Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. Carolina jumps out to a three goal lead through most of two periods of play, collapses in the third, limps into overtime, and has the dagger driven through them by a goal on an odd-man rush that probably should never have happened. It feels like someone told them that hockey is played in halves, and they are almost surprised by the existence of a third period. But hey, on the upside, this just means that first W is going to feel even better...right?
LEARN TO PLAY WITH THE LEAD. THAT’S WHY YOU GOT IT IN THE FIRST PLACE.
Sorry, I think sometimes if I yell, they can actually hear me. And forgive me if this point is a bit too obvious, but how can anything else be more important than this? For the majority of two periods, the Canes played like they really had a fire lit under their collective rear by the result of Thursday night’s game in Winnipeg. They started a bit slow, but quickly picked it up and even scored first, thanks to more beautiful play from Victor Rask and Lee Stempniak. Speaking of which, those two and Skinner continue to make beautiful hockey things happen and have been one massive bright spot in a frustrating beginning to the season. Check it out.
(Look, happy things!)
But things went south, again, with the Hurricanes giving up four unanswered goals in the last period and a half of the game (plus overtime). The young Canes have clearly figured out how to score early and often, but their mental fortitude needs work, and that’s an understatement. I think Tripp Tracy said it best in the post-game show when he pointed out that this team is, for the most part, constructed to attack, and when they stop attacking and try to defend and only defend, the holes in their armor are exposed. The scoring talent that was brought in has been successful so far; Stempniak has been productive, Sebastian Aho has a couple of assists, and Teuvo Teravainen scored his first tonight.
The problem is, they, and the rest of the team, need to keep the attack pressing. Even if they fail to score again, the Hurricanes are at their best when they are out for blood, and in order to maintain the results from periods one and two going into the third, they need to keep their play style consistent. Does that open them up to more odd-man rush opportunities coming against them? Probably. But it’s consistency, and consistency breeds success, which has been a sparse commodity thus far for the Carolina Hurricanes in the third period and beyond.
Stop turning the puck over in the defensive zone. Please.
My heart cannot take another ill-advised pass up the boards or drop pass to a man who is not there. Jeff Skinner was the culprit against the Jets, giving Blake Wheeler that wide-open breakaway. Last night, it was usually-smart Justin Faulk trying to force a play up the boards where the Canucks were happy to cash in with two quick passes and a nice finish to get within one. And it’s not as if these plays exist within a vacuum, the timing of each absolutely matters. For Skinner, it was immediately after taking the 4-1 lead over the Jets, starting the momentum swing. For Faulk, it was just after the Canucks scored their first goal, continuing and heightening the momentum swing.
I’ve got no idea what Faulk was thinking here, and the ensuing game of tic-tac-toe only advances the embarrassment. In other words, plays like this one are two-fold. Getting scored on is one thing, but quite literally giving the other team a goal like this is unacceptable. The turnovers need to stop in order for the team confidence to stay high through the game.
Eddie Lack put forth a strong showing
Much like Cam Ward on Thursday night, Eddie Lack played better than the result showed. He deserved better, too. And despite the implosion in the third, Lack was clutch. Carolina was actually quite lucky to escape with a point in this one; had Lack not been sharp late, this could easily have been a clean two points for Vancouver. Like Ward, however, Lack let in a couple of goals he probably would like back, namely Brandon Sutter’s OT winner, but on the whole he was one of the strong performers in the game. Look for him to get another few starts on the road trip.
The powerplay, though.
This is really just to put a positive note here, but the powerplay is 3-for-6. Granted, it’s early, but watching the movement from the half-wall to the corner man or shooter up top, and watching Noah Hanifin load up and lean into shots with P.K. Subban-like confidence is enough to have me confident in the special teams play for the first time in a long time.
Moral of the Story
Carolina desperately needs to figure out the mental side of playing this year. They finally have a decent offense from the looks of things, and they need to learn to use it more effectively. Which means they need to actually use it for 60+ minutes. I don’t know why the answer to two consecutive defensive meltdowns is more offense, but it is. Stop changing the way you play when it starts working really well. That’s it.