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About Last Night: Fool’s Gold

For a brief moment, it seemed like the Canes figured out how to win again. Then they reminded us that they were never really in the game to begin with.

NHL: Carolina Hurricanes at Los Angeles Kings Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

You know what this is? Lucy, Charlie Brown and the football. The Carolina Hurricanes had it on a tee for us—a two-goal comeback late in the third period, driven by effort unseen in two games prior? Surely they’ve come back to the light. Surely they won’t pull the ball away at the last second and leave us staring upwards, wondering why we fell for it again.

But the tying efforts were a mirage, a paper-maché representation of hope meant to remind us of the spiral in which this team remains.

It’s an uphill battle trying to keep a positive thought about the two-game point streak the Canes now have because of they way they’ve managed to lose lately. A shutout in Vancouver, utter implosion in San Jose and now a fight back in LA, complete with a dominant two-and-a-half minutes in OT, just to see it go down the drain with seconds on the clock.

Yup, they’re still in the funk. But at least they managed to do flip the script and be the team that came back instead of the one that collapsed? Silver linings, I guess.

Credit Where It’s Due

I’d be remiss not to at least recognize a few Hurricanes for giving the team a chance at a win last night. Victor Rask now has goals in back-to-back games...

...while Elias Lindholm and Brock McGinn worked sweet forechecking magic to knot the game at two. Granted, it’s an easier task to control play with a 6-on-5 advantage, but controlling play hasn’t exactly been the Canes strong suit outside of that first period in San Jose.

I said on Twitter that McGinn, while still very much overvalued in the eyes of Canes’ management and Canes fans alike, has done well to earn his spot in the lineup. The unquantifiable metrics of “grit” and “heart” aside, McGinn is one of Carolina’s strongest forecheckers and is relentless in the offensive zone. What he lacks in pure talent, he makes up for in drive to make opposing defenses’ jobs to clear the puck a living hell, often forcing turnovers (i.e. last night) that lead to prime scoring chances.

Biscuits, Baskets, etc.

Here’s a scenario. One team hems another in its defensive zone for nearly half of an overtime period, making player changes on the fly while maintaining possession of the puck. You’d say there’s a fairly decent chance that team scores to win the game, no?

The trio of Kings were on the ice for two—and nearly three—separate waves of Hurricanes attackers, and yet Carolina couldn’t score. They even got a few shots off and had some pretty decent looks, but still, no finish.

It’s a promising sight to see—the Hurricanes dominating play in the extra frame, even with the Bill Peters “1F, 2D” special—but it means nothing if they can’t put the game away. Given this team’s horror show tendencies in overtimes for the past several years, a chance like this one doesn’t come around often.

Fighting back to win a point is a good sign, but following through is an absolute necessity at this level. That’s what separates playoff teams from those who look back in search of where they lost the 7-10 points needed to crack the 16 that year.

Identity Theft Is Not A Joke, Jim

Part of the cause of the Canes’ recent struggles is their departure from what has made them successful before.

What once was a team that thrived on quick transition plays and neutral zone turnovers now sits back and awaits the oncoming attack. Carolina is a shell of itself right now, a team without much structure. The chances they are getting are coming from individual skill plays and bounces, but their bread and butter remains their ability to force opponents into mistakes and capitalize on them.

Perhaps most importantly, the “best young d-corps in the League” wouldn’t be caught dead losing a race to the front of their own net last season. And yet...

The Hurricanes have some soul-searching to do. When Brett Pesce and Jordan Staal are being beaten down the center lane, something’s gotta give. The team isn’t dead yet, not by a long shot. But they have to be honest with themselves and realize that this isn’t being done to them, these are self-inflicted wounds.

Back-to-back dates with the Ducks and Golden Knights tomorrow and Tuesday night await the traveling Canes. A couple of wins in those games give them six points in the five-game road swing—nothing to write home about, but certainly a better outcome than seemed likely after the nightmares in Vancouver and San Jose.

But before they think about the standings or points, they need to start a return to form. Get back to what makes them, well, them, and the results will should come.