of the season. This year's team has been getting hammered at even strength and it's going to be hard for them to put together any sort of winning streak if this continues. There have been only four games this year where they have outchanced their opponent this season and they have won the shot attempt battle in only three. Now, it hasn't been all bad because the Hurricanes have been able to stay close with thier opponents in the territorial battle in many games, but they are still on the wrong side of the ledger here and that's not going to cut it, especially in front of an AHL goalie.
Speaking of which, I'm a little tired of Justin Peters being the scapegoat for this losing streak. His .890 save percentage speaks for himself and he is not an AHL goalie, but he isn't the only problem right now. You aren't going to win many games when you are controlling a little over 40% of the scoring chances at even strength. Peters needs to be a lot better, but the team in front of him has been equally bad since Cam Ward went down.
– Manny Mahlotra has been through a lot over the last two years and it was great to see him make his return to the NHL. He played in only two games on the fourth line, but he did his job as a face-off specialist (won 25 of 34 draws) and was a small bright spot for the Canes in this rough week. If he can continue to play well and take the defensive zone draws, then I could see him opening up some opportunities for Jordan Staal.
– Alexander Semin got off to a slow start but recently, he has been one of Carolina's only sources of offense. Yes, his goal and point total isn't where we want it to be right now, but he was on the ice for over half of the Hurricanes five-on-five scoring chances this past week. He obviously needs to finish, but he is doing a lto of good things and the points should come to him.
– The same can be said for Nathan Gerbe, who scored one of the Hurricanes two goals this week, as he played his best game in a Carolina sweater in Monday's 3-1 loss to the Penguins. With Skinner out, Gerbe is being relied on to do a lot and he has definitely earned the big minutes that the coaching staff is giving him.
– While Gerbe played his best game as a Hurricane on Monday, Jordan Staal played the worst game I have ever seen from him that night. He ended up with a solid week going by the underlying numbers, but he got destroyed by Sidney Crosby that night and is still struggling to produce any offense. He even came up empty-handed during his one-game stint as the team's first-line center in the 5-1 loss to the Rangers, which was pretty disappointing even if he was on the ice for six scoring chances. Like Semin, Jordan is contributing in other ways but he needs to start producing right now.
– The Hurricanes forward depth is in a truly pathetic state right now and the team's "third line" is a complete wreck with Skinner out of the lineup. Riley Nash was completely invisible in all three games, producing no offense and getting zero help from his linemates. With Malhotra now in the mix, I'm hoping that he can replace Nash eventually if the trends stay as they are.
– Elias Lindholm has made an impact on the power play, but his game at even strength has been sub-par to say the least. The team needs to make a decision on him after the Flyers game and I wouldn't be against sending him back to Sweden. The Hurricanes are a mess right now and burning a year on a player that is struggling in the NHL doesn't make any sense. I don't think it will happen because the coaches seem to be impressed with him despite the bad underlying numbers.
– Tuomo Ruutu is playing some of the worst hockey of his career right now and I have a hard time believing that he is fully healthy. He has had major issues with skating and has made a lot of poor decisions with the puck in all three zones. He is also a lot less active physically than he normally is, which was expecting with him coming off a major surgery. Still, Ruutu is capable of making an impact even without the physical part of his game and right now, he is doing a lot more harm than good.
– Jiri Tlusty seems to drag down every line he has been on lately and it's really disappointing to see. He had the assist on Andrej Sekera's power play goal against New York but at even strength, he has been one of the team's worst forwards. Tlusty has never been a great possession player but his scoring and offensive instincts made up for it. Now that he isn't scoring, he is almost a liability.
– Ron Hainsey is still proving to bee a nice addition for the Canes, as he has quietly done a very good job at helping the team move the play in the right direction. He was also on the ice for fewer shot attempts against per game than any other defenseman on he team, which says a lot when you look at how he has been deployed. I wouldn't be against trying him out on the first pair if the team's struggles continue.
– Ryan Murphy had his best week in terms of territorial play, as the Canes won the possession battle whenever he was on the ice. The fact that he didn't need to be sheltered Marc-Andre Bergeron style is impressive, as well. In my zone entries post, I outlined how important Murphy is to the team's breakout game because of his offensive talent, but his play in his own end was actually very impressive this past week.
– The shutdown pair of Faulk & Sekera got destroyed. They were on the ice for 18 total 5v5 scoring chances in the Pittsburgh & Tampa Bay games alone and the Hurricanes were usually hemmed in their own end when they were on the ice. They've been solid for most of the season, but they have been a tad inconsistent and last week was their low point. I don't care how tough their assignments are, when you are on the ice for 20+ scoring chances over three games, you aren't doing your job as a shutdown pair and if it continues, I wouldn't be against splitting them up.
– Tim Gleason is injured yet again and he was unimpressive in both games he played in. He played under 11 minutes at even strength in the loss to Tampa Bay and the Canes were outchanced 5-1 when he was on the ice. His possession numbers are slightly better than they were last season but I have my doubts about him being a top-four defender now. He has endured a lot of beatings over his career and shutdown defensemen tend to age worse than other players, so I'm pretty concerned about him.
– Brett Bellemore struggled mightily in his return to the lineup, which was disappointing because he has been one of the Canes better territorial players when healthy.