With hopefully a fresh start after the trade deadline, the Carolina Hurricanes entered Tuesday’s game with five straight losses and exited with a sixth. The Hurricanes did pick up an overtime loss point in the 4-3 loss to the Boston Bruins for the second time in the six-game losing run. The point game pulled the Hurricanes to four points back of the Columbus Blue Jackets for the final Eastern Conference playoff spot (no games in hand for either team).
What stands out to me is that the version of the Hurricanes that shows up and competes hard for 60 minutes is roughly a .500 team right now. When one then adds in the every fourth or fifth game where the Hurricanes either player poorly or do not show up for 60 minutes, the ledger quickly tilts to sub-.500 which obviously is not going to get it done this time of year, especially now trying to make up a deficit.
The first period reminded me a bit of a couple of the Hurricanes high-powered wins awhile back. Fueled by power play success to the tune of two goals, the Canes scored three in the first period and emerged with a 3-2 lead. But the welcome scoring surge covered up a period that was shoddy defensively. The team had at least five of the variety of break down or defensive zone turnovers that led directly to grade A scoring chances unless thwarted at the last minute. Justin Faulk with an all too common occurrence when he carries the puck around the net and then tries to be tricky by darting by the side of the net and up the middle of the ice. But all too often, including on Tuesday, he has had the puck roll off his stick for a centering pass to the opposition in the slot. Jaccob Slavin covered up that mistake, but another bad Faulk turnover saw a player alone in front of Scott Darling for a goal. Those were just the two headliners of a first period filled with egregious break downs. But the power play made the first period seem better than it was. A pretty play that saw Faulk find Skinner between the circles, Jeff Skinner deftly tip it on net and then Brock McGinn show great hands in finishing a rebound in close was good for a goal on the power play. And Teuvo Teravainen shot through an Elias Lindholm screen was good for another goal. When Teravainen found a streaking Sebastian Aho for another goal, all was good. But a late discombobulation that saw Jaccob Slavin and Brett Pesce failing to corral a puck which led to a Bruins goal with only three seconds to go in the first period to make it 3-2 at the intermission.
The Hurricanes started strong in the second period and spent much of the first five minutes of the period hemming the Bruins into their own end. But when the Bruins scored first in the second period to tie the game at 3-3, the game suddenly felt very much like the Penguins loss last Friday that saw a Hurricanes team go unrewarded, get scored upon and then fade massively after that. But this time the Hurricanes hung in and continued to play even. The second period finished up at 3-3.
The third period was oddly slow, sluggish and cautious almost as if both teams were willing to slowly grind out an entire period to get to overtime. And that is exactly what happened.
And perhaps to no one’s surprise at this point, the overtime period ended badly pushing the Hurricanes’ overtime mark to a meager 2-8. The path to get there was somewhat familiar too. The Hurricanes had the puck early but did not manage a shot on net by a 2-on-1 with Aho and Slavin. Soon thereafter, Riley Nash won a puck battle with Derek Ryan with Brock McGinn caught in no man’s land. When the puck went the other way with McGinn and Ryan in the rear view mirror, it was very quickly a 2-on-1 that saw Darling go down a bit early seemingly guessing and then look frozen as the puck zipped past him glove side high into the net.
Notes from the Carolina Hurricanes 4-3 overtime loss to the Boston Bruins
1) Scott Darling
He was not horrible, but he certainly was not great either. I guess when a team gets to the point where that is marginally positive, it says a lot about the state of the team’s goaltending. To be fair, the defense in front of him was shoddy in the first period, and Darling did make some good saves, but the goalie at the other end of the rink made more and was better. He was beaten through the five hole from in close again. Part of the book on him in cases where a player has time in front him is very clearly to consider shooting five-hole early if Darling is still moving or is yet to get set. There continues to be an opening there that does not close quickly enough when players shoot a split second before he is ready.
2) Teuvo Teravainen
Teravainen had a solid game offensively. He found the target through Lindholm for his goal, and made a pretty pass to send Aho in alone for his goal. Past the two scoring plays Teravainen had a solid night.
3) Noah Hanifin
Possibly spurred by the return home to Boston where he has multiple times played well, Noah Hanifin also had a strong game. He was assertive using his skating ability to take away time and space all night.
4) Lucas Wallmark
He had one good scoring chance that was partially thwarted at the last minute. Otherwise, he did not necessarily stand out in a good way, but he did not look bad either which is important for the center position where attention to detail defensively is critical.
5) 0 for February
All of Victor Rask, Jordan Staal, Derek Ryan, Lee Stempniak, Joakim Nordstrom and Marcus Kruger (so basically half of the most regular forward group) made it through the month of February without a goal.
6) Victor Rask
Like Justin Faulk whose troubles were chronicled in the game recap, Victor Rask found himself in the middle of too many lost puck battles, defensive zone misses and other troubles that resulted in him being a minus 3 on the night.
7) Ice cream is still good
Seeking positives and to help a good cause, Tuesday marked game 1 of a Carolina Hurricanes-centric ice cream quest.
Next up for the Hurricanes is a Thursday match up in Philadelphia.