After winning an ugly affair 1-0 in overtime on Wednesday, the Canes needed a better effort on Friday. I think the team actually had that better effort. The Canes had some really good shifts, many more high quality scoring chances and an effort in which it would be fair to say they were at least as good as their opponent.
And the advanced stats will have the numbers people saying that the Canes deserved better results and will ultimately get better results if they put up similar efforts. But that assumes that the Canes can finish scoring chances at an average or normal rate. And therein lies the problem. The Canes are not finishing anything right now, and I am not sure it is as simple as the math engine to spit out a change.
At the end of the day, key players will get some number of 2-5 chances to make a big play in an NHL game and their ability to do so often decides games. The most striking example this season was the first loss to Detroit. It was the Canes most dominant game of the season, but inability of the Canes to finish coupled with Henrik Zetterberg, who had a mediocre game overall, made 2 key plays each of which led to a goal. That was enough to lift the wings to a 4-3 win that they did not deserve.
So returning to the loss to the Kings that featured 40 shots on goal, I think it boils down to 3 regular issues for the Hurricanes so far in 2015-16:
1) The ability to get bodies to the crease to screen the goalie and make his life difficult. The Hurricanes just do not do this well which makes it much easier for a goalie like Quick to get into a groove and save shot after shot that he sees.
2) Inability to finish. I noted the following high-quality scoring chances on Friday:
- Brock McGinn had a nice steal and near finish but hit the post. This was actually a hard 1 to fault McGinn on because of the level of difficulty, but if it was inside the bar, he did have a goal.
- Jordan Staal was sprung for a breakaway by Ron Hainsey in the first period, but missed the net in alone.
- Victor Rask walked in after a steal and missed wide from point blank range.
- Eric Staal had a good backhand chance from between the circles but missed the net.
- Chris Terry had a backhand attempt from between the circles in the third period but missed the net.
- Jeff Skinner was able to step into a shot off the rush in the third period but missed the net.
3) The power play. Special teams can often be the great difference-maker in close games or games when other things do not work out. The Canes were again 0-for on the power play. A power play goal early could have changed the course of the game.
A few player and other notes:
I thought he had a great game overall, but his bad turnover early in the third period seemed to steal any chance the Canes had to pull one out late. When he inexplicably gloved a puck right to between the circles basically for an assists on a bang-bang scoring play for the Kings, the game seemed over at 2-0. But past that, I thought he played well breaking up a number of passes and even doing his best to kick in offense springing Jordan Staal on a stretch pass for a breakaway.
He was not the problem. The goalie at the other end was better, but it is not like you can ask him to hold to 0 to get to overtime every game. That said, a back to back is the normal time to keep the backup goalie in the mix. I hope we see Eddie Lack tomorrow not because of something Ward did but rather simply because it is his turn.
Solid game puck possession-wise
Lost in the fact that they could not convert it into anything could be the fact that the Canes were leaps and bounds better than Wednesday in terms of controlling the puck and the play for stretches. The good guys won 62 percent of face-offs, held their own battling for loose pucks on the boards and had a good number of stretches when they dictated play. This part of the game is a keeper going forward.
Still positive through 4 games of road trip
Through 4 games of the road trip the Canes are still playing at a break even pace with 4 games. The loss to the Kings makes it challenging to exit the weekend with that intact since the next game is a back-to-back for the Canes against a good, rested team, but when we wake up tomorrow, the road trip will still be on track points-wise.
I think he is settling in. He had a hard time defending a much bigger player in Milan Lucic on a 2-on-1 rush when Hanifin hung him out to dry with a bad decision, but otherwise I think he continues to improve from a couple shaky outings in preseason and early in the regular season.
I think that is the biggest story of Friday night. The Hurricanes actually had a decent number of real good scoring chances – more than the Kings did. They finished exactly none of them. Sure Jonathan Quick played a role in that, but the Hurricanes players also missed the net a bunch too.
Next up is a quick turnaround in San Jose on Saturday. A win or even an OTL point pushes the team farther into the long road trip in much better shape than last season.