With the odds for the 2017-18 growing longer with each Florida Panthers win and Carolina Hurricanes loss, the Hurricanes traveled to Minnesota looking to quickly rebound from Sunday’s loss.
The Hurricanes fell behind 1-0 early in the game when former Hurricanes captain Eric Staal scored early on the power play. The Hurricanes started slow and did not seem to receive any kind of jolt from the early deficit. Following a familiar script, the Hurricanes somehow hit the first intermission with an 11 to 9 shots on goal advantage, but that number said nothing about how the period played out. The Hurricanes were slow and sloppy pretty much throughout the period and were lucky to get into the first intermission down only a single goal and with a chance for a reset.
Then the team imploded almost instantly upon starting the second period. When a whirlwind four minutes of break downs, deflections and whatever else ended, the Hurricanes had given up four goals, changed goalies and fallen behind 5-0. From that point forward, the Hurricanes looked some combination of fragile or broken throughout the remainder of the second period. They somehow managed to survive a few more break downs and moments of indecision, but the damage had already been done and the game decided.
What stood out most to me was the completely lifeless reaction to a slow start and then an even worse start to the second period. As I said on Twitter, the season has been trending negatively since the down stretch for the home stretch in mid-February but based on Tuesday’s performance and the lack of reaction, I will be shocked if Tuesday’s loss does not prove to be capitulation day for the 2017-18 season.
The Hurricanes did get on the scoreboard on two deflections from the crease area first by Phil Di Giuseppe and then by Derek Ryan, but by that point the teams were mostly playing out the clock in a game that was already decided. A strong third period by Di Giuseppe and a goal by Ryan felt like the beginning of a transition to depth players competing for roster spots for the 2018-19 season.
Notes from the Carolina Hurricanes 6-2 loss to the Minnesota Wild
1) Across the board
Tuesday’s game was yet another where breaking down individual mistakes seems almost pointless. The team in total imploded in a short period of time. Cam Ward was beaten cleanly. Haydn Fleury just kept backing up on the rush. Jaccob Slavin left not one but two passing lanes wide open on the penalty kill for a power play goal against. Brett Pesce was beaten to the front of the net. And so on…In game where the team should have been desperate, the players instead looked timid and minus the fight needed.
2) A worn out Cam Ward?
After a strong set of back-to-back wins last Thursday and Friday, Cam Ward looked less stellar on Sunday and even less so on Tuesday playing his fourth game in six days.
3) Inability to withstand an attack
One of the things that increasingly stands out to me is that good defensive play for the Hurricanes comes almost exclusively from playing very little defense. When the team skates, attacks and tilts the ice into the offensive zone, the defense looks fine. Largely, that is a matter of lack of pressure on the defensive part of the game. But on nights when the Hurricanes are at a disadvantage skating-wise, the defense seems to have no ability recently to at least be sound and survive. Mostly the team gets snowed under.
4) Minutes for Scott Darling
If the end is in fact and follows soon, one small silver lining could be more ice time for Scott Darling. If the Hurricanes do in fact miss the playoffs for the ninth straight season, General Manager Ron Francis will enter the offseason with a number of tough decisions to make, but first and foremost could be yet another round of trying to figure out the goalie position. Darling received nearly two periods of ice time on Tuesday. Both he and Ron Francis could benefit from a run of starts for Darling to figure where exactly he is entering the summer.
Next up is a Thursday match up in Chicago against the Blackhawks.