The Hurricanes are now winless in the first two games of their five-game road trip, losing in Vancouver 5-1 Sunday after falling to the Senators last Thursday in Ottawa. The losses evened their season record at 2-2 and with tough road games against San Jose, Los Angeles and Phoenix — followed by a home opener against the Capitals — on tap, the Canes need to find a way to salvage at least a couple points the rest of the trip.
Here are the five observations for the Vancouver game.
1. It was good to see Joe Corvo and Tim Gleason reunited on defense, but the duo still looked out sorts like the entire defense has pretty much all four games. Corvo, in particular, seemed exasperated at times, even slamming his stick against the net after losing Mason Raymond in front on the Canucks’ fourth goal. The post-game audio of Corvo further illustrates his frustration, and I think Hurricanes fans have learned that No. 77 needs confidence to be at his best. Right now, that seems to be lacking.2. For the second straight game, coach Paul Maurice inserted a player in the lineup and he scored. Thursday it was Sergei Samsonov, and Sunday Patrick O`Sullivan got his first of the year when he slowed his entry into the zone to create a 2 on 1, then ripped a shot past Canucks goalie Cory Schneider. It was an illustration of what O'Sullivan can bring on offense, but the 25-year-old winger also hustled defensively. He was one of the bright spots in the loss.
3. Jeff Skinner wasn't nearly as noticeable playing at center as he had been on the wing, and he only took six faceoffs all night (he was a respectable 3 of 6). One game doesn't mean Skinner is a failure in the middle, but perhaps both he and Jussi Jokinen could be on the wing without compromising strength down the middle? Patrick Dwyer was better than expected — he's usually much better at wing, from where I sit — centering the fourth line, and Zac Dalpe has played well enough to get out of the press box and get a shot on the third line.
4. Speaking of faceoffs, Eric Staal's regression on the draw is becoming a major concern. He won just five of 18 faceoffs Sunday (28 percent), and on the season his even-strength draws are terrible — 18 wins to 53 losses (25.4 percent). He has actually has won more power play (7 of 13) and shorthanded (3 of 5) faceoffs than he's lost, so you have to wonder if his focus is heightened during those special teams faceoffs. If so, that same focus needs to be there on every draw.
5. For those fans on the ledge: yes, the last two games have shown some major chinks in Carolina's armor, but the team is still .500. Even if they flop their way through the rest of this brutal trip — which is rough in both travel and opponents — they will hit a stretch where things will be easier on them. They have proven they can play with — and beat — the lower rung teams like Minnesota, and road losses to Vancouver (a Cup contender) and Ottawa (a playoff team that, despite outplaying Carolina, could've fallen to the Canes) aren't a badge of shame, especially coming off a European roadie. An early November stretch of games against the Islanders, Panthers (twice) and Edmonton should be a good gauge on what fans can expect this season.