Saturday found the Hurricanes taking the ice with a sub-.500 record for the first time during the 2017-18 season and also riding a three-game losing streak. Playing against the Coyotes who entered the game with a 1-12-1 record, the match up at least seemed favorable to squeak out any kind of win and claw back to .500. But it was not to be. In what was largely a disjointed game that looked very much like two bottom dwellers slugging it out, the Hurricanes mustered only one late regularly goal and an overtime loss in the process.
State of the offense
At the most basic level, the Carolina Hurricanes lack any and all of the things that can generate consistent offense.
Aside from Jeff Skinner, the team has no pure finishers who can snipe goals in bunches.
Right now, the team’s power play is futile.
And with a roster of skill players who first nature is to find an open chunk of ice hoping to receive a pass, the team plays long stretches of hockey without anyone creating havoc in or near the crease.
The team has a decent number of players with a reasonable amount of skill, so I would expect the intermittent goal scoring outbursts to continue. But I also think they could continue to be fool’s gold that is not repeatable on a regular basis. Ideally, the team needs to gain boosts in power play efficiency, a commitment to scoring more ‘crease havoc’ goals and hopefully a bit more finishing.
Shorter version is that offensively the team really is pretty much right where it was in 2016-17 which maybe should not be surprising given that the personnel is pretty similar and the additions were not really the type of player who could be a scoring catalyst for a high-end scoring line.
A broader look at Saturday’s game against the Arizona Coyotes
Past the offense, I think the half full version is that the Hurricanes were better defensively. Scott Darling had a decent game before the shootout (which I still refuse to count as real hockey) and the defense did not gift away grade A scoring chances.
The half empty version is that against the worst team in the NHL right now, the Hurricanes looked to be an equal for the most part. The game was really sloppy through two periods with both teams handing the puck over regularly. The Hurricanes did seem to find a higher gear due to late desperation and netted a goal and a point in the standings in the process.
Notes from the Carolina Hurricanes 2-1 overtime loss to the Arizona Coyotes
Roland McKeown’s debut
How cool would that have been if Roland McKeown had scored on his first shift like he very nearly did? Past that I thought he had a decent debut. His strengths are that of a positionally sound stay-home defenseman with a really good stick and knack for interrupting passing lanes. His challenge short-term will be mobility. He has a tendency to maybe too much err on the side of not getting beat to the point where he backs off and gives too much for time and space. That said, with a group of defensemen whose natural tendency is to jump up into the play, perhaps his skill set as a defenseman who sits behind the play is a complementary fit.
Jeff Skinner and the lack of help
He did not score, but he pushed. He earned a penalty shot and in true Jeff Skinner fashion fired the puck toward the net whenever possible. Color commentator Tripp Tracy’s brief speech extolling the potential of Jeff Skinner to score a big goal late tells you exactly where the team is offensively right now. Jeff Skinner has shown a knack for scoring big goals this season and is the team’s best bet at any point in time. But looking for one player to fill this need just is not how good teams work.
For as much as every third or fourth game is a reminder that things have not clicked defensively on a consistent basis for Hanifin, his game really has taken huge strides offensively. He is exhibiting more and more of his inner Joni Pitkanen playing with the puck on his stick and just taking off when skating lanes are there. In addition, he continues to demonstrate a really good knack for where and when to step into holes to join the offense, receive the puck and shoot.
After losing what I thought was a winnable game on Sunday with an ‘iffy’ first period and a five hole goal against late, I thought he rebounded well. He had little chance on the goal against when the puck went right across the crease to the back door, and what’s not to like about one goal against through regulation and overtime? With the team sputtering on offense, a hot streak by Darling would be incredibly well-timed right now to buy some time to figure out other elements of the game.
His goal was obviously a huge one. The goal netted only one point but that one point at least kept the hole from getting deeper. I thought Staal played well in general. The issue with Staal is that he just is not the kind of player who can put the team on his back. Rather, he is a great player capable of eating up hard minutes and being break even such that he puts the ball on the tee for a scoring line to win a hockey game with a plus one in the goal scoring department. The issue is that right now the Hurricanes have very little in terms of that scoring ability.
The power play
Somehow the power play mostly looked worse on Saturday night. Both units have clearly reached the ‘squeezing the stick’ stage with everything just looking really tentative, be it moving the puck up the ice or moving it in the offensive zone.
On the flip side of the power play struggles, I actually like the model that the team has built for overtime despite not being rewarded for it recently. The team gets the importance of puck possession in 3-on-3 play and has generally won the battle in this regard. Further, though maybe a bit conservative, the team has generally made good decisions on when to risk puck possession for a scoring chance. The issue here is similar to 5-on-5 play which is that the team just does not finish enough, but all in all I think the team is on the right track in the extra session.
What say you Canes fans?
1) What positives did you find in another tough night on Saturday?
2) Do you take any consolation in at least netting a point?
3) What else would you be trying to jump start the team right now?