The Hurricanes came into the game with a three-game losing streak and playing their way down the standings. The Flyers came into the game with a seven-game winning streak and eyeing the top spot in the Metropolitan Division.
And the game went about as one might expect. The Flyers scored first and the closest the Hurricanes could get after that was within a goal.
The Flyers have found their formula and are just a much better team right now, while the Hurricanes are desperately trying to piece things together before time runs out.
Two repeat offenders for the Hurricanes reared their heads in Tuesday’s defeat. As has been the case regularly, the Hurricanes found themselves with an early deficit and chasing the game from down 1-0 after the first period and then down 2-0. And then with the Hurricanes in the game in the third period down 2-1, a couple costly puck management errors sealed their fate. First, Brady Skjei literally had the puck over in the crease when the puck rolled of his stick. That puck was behind Nedeljkovic seconds later. Then less than 30 seconds later Jake Gardiner turned the puck over in the defensive zone. That puck too found the net within seconds, and suddenly the game was more or less over at 4-1.
The biggest challenge that the Canes have right now is that the time of year when most decent or better teams have worked out kinks and become sounder, the Hurricanes are still the same error prone team that they were in October except a notch or two worse minus Brett Pesce and Dougie Hamilton.
A few player and other notes on the game
1) Too many ‘oopses’
As noted above, the biggest issue right now is the volume of costly errors. In addition to the two third period goals against that came on bad turnovers, the first Flyers goal came when Alex Nedeljkovic spit out a big rebound after the Canes got caught chasing the puck such that Ivan Provorov could walk in from the point to fire from point blank range and then retrieve and finish the rebound while the Canes mostly watched. The second Flyers goal came when Skjei got caught up the ice a bit, and Fleury did not recognize that he needed to play the situation like a 2-on-1. When Fleury gave up an easy passing lane, it was too easy to send Raffl in alone.
2) Quiet night from the top line
Sebastian Aho and company who have generally been lights out of late had a quiet night. With a string of road games and obvious focus on Aho’s line, it will be interesting to see if that continues.
3) Alex Nedeljkovic
The team did not really deserve better, but Nedeljkovic had a tough night. He did a good job challenging on the Provorov goal, but spitting out a rebound right in front of him cost him as it often does at the NHL level. Skjei was the primary offender on the third goal, but getting beat from behind the end line is not good enough. In total, Nedeljkovic maybe looks about as expected as a rookie trying to find his way. He was good on Saturday but not so good in his two starts.
4) A cause for optimism
Tuesday’s match up was a tough one against a Flyers team that is among the best in the NHL right now. It is not that the schedule is going to gift any wins to a Canes team that has not been playing well enough to earn them, but what follows is a tiny bit easier. In addition, the Islanders and Blue Jackets are also struggling and at least one of these three teams likely to earn a playoff berth. So there is a possible path to the playoffs that includes a bit of sputtering, grinding and limping to the line.
Next up for the Hurricanes is a Saturday afternoon match up against the New York Islanders.