Though the implosion was not nearly as magnanimous as the 4-1 lead that was blown in Tuesday’s 6-4 loss to the Boston Bruins, the story of Saturday’s loss was still another brutal third period that twice saw the Hurricanes give up one-goal leads in the third period on the way to a 4-2 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers. Call it snake bit. Call it fragile. Call it not good enough. Call it whatever you want, but the team is struggling mightily right now.
The script was somewhat familiar. The first period was a bit loose both ways and far from perfect in terms of attention to detail defensively for the Hurricanes, but the good guys generally got the better of play and exited the period with a 1-0 lead. The goal came when Jaccob Slavin was able to create a shooting lane from near the blue line and got the puck to the front of the net where Jordan Staal deflected it into the net for a goal. Noah Hanifin had a couple really good chances offensively, and the Hurricanes in total had a good period offensively.
The second period was lighter on shot volume but similarly saw intermittent defensive lapses create grade A scoring chances. Cam Ward fended off a breakaway and a couple other good scoring chances. And the Hurricanes also mustered a couple more near misses but not goals to put the game into the third period with the Hurricanes clinging to a 1-0 lead.
The third period was mostly just salt in open wounds for the Hurricanes hockey community right now. The situation felt ominous when the Hurricanes let nearly four minutes of power play time pass without adding to the 1-0 lead to start the third period. Sure enough the Flyers tied the game on a deflection. But the Hurricanes rebounded quickly on a great individual effort by Jaccob Slavin to dance in and finish into a corner of the net to quickly reclaim the lead at 2-1. But then the team imploded again. Leading 2-1, Justin Williams seemed to get puck focused and chased into the corner leaving a Flyer all alone in front of the net to receive, stick handle and finish without anyone to defend him. Then a few minutes later the Hurricanes managed to somehow get five players deep off the rush. When the puck went the other way, Valtteri Filppula raced in uncontested all the way from his defensive blue line and beat Ward to push the Flyers to a 3-2 lead. An empty-netter sealed the deal and left the team and its fan base wondering what happened yet again.
Notes from the Carolina Hurricanes 4-2 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers
1) Jaccob Slavin
One silver lining in the loss was a productive game offensively for Jaccob Slavin. He did a nice job creating a shooting lane from the blue and getting the puck to the net on Jordan Staal’s deflection goal. Then Slavin added a goal of his own later. If the young blue is to emerge and become the difference-maker that many are hoping for, more offense is a required ingredient. So any signs of more blue line scoring are obviously welcome.
2) Teuvo Teravainen
His all-around game has really impressed me of late. Whereas most of the first year and a half of his time in a Hurricanes uniform featured offensive outbursts followed by fits of being very quiet. Streaky play is not uncommon for scorers, but true top-tier forwards also have an ability to make plays and impact games and help drive wins even during the lesser stretches when the scoring is lighter. In that vein, Teravainen seems to be finding a higher gear in terms of being better when he is not killing it production-wise. Most notable is the number of plays he is making to keep or win pucks in the offensive zone. The trend is a good one and part of what it takes for Teravainen to reach yet another level of play.
3) Lack of attention to detail
If I had to summarize Saturday’s issues, the biggest thing was lack of attention to detail in crunch time. The goal to make it 2-2 was very simply a questionable decision by Williams to leave the front of the net. Had he won the puck or stepped into the shooting lane, the situation might have ended okay, but the safer play was clearly to just mark the player parked at the top of the decrease. Then the Flyers’ third goal saw a lack of communication and/or adjustments push all five Hurricanes players deep with no one covering behind. The ‘oopses’ were also there intermittently throughout the game, but Ward covered up a few, and there were a few near misses.
4) Arturs Irbe!
After many years away after his departure after some testy times between him and General Manager Jim Rutherford, it was absolutely phenomenal to see Arturs Irbe at PNC Arena for a ceremonial puck drop. The reason this recap is so late is because I have spent the hours since the conclusion of the game making phone calls and sending emails to determine if it is possible for Arturs Irbe to somehow lift his own curse. I hope to have a more definitive answer in the days ahead, but early indications are that it may not be possible for Irbe to simply remove the curse without its conditions being met.
On a more serious note, it was absolutely a joyous occasion for me personally to see Arturs Irbe! I know there are other worthy options, but he ranks as my favorite player for this first era of Hurricanes hockey (partly because I can neatly put Brind’Amour in the next era too).
The Hurricanes are right back on the horse on Sunday night at 5pm against the New York Islanders on the road.