The Carolina Hurricanes showed Tuesday night that they still do not know how to win games in overtime. For the third time this season and 19th time since the beginning of last season, Caniacs endured the all too familiar fate of losing in the extra session.
After a dominating first period, the Canes slowly faded the rest of the way. This was a very different game from others we have seen so far this season, but the outcome was frustratingly familiar.
Great start to the game
The Canes came out firing in the first period, putting up 16 shots on goal and holding the Sens to just 5. The Canes were in a good position to score multiple goals during a first period spent largely in the Senators’ end of the ice. After Jaccob Slavin netted his 3rd career goal early in the first, it seemed things were going well.
[Goal GIF] @Jslavin74 gets the #Canes off to a quick start! #Redvolution #CARvsOTT pic.twitter.com/rBbuqkXk3w— Carolina Hurricanes (@NHLCanes) November 1, 2016
Many times so far this season, the Canes have jumped out of the gate at full speed. With first-period leads in over half their games so far, the trend of establishing early leads is good to see. If the Canes ever figure out how to finish out games, their ability to score early will become a major asset.
The downside last night was the Canes failed to capitalize on their plethora of chances. Sebastian Aho has been on a mission to score his first career goal and had multiple chances during the first. Jeff Skinner also created many chances yet was unable to find the back of the net. Then, the Sens were able to get an easy shot past Cam Ward late in the first and the period ended tied. The Canes must find a way to finish their chances, even with such great starts.
Powerless Power Play
The Hurricanes’ power play is quickly coming back to down to earth after a hot start. The team went 0-3 last night and, more to the point, the unit looked bad. The Canes are just 2 for 14 (14.2%) on the power play over their last five games.
Plain and simple, Jeff Skinner can’t do it all. Paging Jordan Staal, Elias Lindholm, and Teuvo Teravainen, the power play needs you!
Ryan Murphy drew back in to the lineup last night and although he didn’t see any power play time against the Sens, it would be reasonable to expect him to be out there against the Predators on Saturday. Murphy may not have produced over the years, but he can still move the puck. And who knows, maybe this will be his long-awaited breakout year.
The power play was hard to watch at times against Ottawa, continuing a trend from the last few games. The Canes need their power play unit to step up their game to start posting some wins on the board. They’ve done it before; now they just need to find the mojo again, and preferably sooner rather than later.
Not Being Bullied
The physical game showed up throughout the first period and we even saw Phil Di Giuseppe drop the gloves. The physical aspect of Canes games has been missing for years. Fights are a rare occurrence and nobody seems to want to stand up for their teammates, even dating back to the Kirk Muller era. After PDG’s scrum with Matt Puempel, the physicality continued throughout the game and Jordan Staal almost went at it with Dion Phaneuf (!) late in the first period. A more physical presence would certainly benefit the Canes, mentally if no other way, moving forward.
Every team in the league knows that Jeff Skinner is hot and that he is the Canes’ best player. When teams target him physically, the Canes have to step up and protect their guy. Neither of the altercations that occurred last night directly dealt with Skinner, but it is only a matter of time before a situation arises where Skinner gets bullied. How the team responds will certainly set a tone that he is not to be trifled with.
The Hurricanes cannot expect Di Giuseppe, who isn’t the most intimidating player in hockey, to be their personal protection agency. It is time to see Andrej Nestrasil, Bryan Bickell and some of the defensemen step up their physicality.
Overtime Woes Continue
Honestly, you could simply insert any of the numerous things already written about the Canes overtime issues here. It is becoming a very sad norm for the Hurricanes: play a good game, choke in overtime. After leading the league in OT losses last year, the Canes are well on their way to claiming that title again.
It is never good when fans expect to lose in overtime. It is no longer a matter of win or lose, just how long overtime runs before the Canes lose. So when Kyle Turris fired one past Cam Ward it was not a surprise, just a simple “we knew it was coming.”
Here's Turris' beauty OT winner in long form because watch it again: pic.twitter.com/fA11UBC8Mt— Ottawa Senators (@Senators) November 2, 2016
The team seems to lack confidence in overtime. Against the Sens, the Canes were sloppy in overtime and very loose with the puck. They managed to hang on for three-plus minutes before letting one in, but they only had one legitimate chance during overtime. Elias Lindholm got the partial break away and was hooked with no call (natch), but beyond that, the Sens held the puck the majority of the time and got the result they likely deserved.
Three-on-three hockey is very exciting and one of the best things the NHL has provided us with. But with that being said, it is the death of the Canes. We have seen the team try 2 forwards and 1 defenseman, then try 2 defensemen with one forward. Nothing works. Maybe they try 3 forwards going forward? Maybe they just go ahead and pull the goalie and try for the 4 on 3? Heck, maybe they just wave the white flag at the end of regulation and save everyone some trouble.
Something has to change with the Canes’ overtime woes, or else their slim playoff chances take even more of a hit. It is sadly becoming familiar that the team’s play in overtime is a consistent storyline.
Moral of the Story
The Hurricanes showed up to play and came out on fire, but they couldn’t make their chances count. Lackluster power plays and a general malaise for the final 58-plus minutes led to the game being tied at the end of regulation, then overtime was as predictable as the sun rising in the east.
With a few days off, the coaching staff needs to focus on the power play and 3-on-3 performance. With a few days off, the schedule lines up nicely, and the Canes desperately need a reset that they’ll have the chance to achieve over the course of the next three days.