What happens when you mix a star player in a scoring drought with a team that mentally checked out at puck drop? Well, if you watched the Carolina Hurricanes on Sunday night, you know the exact answer to that question.
New Jersey’s Mike Cammalleri scoring his first three goals of the season, two of which came in a span of 3:30 of the second period, may have been what beat the Canes on the scoresheet, but the weight of the loss falls on Carolina themselves. Spotty goaltending, lost 50/50 battles, and questionable positioning led to another long evening in Raleigh.
Rough night in goal
Eddie Lack started for the first time since October 22, and it was obvious. It’s probably unfair that Cam Ward gets five consecutive starts despite losing three of them, while Lack comes in for one start and gets shelled for two goals in four minutes with no offensive help, but that’s beside the point.
Lack looked lost. He was weak in terms of positioning and didn’t seem to be completely focused. Cammalleri’s first goal was impossible to stop—a cross-crease pass to a wide open scorer like that is a surefire goal on any keeper—but the latter two are on Eddie.
Here, Lack bites way too hard on what probably should have been a glove side shot. Granted, it’s an impressive play by Cammalleri to shoot across Lack instead of short side, but to be beaten to the far side by a player who is shooting from a decidedly uncomfortable stance just shows how poorly positioned Lack was from the beginning of the play. His angle needs to be adjusted about a half step to his right to be in position for this shot.
The third goal, sadly, deals with the other end of the spectrum.
This one felt more Cam Ward-esque, considering the shot placement over Lack’s glove. On this play, Cammalleri is shooting from a far more comfortable position—he can load the puck and shoot across his own body, which allows for greater power transfer and accuracy—and fires a lethal wrister past Lack.
Obviously it’s a great shot, but he is shooting from the top of the face-off circle. Lack relies too heavily on his reflex instead of his positioning, which costs him. When the shot is released, Lack is halfway between the top of the crease and the goal.
He seems to be concerned with a potential pass, but the Canes have numbers back on the play, so Lack should be focused on the shot (as he should be regardless, because that’s how defending any kind of odd-man rush works). Instead, he needs to be at the top of his crease to cut down the angle on the shot and allow for stronger likelihood that the shot hits him.
Lack is absolutely better than how he played last night, but his focus on fundamentals (i.e. positioning) needs to be better.
Where was the effort?
This one is solely based on the “eye test,” but I’m sure many of you noticed the lack of jump in Carolina’s game. They lost small battles, their usually clean zone entries gave way to dumping it into the corner and forgetting to chase it, and much like their goaltender, their focus was seemingly vacant.
It felt like the team that came back to beat Nashville two nights ago is still in the Music City, because whoever played at PNC last night was a different team. Jeff Skinner and Victor Rask tried to work some of their magic, but even they looked to be losing their drive.
Carolina’s offense wasn’t active because they were being beaten to every puck in the offensive zone. Their zone entry, which has been a strong point of their game thus far, was neutralized easily by stacking the blue line, which forced the Canes to chip the puck in the corner. But as I mentioned above, they failed to go get it, essentially turning their zone entries into turnovers.
All of these failures boil down to a team that probably wasn’t ready for their first back-to-back game of the season, which is a problem because, well, those happen a lot in the NHL. Carolina needs to find a way to get their feet moving in games like these, or else they will be dropping games solely because their effort level was weak.
Welcome back Andrej Nestrasil (and co.)
Hey look, happy things! The young winger had shown signs of brilliance with Jordan Staal and Joakim Nordstrom last season, but the trio have not exactly matched their reputation from 2015-16. Their line has been separated and reunited a few times, and last night they managed to provide the only Canes goal of the game through #15.
Nestrasil was in the right place at the right time and got a bit lucky on this one, but there’s no luck involved in racking up eight shots individually as he did last night. For comparison, that’s twice as many shots as the second most in the game, a title which belonged to Elias Lindholm.
For a game that lacked any real bright spots for the home team, Nestrasil’s play, and that of his line, at least gives something positive to hold on to.
Moral of the Story
Last night’s game was brutal from start to finish. The Hurricanes were outworked and easily dismantled because their effort was minimal at best. Cam Ward will likely get the start in New Jersey on Tuesday, and hopefully a couple days’ rest will spark the team. But more home performances like these will cost them in more ways than one—the attendance was below 9,000 last night and the catch-22 correlation between winning and attendance will only become more complicated with low-effort showings such as that one.
Something has to change before next game, and I trust Bill Peters to ensure that it does.