Three games, three losses, one point. That's all that really needs to be said about the past seven days for the Hurricanes, who have been slowly playing their way out of contention. They have won only two games of the last 10 and the last three losses are probably the most frustrating of the bunch. Not because the team was blown out or closely outplayed. In fact, it's more of the opposite. Carolina has played much better hockey during this stretch but have let wins/points slip out of their hands by shooting themselves in the foot. This happened in the games against Columbus, Pittsburgh and Toronto, all of which were games the Hurricanes could have easily won but didn't.
Team Performance (5v5)
Carolina did not have a great showing against Columbus, but they played well enough to win against Pittsburgh & Toronto despite not getting the results. They were also a few minutes away from sneaking out a win against Columbus, but ended up losing in regulation after a couple of mistakes ended up in the back of their net. That's was the theme of last week and why each of these losses were so frustrating. I don't want to discredit everything they've done because the Canes have played well over the past week and were in control of two of these three games, but you have to get results at this time of the year and the Canes don't have much to show for any of their good work. Some of it is because they couldn't finish (see the Toronto game) and they haven't received great goaltending in any of these games either, but most of these errors were self-inflicted.
Yes, Carolina is making some progress and they wins should come if they can keep controlling the play at even strength. However, the team has still been prone to making bad mistakes even when they are in control and it's resulted in them taking a handful losses this year, three of them coming in the past week. All mistakes are correctable, but my concern is that it might be too late before they finally fix these issues. The Canes improved 5v5 play lends some optimism but the mistakes combined with poor special teams and mediocre goaltending could nullify that in the long run.
Individual Performances (5v5)
– Gerbe, Jordan and Semin have been Carolina's best possession players this year and have been on the same line for the last couple of weeks. Because of that, the Canes have a line that they can send out against the opposition's best and destroy them at five-on-five. That's basically what they did this past week and they've produced in all three games. It's been nice way to "ease" Semin back into things, as he looks like he is rounding into form and should continue to put up points as long as he keeps it up. His shooting percentage can't stay this low forever.
– For the most part, the Canes fourth line has been kind of a non-factor offensively but that wasn't the case this past week. Manny Malhotra & Radek Dvorak both won the possession battle and produced a healthy amount of scoring chances while starting nearly all of their shifts in the defensive zone. Most of this came in the Toronto game, but they had a good week overall.
– Zach Boychuk has also looked solid on this fourth line. No points for him yet, but he is contributing nicely by creating chances and helping the Canes keep play in the offensive zone.
– Every Carolina forward had a positive shot attempt differential this week, which has been rare.
– The top line of Ruutu, Staal & Skinner was broken up in practice today and it's easy to see why. They're still getting soft assignments at even strength and failed to produce on goal there. They also came out on the losing end of the scoring chance battle. Skinner's two power play goals help, but these three need to be better at even strength..and they likely will be with Semin taking Ruutu's place on this line.
– I have a hard time calling Nash, Dwyer & Bowman the "third line" because they get easy assignments and really haven't done a lot with them. They had a nice shift that led to Bowman's goal against Pittsburgh but outside of that, these three were mostly a non-factor this week and you can say that about Nash for most of the season. Don't get me wrong, Nash has improved a lot over the last month but Muller is also giving him every chance to succeed by giving him pillow soft assignments and what he (and Dwyer) are doing now isn't good enough.
– Ron Hainsey has been the closest thing to consistent on the Hurricanes blue-line. The team's improved territorial play has led to him starting more shifts in the offensive zone and his 5v5 numbers have received a nice massage. He didn't have a great performance alongside Ryan Murphy in the Pittsburgh game, but most of the problems stemmed from Murphy. He was also on the ice for a few goals against and most of them were from him trying to bail his partner out (see the 2nd Kessel goal & the Ryan Johansen goal). Hainsey's fallen on some hard luck lately, but his overall body of work has been good.
– Andrej Sekera has also been a bright spot on defense and he and Faulk are starting to do basically all of the heavy-lifting on the blue-line. These two have basically provided all of the offense from the back-end as of late. Both scored a goal this week and Sekera is on pace for a 45-point season.
– Tim Gleason wasn't a possession sinkhole for a change.
– Brett Bellemore kind of sums up the Hurricanes play as of late. For the most part, Bellemore has been solid and he has been a very good defender at even strength. Unfortunately, when he makes a mistake, it's noticeable and it usually results in a goal. That happened on the Ryan Johansen goal, where he was beat in the neutral zone and on the second Phil Kessel goal, where Bellemore made an aggressive play in the neutral zone which led to an odd-man rush. I don't want to be too hard on Bellemore because, as I just said, he has been very good and at times, has looked like a top-four defenseman but his mistakes usually end up resulting in goals.
– Ryan Murphy had a brutal showing against Pittsburgh, getting undressed by Chris Conner on the second goal and again by James Neal on the overtime winner. Murphy is still the best puck-mover on the team and can bring a lot to the club. His defensive play has just left a lot to be desired and it's why he was benched in favor of Mike Komisarek/Brett Bellemore against Toronto.