You just have to love the NHL scheduling gurus. Sometimes I wonder if they even bother to review the schedules after the computer spits them out. In one of the more taxing demands that can be made upon a professional team, the Carolina Hurricanes were required to finish a game in Montreal at about 10PM on Saturday night, then board a plane, travel to Detroit, Michigan about 550 miles away, pass through customs, check into a hotel, get some type of rest, and then be ready for game time at 5PM Sunday, less than 19 hours after they were last on the ice. Dumb.... Not surprisingly, the Hurricanes didn't play their best hockey and lost to the Detroit Red Wings, 5-2. While the score of the game was pretty close until the last couple of minutes, that was mostly due to an outstanding game played by goalie Cam Ward who faced 38 shots and stopped 33 of them. Poor Cam deserved a better fate, (again), but once again the team had several turnovers in their own end, including a late crucial one when Pavel Datsyuk stole the puck and broke into the clear with about 2 and a half minutes left. He buried his chance making the score 4-2 and virtually ending the game. The pesky Wings still didn't call it quits though and scored yet again when Ward was attempting to leave the ice for an extra attacker.
The Canes couldn't muster any type of consistent attack. While the Montreal game reminded me of the NY Rangers game, this game reminded me of the Tampa game. The passing was ineffective all night long. They were out-shot in each and every period by a large margin as the final tally was Wings 38, Canes 17. That's correct, the Canes couldn't manage as many shots for the entire game Sunday as they made in the first period alone (18) on Saturday night! Needless to say, not many NHL hockey teams are going to lay claim to winning with only 17 shots on goal for an entire game. They have to do better than that.
Getting back to the topic of "dumb", it wasn't Carolina's most cerebral game of the year. They had 2 "delay of game" penalties for shooting the puck directly out of the rink. They also had a bench minor for abuse of the officials. These types of penalties are avoidable and not only does it put extra pressure on the lowest rated penalty killers in the league, it also takes away from any offensive continuity when they repeatedly spend so much time in the box. Chad LaRose apparently was trying too hard to impress on his home turf as he took 4 minutes of penalties himself, one for a hook and one for a needless shove to the back of a Wing during a line change that was called interference. Again, in my opinion that's just not smart hockey. That's also 10 minutes of minor penalties for LaRose in just the last 2 games.
Erik Cole made a game of it by scoring two goals in the 2nd period. One was a sweet put-back off of a rebound on his own shot. The other was a blast from the point on a powerplay. Other than that, I could be wrong but it seemed like the Hurricanes chances were few and far between. Dom Hasek was barely challenged because the puck spent most of the time down in the Carolina zone. As I mentioned from the start though, the outcome was hardly unexpected and I don't blame the team for their poor showing. All in all, it wasn't too bad of a road trip if you look at the points earned and the opponents played against. (4 points out of a possibly 10).
Now if the Canes could get some type of consistent home advantage going, the good road record would be more meaningful. The team has 5 wins and 8 losses in their past 13 games, certainly not a very good streak. While their 35 points still puts them near the top of the Eastern Conference, they are only 3 points ahead of the 8th place Montreal Canadiens. That's how much of a fine line that divides the playoff teams from the non-playoff teams in the league right now. Will the Canes play smarter hockey and stay out of the box, or will they trend more toward last year's mediocrity and eventual failure? We will see starting Wednesday night at the RBC as they face a hungry Ottawa team. Happy Monday!