Please consider making Canes and Coffee a small part of your Cyber Monday
Cyber Monday, which is the biggest online shopping day of the year is here! In between chucking tens or even hundreds of dollars at Amazon and other big retailers with whom you have no ties, please also consider spending a mere $18.75 at Canes and Coffee to buy a coffee cup and to help fund our daily local coverage of Hurricanes hockey.
1) Contribute either $17.50 (out of state=>no sales tax) or $18.75 (in state=sales tax) via credit card or PayPal.
2) Make sure you include your mailing address in the payment notes.
3) Help support Canes and Coffee and get a cool coffee cup in the process.
With Sunday’s 4-3 shootout win against the Nashville Predators, the Hurricanes salvaged something from the three-game home stand during Thanksgiving week. For only being a two-game losing streak, the week seemed to offer more than its fair share of adversity, especially for the fan base.
Today’s Daily Cup of Joe looks at the past week from a variety of different angles.
How bad was it?
In terms of damage done in the standings, the week was definitely a negative especially when you consider that all three games were at home, but the damage was minimized by Sunday’s loss. Though it may be tough to swallow, the Hurricanes will inevitably hit multiple more two-game losing streaks during the 2017-18 season even if the season does ultimately end up being a playoff year.
But did the level of play really match the feeling of impending doom heading into Sunday’s game?
In a word, no. The loss to the New York Rangers on Wednesday night was as flushable as the 6-1 score might suggest, but that was far from the case for Friday’s 5-4 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Hurricanes played one of their strongest periods in recent memory in the first period and were not rewarded on the scoreboard. And important to note, it was not the traditional ‘strong puck possession with played kept to the outside for a high volume of low probability shots.’ Rather, the Hurricanes had pucks and traffic in the triangle between the two face-off circles and the crease and just could not seem to buy a break. Then, even when the game went to hell in a hand basket in the second period, it is not clear that that period was as bad as the score would suggest. The defense did have a couple break downs, but the period was largely the story of Cam Ward having a tough time of it. And then the Hurricanes surged again in the third period and had multiple chances to tie the game late. So when you net out the first two games of the week, the Hurricanes had one true stinker and one game that actually had a number of redeeming qualities to go with a sloppy stretch that was bad enough to lose a hockey game. That is not nearly as bad as it felt waking up a Canes fan on Saturday morning.
What concerns me most right now?
When I sort through everything, two things concern me most right now. First is that the hope of significantly better starting goaltending is yet to be realized. To be clear, I am NOT saying that it will not be. But to this point, Scott Darling is still trying to find his higher gear, and at this moment in time, he seems to be fighting things a bit. The second thing that concerns me most is the lack of identity and repeatable winning formula right now. The Hurricanes have won more than they have lost thus far, but for me it feels like it has been in haphazard fashion. The team has had short stretches (most recently last weekend) when it relied on stellar goaltending to win. The team has had a decent number of scoring outbursts. And though it was awhile back now, the team did also have a stretch where it was steady, sound and solid defensively such that it could win even if the offense was lacking. If asked what the team’s identity and style of play would be, I think many Canes fans would point to defense and goaltending. While there have been games when that has been the case, the defense has too often been shaky to say that the hoped for strength has really been realized. While I think it is possible to win any given hockey game in any random way, as the long NHL season moves into the middle section teams improve and the good ones usually have strengths and styles that they leverage on a nearly every night basis to string together wins.
What is trending positively right now?
Despite the 1-2 week, I think there are some things trending positive right now. The power play is still a work in progress, but I think it is significantly improved over a week or two ago. The net front presence can still be sporadic and maybe too often players to the side of the goalie looking for tips, but compared to the front part of the season the simple volume of players in/near the crease is significantly higher. And though the goal scoring has not surged, the production has at least been reasonable over the past run of games.
What does it take to find a higher level?
I actually think that the team needs to figure out a few different things to play and win at a higher level on a consistent basis. First is that the team lacks consistency right now across multiple areas of the game.
Consistency defensively – Thus far in 2017-18, the Hurricanes defensive play has been all over the map ranging from very good and and a clear strength on some nights to very bad and a driver for a loss on other nights. To win on a regular basis, the Hurricanes defense must find consistency such that it still has good nights but is also able to dial up the minimum level on the off nights (which are inevitable) to a level that still gives the team to win.
Consistency in net – This might sound odd, but I think the Hurricanes goalies have probably had enough good outings thus far through 22 games. Both Darling and Ward have had his share of strong outings where he helped drive a win. But the issues is that the level of play in the lesser starts has too often been too low. Somewhat like the defense, the goalies need to bring up their level of play on the off nights such that they give the team in front of them a chance.
Special teams improvement – As noted above, I am encouraged by the power play in recent games, but in total for the 2017-18 season, the power play has struggled. The penalty kill rates slightly higher but is nowhere near the level it has played at during the past couple seasons when it was a significant strength.
More scoring balance – When the Aho/Staal/Teravainen line caught fire, it was so good that it scored enough to win. But in the long run, the team will need more sources of offense. Skinner is a proven NHL scorer who will get his, but the Hurricanes need to add more sources of offense in the form of another line clicking, the power play doing more and ideally a few more goals from the back end.
The Monday Coffee Shop which will be up by mid-morning on Monday will take on a similar theme looking at the Thanksgiving week struggles and also forward from there.