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Bottoming Out - Maple Leafs 5 Hurricanes 4

Reaching their lowest point so far this season, the Carolina Hurricanes lost to the Toronto Maple Leafs last night, 5-4. Not only did the Canes lose to another team riding a long losing streak, they finally relinquished their lead in the Southeast Division.

The Atlanta Thrashers easily beat the Detroit Red Wings 5-1, tying Carolina in points with 48 but earning first place in the division because they have one more win than the slumping Canes. They also have a game in hand. The Washington Capitals remain a hot team as well, as they completed a season sweep of Ottawa last night.

I thought that last night's game was an entertaining one, but it was eerily similar to several others that the team has played this season. They showed flashes of brilliance on offense, had several defensive breakdowns, some costly turnovers which led to goals, and long periods when they could not clear the puck from their own end.

Some positive thoughts....

The line of Erik Cole, Sergei Samsonov, and Rod Brind'Amour usually looked good. Erik Cole played a very good game and scored on one of his patented power moves which he has not shown in awhile.

Samsonov shows the ability to skate with the puck which is helpful. He scored his first goal of the season and had a 3 point night. His production with the Canes has already equaled his total production for the entire time he was with Chicago.

Andrew Ladd played a good game, considering the little time he played. He scored on a nice shot off of a long rebound from his own initial shot. He also had 4 hits.

Tim Gleason had a decent game. He skated the puck out of his zone a few times and looked good doing it. He led the defense with 22 minutes played, finished even, and had 3 hits. He should skate the puck out more often.

While Michael Leighton allowed a weak goal, he also made a few nice saves and I thought that he played pretty well overall. The backbreaker was the one which bounced from the back boards and off of him into the crease for an easy Toronto goal. He can't allow that type of play, but in my opinion he shouldn't have been taken out of the game.

Some other thoughts....

In Lord Stanley's Blog, coach Peter Laviolette calls out his team again. Here is his quote...

"We played flat,” Hurricanes coach Peter Laviolette said. “We made mistakes. We turned the puck over. I’d guess three of the goals came off of turnovers. “We didn’t execute, we didn’t do something, we didn’t get it deep, we didn’t get it past somebody, we turned it over in the (defensive) zone, and as a direct result it went in our net. That’s where we’re at right now.”

I have yet to call out Laviolette, but isn't it time for him to share some of the blame? The things that he complains about are nothing new, so at what point should the coach start to be responsible? Night after night he puts the blame on the team, but personally, I could pin last night largely on him.

First of all, he's got himself a goalie crisis now. I agreed with his decision to start Leighton, but by replacing him after allowing 1 soft goal, he's now messed with Leighton's head as well as Ward's. Cam started the beginning of the 3rd period and had a couple of nice saves, but allowed two weird, fluky goals that won't boost his confidence either.

The penalty kill continues to be ineffective. Perhaps it's time to put some special emphasis on that, like they did with the powerplay earlier in the year? At this point it would be a major accomplishment if they can somehow rise above being last in the league.

Laviolette's time management of certain players is highly questionable. Andrew Ladd led the team with 4 hits and had a goal, but only played 6 minutes.

Wade Brookbank only played one shift at 23 seconds for the entire game. Is that some type of joke? I realize that he did get a penalty during that time, but why bother dressing the guy?  You screw up one time, and you never see the ice again? Remember, I have mentioned before that having an enforcer on this team is a waste because of the way that Laviolette uses them.

Keith Aucoin's replacement, Trevor Letowski had a "monster" game. He was -2 and he was on the ice for the Leaf's first powerplay goal as well. Other than that, he was completely ineffective in the offensive zone, had zero hits, and couldn't help get the puck out of the Canes zone. But I'm not sure if you can blame that decision on coaching, or Jim Rutherford saving a few bucks.

Mike Commodore's penalties are killing the team. He had 2 penalties, and the Leafs scored each time. When you know that your team has the league's worst penalty kill, special importance has to be placed on keeping out of the box.

So what happens now? According to John Forslund on 99.9 The Fan after the game, Jim Rutherford is very close to making a "major" trade. The question is, will it blow up in Carolina's face or will it help to stabilize the team? At this point, most Caniacs are wanting something to be done, one way or the other.

Lou Reed