Saturday night in Philadelphia, the Carolina Hurricanes fell to 1-2-2 via a 6-3 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers. The loss featured the painfully familiar theme of having a multi-goal lead only to make a costly mistake to crack the door open and then lose. This time it was 2-0 lead that became 2-1 when Eddie Lack lost track of the net and wandered out of position for a goal against.
Though it is hard to remember now, Eddie Lack was arguably the Hurricanes best player in the first period. The volume was not incredibly high, but Lack was tested with some good chances early and held the fort to get the Hurricanes to the first intermission tied at 0-0 despite a sluggish start. The Hurricanes then climbed onto the scoreboard first with a well-placed Justin Faulk power play shot through an equally good Jordan Staal screen. Then a pretty passing play that saw the puck go quickly from Hainsey to Aho to Nordstrom to Staal for the finish pushed the Hurricanes to 2-0 early in the second period. But the goal that saw Eddie Lack out of position featured the third time this season that the Hurricanes mounted a lead and then breathed life into a struggling opponent with a bad miscue.
Lee Stempniak continued the first line scoring run with a goal off of a nice pass from Victor Rask, but the game was really all Flyers from the point that the Flyers got on the board at 2-1. Entering the third period down only 4-3, the Hurricanes still had a chance but the Hurricanes allowed 2 more goals in the third period ultimately dropping the game 6-3.
‘What I’m watching’ check in
1) Continuation in net by Eddie Lack
As has been the story before, once pressured the coverage in front of him was weak, but I still think it is fair to consider Eddie Lack and the 6 goals that he allowed the biggest miss of the night. I doubt anyone saw it coming after he looked sharp in the first period, but from there some combination of goals where he did not have much chance and a couple where he definitely did mounted quickly. The first goal he allowed was that ‘1 massive oops’ that has keyed collapses in the Canes 3 worst losses. Good teams have a knack for tightening things up and almost convincing teams to quit because everything they do seems futile. The Hurricanes instead have allowed a horrible goal for a first against in all 3 of the collapses. Saturday’s featured Eddie Lack losing track of the crease/net and being way out of position when defenseman Brandon Manning scored to give the Flyers life. Lack did have a couple tough deflections on which he had little chance as part of the 6 goals allowed but also had another soft one bounce through him to make it 6-3 and at the end of the day 6 just is too many for an NHL goalie relative to the volume and quality of chances he faced on Saturday.
Best guess (and the right decision) is that the Hurricanes with Cam Ward in net on Tuesday will start back at zero games in a row for solid netminding.
2) Carry over of strong play
The game saw Phil Di Giuseppe (with Lindholm and Teravainen) and Sebastian Aho (with Staal and Nordstrom) flip-flopped, so the dynamics were a bit different. I thought Nordstrom had another strong game. Di Giuseppe was okay not great. On the defensive side, Slavin and Pesce were maybe not as good as they were in Thursday’s win, but they were by nowhere close to the biggest of the Hurricanes problems.
3) Answer to physical and nasty
The game featured only a modest amount of nastiness with Simmonds and Di Giuseppe getting tangled up a couple times early and then a minor disturbance against around Simmonds at the Hurricanes bench in the last minute. The special teams battle was a draw with each team netting a single power play goal.
4) Increased steadiness and efficiency if the Canes mount a lead
With a 2-0 lead that incredibly quickly turned into a 4-2 deficit, this target was obviously a significant failure. At the most basic level, the Hurricanes need to somehow avoid gifting away a goal to a team that is down by multiple goals, reeling a bit and struggling to find life.
His game was not perfect either, but I still think Aho’s move up to Jordan Staal’s line was the biggest positive of the game. Following a up a pretty passing play assist at the offensive blue line in Thursday’s win, he added another on Saturday to go with a power play assist. I said on Twitter that good offensive player find passing lines, but great playmakers MAKE passing lanes. On his 2 assists off the rush in the past 2 games, he took a fairly harmless situation and quickly maneuvered just right to make timing work and a passing lane to a dangerous place open up. He now has 5 assists and 5 games. Also significant is that the jittery hands with which he started the season seem to be calming down.
I am not sure you could directly hang any of the goals on Ron Hainsey, but he seemed to be in the middle of it all and maybe with a chance to be a hero with a good night. The first goal was clearly the result of Eddie Lack wandering too far out of net, but Hainsey smartly filled the hole behind him in the crease but had Manning wrap the puck around his stick. The second goal was scored on a tip by Voracek right in front of the net when the gap between from Faulk leaving him to Hainsey finding him coincided perfectly with a shot on net. Hainsey was again the player in the neighborhood but doing nothing in particular for Read’s tip on the third Flyer goal. Hainsey and Slavin also lost track of Simmonds while focusing on the Flyer forward farther out on the Flyers fifth goal on the power play. When you add it up, Hainsey was in the neighborhood but unable to put out the fire in front of the net 4 times on Saturday, still 3 times if you take away the goal on Lack’s error. That is too many for a veteran defenseman on a team desperately seeking solid defensive play and stability right now. Justin Faulk was maybe less directly responsible tonight but was once again a high event player on the ice for 2 goals for but also 4 goals against.
The money line
Skinner/Rask/Stempniak scored another goal and a big 1 at the time to get the Hurricanes to the locker room for the second intermission down only 1 goal. The play featured a nice pass by Victor Rask to feed Lee Stempniak who stepped smartly into an opening off the rush. Even slightly quieter nights are netting goals for the red hot first line.
When breaking down the NHL season into smaller chunks, the next game on Tuesday in Detroit is a huge one. With a win, the Hurricanes will emerge from a tumultuous 6-game road trip to start the season with a respectable 2-2-2 record. With a loss, the Hurricanes will have made quick work of digging a small hole at 2 games below .500.