Against a struggling Anaheim Ducks team that has given up 18 of 22 points on the road since the beginning of December, the Hurricanes collected one of two points.
Against a backup goalie with a 3.20 goals against average and against a Ducks team that has allowed 3.7 goals per game on the road since the beginning December, the Canes scored once to get to three goals in three games for the week.
Needless to say, the Carolina Hurricanes are struggling right now.
What started in a lackluster second half of last Saturday’s game that thankfully was converted to a win courtesy of James Reimer has snowballed since then.
With two games remaining before the much-needed All-Star break, the Hurricanes need desperately to dig down before digging a hole.
As I said Twitter shortly after Friday’s game ended:
Will be shocked if we do not see Justin Williams on Sunday.
Team needs a jolt of energy and could use more offense after scoring 3 goals in 3 games this week. #LetsGoCanes
— Canes and Coffee (@CanesandCoffee) January 18, 2020
Oh how the optics for the ‘need’ for Justin Williams have changed in just a few short weeks. Coming out of the 4-0-1 road trip and riding high, the team seemed fine for leadership. Then a couple tough losses introduced a bit of adversity. But an up and down 5-2 home stand had the team riding high again. Since then three straight losses have the team sinking.
The jolt of energy should be a positive, as the team tries to find a way in two final games before the break.
Recap of the Carolina Hurricanes 2-1 overtime loss to the Anaheim Ducks
The game started well enough with the Hurricanes launching into the game okay and then Sebastian Aho scoring on a deft tip of a Joel Edmundson shot to stake the Canes to a 1-0 lead just four minutes into the first period. But that goal was arguably the high point of the game. Late in the first period, the Canes had another ‘oops’ losing track of a player breaking to the front of the net. The result was Erik Gudbranson walking in all alone and firing right through James Reimer’s wickets and into the net. The play was on the defense, but ideally Reimer just gets square and forces a low scoring defenseman to hit a corner instead of letting him shoot through him. The first period had a bit of Thursday’s third period with decent play but another costly error to see the period end tied at 1-1.
From that point forward, the game reminded me a bit of the 2-0 win over another struggling Western Conference team in the Kings last weekend that also with James Reimer in net. The Hurricanes seemed unable to find much for energy or any of the ‘dynamic’ that the team has had offensively at times this season. Even when the Hurricanes are driving play, the volume of high-quality chances right now is incredibly low. The Ducks looked like the ‘meh’ hockey team that they generally are this season but so did the Hurricanes. The bright spot was Reimer settling into the game and matching Ryan Miller save for save as Anaheim started to get the upper hand. The second period finished with Anaheim out-shooting the Canes for the period by a 13 to 6 margin for the period and the score still tied at 1-1.
The third period was more of the same except maybe a notch worse. Anaheim dictated play for most of the third period such that the felt like it would turn on the next Canes miscue as they battled in their own end. The Canes were out-shot eleven to four and mostly just held on courtesy of James Reimer to get to overtime. As was feared after last Saturday’s game, this team just looks to be out of gas right now.
Despite another tough outing overall, the Hurricanes entered overtime with a chance to emerge with two points. Jaccob Slavin had a decent chance early busting in from the left side but was stopped. Not too much later, Andrei Svechnikov turned the puck over at the offensive blue line which almost always means jail break in overtime. Sure enough, the miscue sprung an Sam Steel who skating in alone as Jake Gardiner tried to recover. He beat Reimer to send the Canes to their third consecutive loss.
Player and other notes
1) The Hamilton-less blue line
Though the competition was a somewhat lesser team, I give the blue line reasonable marks in the first game minus Dougie Hamilton. The defensive breakdown in the first saw a defenseman who should have been marked by a Canes forward (Staal was the one floating). And the overtime goal was on Svechnikov’s costly turnover in a bad place. By no means were the defensemen perfect, but they were not a problem.
2) James Reimer
After the fact, I think Reimer would have wanted to play the Gudbranson shot a bit differently. I think he tried to do too much instead of just getting square to the puck and forcing the low-scoring defenseman to hit a corner. But in total, Reimer played well again. When you give up one goal on 36 shots in regulation, that should be good enough. not counting the empty-netter Reimer has now received two goals of support in his last two starts and faced about 80 shots.
3) Jordan Staal
After scoring a huge goal that was wasted in Thursday’s loss, Staal’s game was more ‘meh’ on Friday. He was the forward who was floating, watching the puck a bit and not marking anyone on the Gudbranson goal. He also took a high-sticking penalty to give Anaheim a power play.
4) Brett Pesce
I noted him as having a strong game on Thursday. I thought he was quietly one of the team’s best again on Friday. He is a brick wall in the neutral zone/at the defensive blue line right now.
5) The end is near
On a positive note, the Hurricanes are only two games away from a break that they seem to desperately need. On the other hand, two more losses before it arrives will feel like the bigger end is near. That will not be the case even if the team does lose two more, but it will certainly feel that way heading into a week plus off.
Next up for the Hurricanes is another dreaded Metropolitan Division match up against the New York Islanders at PNC Arena on Sunday.