Leave Me Alone. Three simple words that can describe multiple things from the Carolina Hurricanes embarrassing 6-1 loss to the New York Rangers last night. The most obvious was my temperate as the game went further along. I wanted to be left alone in fear that my build of rage would be taken out on some poor soul surrounding me (mostly speaking of my dog here but never the less the sentiment remains).
But what else can those words describe? Bill Peters in the post-game press conference? His answers were full of snarky remarks and one could easily see he wanted to be left alone. Or maybe the fact that the Hurricanes defense were kind enough to leave all the Rangers alone when they were in the offensive zone last night. Quite possibly they were the words some fan shouted that distracted Scott Darling as he tried to do an impression of Mike Trout early in the first period.
The overall point here is that what we witnessed last night from the Carolina Hurricanes was beyond bad and anyway you spin it, someone was left alone last night whether it be out of rage, pity, or uninspired play.
As the game between the Rangers and Canes played out last night I was left wondering what the team does for Thanksgiving, especially younger players who do not have families or visitors in town. The further the game progressed it dawned on me. The team gets together at one person’s house, thinking Justin Faulk since he’s the (*Co) Captain, to gorge themselves in turkey and fixings. Apparently they decided to celebrate a day too early this year. Imagine Faulk, Brett Pesce, Jeff Skinner, Noah Hanifin, Elias Lindholm, Haydn Fluery, etc., all going to town on a massive deep-fried bird! It all comes together. Maybe this would explain why the team failed to show up last night.
Jokes aside, we likely witnessed the single worst defensive game in Hurricanes recent history. Since the likes of Jaccob Slavin, Pesce and Faulk became the key components of the back end, Carolina has not seen such sloppy games on defense. Apart from the second goal, the other five all featured major defensive lapses.
New York was kind enough to throw together a video of all six goals so lets take a look at that first.
The first goal featured Pesce getting twisted around and losing his man just 52 seconds in to the game. This really set the tone for how the rest of the night would go. As we see in the third goal, Hanifin failed to clear the rebound allowing Paul Carey to knock the puck in. To start the third period, just 20 seconds in, Faulk and Fluery both got beat, presenting Chris Krieder with the opportunity in front to score.
As the game got out of hand the defense got worse. Goal five for the Rangers saw Faulk and Lindholm both go for the puck carrier behind the net leaving Jesper Fast wide open in the slot. Lastly, goal six was caused by a combination of Pesce and Justin Williams losing Fast near the face-off circle leaving him open for a one-timer off as pass from Steven Kampfer.
Five of the six goals can be pinned on the defense and its beyond sad how unmotivated the team appeared last night. This leads straight in to our next point..
What motivates professional athletes? The millions of dollars they make to play a game? Competitive nature and the desire to win? Being a role model to young kids everywhere? The answer should lie somewhere in the middle of all of that, but no matter what, when a team has an opportunity to jump in to a playoff spot (had the Capitals lost) you would think that would be all the motivation the team would need to play hard. Apparently, it is not!
The Hurricanes not only got outscored last night, but they got obliterated in the work ethic and desire category. Not a single member of that team looked like they wanted to come out and win the game. Surely being down 2-0 just three minutes in to the game is not ideal, especially with how those goals were scored, but we’ve seen this team step up before, find an extra gear, and at least attempt a comeback. That obviously did not happen, and we could spend all day talking about the lack of leadership on this team. Co-Captain nonsense aside, there is only so many times Justin Williams can chew these kids out for terrible performances without some other players stepping up and leading by example.
Bill Peters called the effort “poor” after the game. That just seems like a wee bit of an understatement. But nevertheless he went on the point out the obvious when discussing the effort:
Peters: "We're not going to win a whole bunch of games - if any - if we're not the hardest working team. That type of effort is not going to get us the result that we need or want."— Michael Smith (@MSmithCanes) November 23, 2017
5️⃣ takeaways: https://t.co/oe68P5Noay #NYRvsCAR
When this team is winning they are a fun team to watch and every player gives it their all. When they get behind they look disinterested and their play reflects it. Somewhere in there the team needs a spark and last night nobody provided it. Not even the coaching staff when they had a chance to yank Scott Darling for Cam Ward. Instead everyone sat back and waited for something to change. Sorry, but that tactic did not work.
On the flip side, the Rangers came out determined. They acted like a team that wanted to win this game. When you have Henrik Lundqvist on your team, you know if you give him a lead 95% of the time he will seal the deal, especially since he is 17-3 against the Hurricanes. The Rangers won the race to three, then kept on pushing the gas pedal almost to send a message saying they are the experienced playoff team and until the Hurricanes can beat them, they will remain superior.
No need to dwell on Scott Darling after he gave up six goals, but it needs to be mentioned that the second goal he gave up may be one of the worst goals allowed in Hurricanes franchise history.
He attempted to catch the puck midair and failed miserably. So far Darling has not lived up to the number one role and it is concerning. Game to game, he can be either really good or really bad. What is just as concerning as his inconsistency is the coaching staff’s reluctance to put Cam Ward in after Darling has a bad game. This is a catch-22 with many arguing that sticking with Scott is proof to him that he truly is the starter, but on the flip side Ward has been excellent to start the year and this league is results oriented. Ward should start the game on Friday against Toronto but if I was a betting man I would bet on Darling being in net.
The diamond in a pile of garbage
Let’s end on a positive note. For as putrid as the game was for the Hurricanes there was one shining moment. Sebastian Aho extended his goal streak to five games and Teuvo Teravainen scored his 11th point in five games. To add to that, the goal was beautifully executed on the powerplay giving a slimmer of hope to the team before it was ripped away in the third.
Seabass and Turbo have led the offensive charge in the past five games and for as great as that is the rest of the team needs to catch up. Last season Jeff Skinner had an attitude of whatever Aho does I’m going to top it. So far in the past five games (aside from his goal with two seconds left against Dallas), he hasn’t had that. This team needs both Aho and Skinner rolling in order to create balance down the lineup, hopefully that comes sooner than later.
Moral of the Story
It’s very difficult to sum up last night other than a hot steaming pile of fill-in-the-blank. The Hurricanes were not motivated to win, the players were uninterested, and the Rangers fans swarmed PNC Arena making it their own. The one shining star is the offensive provided by Teravainen and Aho but even their hot streaks cannot cover up the rest of the game the Hurricanes had last night.
Best case scenario going forward is that the team comes in to PNC Arena tomorrow for what should be a brutal practice, goes home and enjoys the holiday, then they come in and play lights out on Friday. The Maple Leafs are tied for second in the Eastern Conference and they will play a very tough game. The Hurricanes can make a statement with a win against them but another effort like last night will see a downward spiral begin that is all too typical of Hurricanes hockey. Jordan Staal had a very emphatic quote after the game, but only time will tell if it will stand true: