Through three games of the six-game road trip, the luckiest Canes fans are the non-night owls who do not stay up for the 10 and 10:30pm starts. Those who have taken to late-night coffee to make it through 1am-ish finishes have yet to really be rewarded for their dedication.
For the second consecutive game, the Hurricanes did pick up an overtime loss point, but right now it just does not feel like half of a win.
As for the game itself, not unlike many games the Hurricanes started okay. That said, I actually thought that the first 13-14 minutes of the first period were what I have come to call “the bad version of good” that features the Hurricanes winning in terms of puck possession, shots and everything else that they seem to win every game but really not converting it to enough good scoring chances. More importantly, I did not think the good guys had much for real scoring chances with people near the crease for rebounds, screens, deflections and all of the other non-glamorous stuff that greatly increases the chance of scoring. But the Hurricanes did break through in that regard in the last five or six minutes of the period with grade A chances from Sebastian Aho who was robbed, a Justin Williams whiff from point blank range and another good scoring chance by Brock McGinn.
When the dust settled on the first period, the Canes had nothing to show for being the better team and faced the dreaded second period with no margin for error. True to form, the Hurricanes lost the second period by a 2-0 margin. The period was actually not horrible in total, but it is disconcerting that the team continues to be far too content to continue playing “try to beat the goalie” on nights when it is tough sledding instead of dialing up the “get ugly around the crease.” After two periods the Kings’ lead was only 2-0, but it felt more like an insurmountable five-goal lead entering the third period.
When a power play at the midway point of the third period went by the wayside, the Canes seemed destined to ride quietly off into the night. But another power play opportunity and a rare mistake by Jonathan Quick made it a game late when Victor Rask beat him with the man advantage to make it 2-1. And then a rare trip to the front of the net by Elias Lindholm netted a second goal. On an extended 6-on-5 with delayed penalty coming, Lindholm made a first save tough for Quick who could not control the rebound, and then Lindholm deposited it behind him to tie the game at 2-2.
The third period was the exact opposite of Thursday. Whereas Thursday saw the Hurricanes convert a sure win into a trip to overtime, Saturday saw the Hurricanes convert a sure loss to a trip to overtime. Also true to form, the extra point was awarded to the opponent in overtime. After the Hurricanes controlled the puck for most of the front part of overtime but never really converted it into a good scoring chance, the Kings scored when Darling lunged awkwardly at a shot off the rush and spit the rebound right back at the original shooter who finished to win the game 3-2.
Notes from the Carolina Hurricanes 3-2 overtime loss to the Los Angeles Kings
1) The “We were robbed!” cry
Like many loyal Caniacs right now, I could write a decent list of current frustrations in a matter of minutes. But one of my growing frustrations or pet peeves that is not a knee-jerk reaction to this week’s play is how sick I am about hearing the story of how the Hurricanes deserved better.
There are two versions of this story that I think are equally wrong more often than not.
The first is the “hot goalie” version. Especially in 2017-18, the Hurricanes have faced more than their fair share of backup goalies which has helped at times. And as far as facing hot goalies goes, I think the current version of the Canes is destined by style of play to face far more of those than the average. The team just does not have enough players who by habit go to the front of the net and make the opposing goalie’s life difficult. Until Lindholm’s goal in the third period, the Hurricanes seemed mostly content to keep playing what I have termed “try to beat the goalie.” Until the Hurricanes make a concerted effort to score more ugly goals, they play a style of hockey that allows a good goalie who is tracking the puck well to have a good night without much for challenges.
The second is the “look at the shot totals” version. Two things factor in here. The first is the lack of chances that are the hard kind for the opposing goalie. The second is that shot totals and even the expected goals type models do not do a great job of adding premium points for the kind of uncontested chances that the Hurricanes give up too often. A wrist shot from 15 feet in alone against the goalie is nothing close to equal to a contested wrist shot by a defended player whose stick if half tied up as he tries to release the shot.
Shorter version is that as I watch the Hurricanes seemingly get cheated based on a couple statistical measures, I am increasingly convinced that this is simply a matter of those statistics not accurately accounting for everything. To be clear, this is not a criticism of advanced stats. The fact that they are imperfect does not mean that they are not useful in evaluating games. It just means that they are a work in process and are only part of the puzzle, not the final answer.
2) A better game
Though the result was the same, Thursday’s and Saturday’s games were night and day in terms of soundness of play. Whereas Thursday was an utter train wreck in terms of break downs, Saturday was a reasonably sound even if not great game.
3) Still seeking goaltending help
Darling tossed another ‘meh’ start on the growing pile. He was not abysmal, but as has been the case almost every game lately, the goalie at the other end of the rink was better again. The overtime game-winner saw him make an awkward-looking save on a shot that is fairly easy to just deflect to the far side boards most times. Instead, Darling leaned awkwardly and somehow spit it right back to the original shooter who quickly put it behind him to end the game.
4) Credit where it is due – Elias Lindholm, Victor Rask and the power play
Giving credit where it is due, the goal by Victor Rask was a huge one that made it a game late, and Elias Lindholm’s tally that followed was just as big.
Also giving credit where it is due…I jumped all over the atrocious special teams play that saw the Hurricanes give up two goals each on the penalty kill and also the power play in Thursday’s 5-4 loss. On Saturday, the penalty kill was successful in its only opportunity, and Rask’s power play changed the course of the game. In addition, the Lindholm goal with an extra attacker on was a pseudo power play at 6-on-5.
5) Missed opportunities in overtime
If my quick late night count is correct, the Hurricanes are now 3-7 in overtime and shootouts. Average is obviously 5-5, so the Hurricanes are minus two points to break even, and it would be huge if by chance the team was a good overtime at 7-3 for a four-point swing.
At a basic level, I think the team’s puck possession approach to overtime is on the right track. The issue is lack of finishing/conversion not too much unlike the team’s offense in total.
6) A win away
Per reader polls from before the road trip started, many wanted more, but I am on record as being content with break even on slightly better for eight out of nine on the road largely against good competition. With Saturday’s overtime loss, the Hurricanes are only a win away from being break even on the trip despite being win-less in three games.
Next up for the Hurricanes is a fourth try to collect a win on the west coast courtesy of a trip to Anaheim to face the Ducks on Monday night to be followed Tuesday by the team’s first trip to Las Vegas.
With an 0-1-2 start to the road trip and back-to-back 10pm starts on week nights, attendance for both games (to be validated on Twitter in the last five minutes of each game) will become an official badge of courage for Hurricanes fans. 🙂