You never know what you are going to get after a full week layoff. For the Carolina Hurricanes it was not good. The Calgary Flames had a huge margin in terms of jump and pace right out of the gate, and it carried throughout the game. When you couple that with a losing night on special teams, it just is not going to end well. The Canes were outplayed in the first period, but managed to exit it with a 1-1 tie and life. The Canes were not so lucky in the second period when inability to score on the power play coupled with a second power play goal and also an even strength goal built a 3-1 lead. When a Canes power play to start the third period failed, the path was set to a ___ Flames win.
I wrote of the importance of the winnable games on the current 3-game road trip and also February in total, so Wednesday is obviously not a good result.
A few player and other notes:
1) Best players win games
Quite often whichever team’s best players play better win. That was the case on Wednesday. Sean Monahan was the best player on the ice with a 4-point night with modest challenges from Johnny Gaudreau, Mark Giordano and Dougie Hamilton. None of the players that one would hope to be stars from the Canes were even close to that category. Watching Sean Monahan’s development is becoming harder by the day.
2) Trying to work out the puzzle pieces
With Brett Pesce out and Ryan Murphy in the lineup, Wednesday was Coach Bill Peters’ first shot at building a new defense. The team started with Liles/Faulk, Hanifin/Hainsey and Slavin/Murphy. The team in total struggled in the first period, but the defense maybe more so. Noah Hanifin had a real rough first period playing up in the top 4. He especially had trouble with general situational awareness. A couple minutes into the game he was defending in front of the net with the puck behind it and had a pass go through him for a point blank chance between the circles that Lack saved. Defending a 2-on-1 after a Di Giuseppe turnover in the neutral zone, Hanifin sat back and did not do much. He later whiffed on a puck in the neutral zone which led directly to a 2-on-1 and a shot that Gaudreau clanged off the post. At the end of the period, a pinch on the power play led to a breakaway behind the forward trying to cover for him at the point. The second period started with complete reshuffle of the blue line that saw Hainsey/Faulk, Slavin/Liles and Hanifin/Murphy. Murphy struggled the second half of the game with the worst being losing track of a Flame player right in front of the net for a tap in.
As I noted in my game preview, the defense was increasingly a problem toward the end of January. That continued on Wednesday and is something that Peters and his team will need to sort out quickly.
3) Special teams
One of the consistent positives of late has been the Canes penalty kill. Even that struggled on Wednesday night allowing 2 goals on 4 Calgary tries. The Canes power play was mostly out of sync and 0 for 5 putting a Canes team that did not have it 5-on-5 at an insurmountable 2-goal deficit on special teams.
4) Elias Lindholm
It did not help in the end, but at the time it happened, his quick answer goal on a nifty pass by Jeff Skinner in the first period provided life and a successful exit to the first period. It became meaningless when the Canes never really found a burst of energy, but at the time it was scored, it was a clutch goal.
5) Jordan Staal hurt?
Here is hoping that Jordan Staal is alright. He was reported on the broadcast to have left the game late. Best guess is that the cause was the shot that he took off of his upper body (arm or wrist?) off a Canes stick in the third period.
Next up is a game in Winnipeg on Friday with the Canes now sitting at 6 points behind the last playoff spot (my math adjusted for games in hand) and an even more important game to win to stay in the chase.