Carolina allowed an early goal and never recovered, falling 4-1 in Vancouver.
1. The most discouraging part of Carolina not winning in their first eight games? It might be that the team has yet faced one the NHL’s elite squads. Yes, the Rangers made the finals last season, and yes, the Islanders look like an Eastern Conference contender, but the Hurricanes made a four-game Western Conference swing without facing a top-notch opponent — and lost all four in regulation. That changes Sunday when the Kings — the defending champions — come to PNC Arena.
2. The Hurricanes defense continues to be a work in progress (to put it mildly). While the top pairing of Justin Faulk and Andrej Sekera played arguably their best combined game of the year, the bottom two pairings have shown next to no chemistry at the season’s 1/10th pole. John-Michael Liles was at fault on the game’s opening goal, while Ryan Murphy turned his biggest strength — speed and puck carrying — into a negative by playing rushed and careless hockey. Coach Bill Peters may want to revisit the Ron Hainsey-Brett Bellemore pairing just for familiarity’s sake, and then decide how to fit in Murphy — who needs minutes to improve — and with whom.
3. Carolina’s five-on-five goals for/against percentage dipped to 0.43 after the loss to the Canucks, down to second worst in the NHL (predictably, Buffalo is worst at 0.38). Will relief come in the form of Saturday’s visiting opponent? Arizona ranks just ahead of the Hurricanes at 0.50 five-on-five goals scored per one allowed, and the Coyotes’ 3.88 goals-against per game is tied for last with ... well, Carolina. Mike Smith has struggled for the Coyotes (2-4, 4.29 GAA, .858 save percentage) in much the same way the Hurricanes’ goaltenders have, so expect the moveable object to meet the stoppable force Saturday.
Number To Know
0 — shots on goal for the third line of Jay McClement, Zach Boychuk and Chris Terry. The trio managed only one shot attempt all night — an attempt blocked from Terry — and were thoroughly outclassed by Vancouver’s third line.
Eric Staal —Carolina’s captain showed a little bit of rust, but on the whole he put out an inspired performance for his team despite the circumstances he finds the Hurricanes in upon his return. Staal finished with five shots in just 19:50 and had a game-high seven shot attempts. His assist on Jiri Tlusty’s goal gives him three points in just 56:13 of ice time this season, and he now has points in five straight games dating back to last season.
Alexander Semin — The Semin-EStaal-Tlusty line that was so good two seasons ago looked solid in the early going, but by the end it was broken up and Semin was watching the last 10 minutes of the game from the bench. Semin was called for unsportsmanlike conduct four minutes into the third period with Carolina down 3-0, and while he did return for two shifts after the infraction, he spent the final half of the third glued to the pine. The Vancouver Sun reported that Semin left the bench for the locker room immediately after the horn, not waiting for goaltender Cam Ward to leave the ice like the rest of the team. Peters told the Sun after the game, ""He had played enough. I don’t think we need to take undisciplined penalties when we’re trying to dig out of a hole, right? We’re in a hole, quit digging."