For as embarrassing as the Carolina Hurricanes’ 6-1 defeat last week to the New York Rangers was, last night’s 5-1 loss was just as bad, if not worse. The Canes, again, came out unready to compete within their division, and every single player in that locker room needs a reality check to understand that they will not make the playoffs with how they are playing. From top to bottom, from GM to goaltender, the Carolina Hurricanes are failing themselves, but more importantly the true loyal fans who have stuck with them in spite of repeated shortcomings over the past decade.
If this About Last Night seems rough or too blunt, maybe that is because someone must speak the truth about what is happening within this organization. So, do not shoot the messenger; blame the true ones at fault for this debacle.
Maybe too much pressure has been put on Scott Darling’s shoulders to become a legitimate number one goaltender. Maybe he is rolling around too much in his cash with that lovely contract Ron Francis gifted him. Maybe he’s just not that good. So far, it’s been hard to tell what exactly is wrong with Darling but one thing is the case: he isn’t getting the job done.
For every great save he’s made he’s let in a soft goal. None more apparent than his two #SCNotTop10 worthy meltdowns versus the Rangers the past two weeks. For a refresher let’s look at both:
Was the puck on edge? Yes. Should he have tried to play it to begin with? No! The Hurricanes controlled the first period and actually looked like they were going to be somewhat competitive then Darling gave it all away. Thanks Scott! Just as his gimme goal deflated the team last week, it did so once again this week. After this pathetic goal, the team never mentally took the ice again and it was blatantly obvious.
Captain Obvious alert below:
"We don't have a big margin for error right now, so... that first goal, I can't make mistakes like that," -Scott Darling tells @MikeManiscalco in the locker room on the first goal he allowed tonight. pic.twitter.com/yidpal9rO7— FOX Sports Carolinas (@CanesOnFSCR) December 2, 2017
What the Faulk
A couple of days ago Andrew made the argument that the Canes cannot afford to trade Justin Faulk. Um, well, you see, what had happened was… Faulk Faulking sucks big time this year!
After Darling’s major blunder the team needed to rebound and shut the Rangers down. Instead Faulk decided it was cool to let Michael Grabner completely outwork him to the front of the net where Grabner had an easy tap in to put the Rangers up 2-1 just 75 seconds after their first goal. It is the first goal in the sequence below:
GRAB-TRICK!!— New York Rangers (@NYRangers) December 2, 2017
all 3 Grabner goals!! pic.twitter.com/NlUAVtXeLe
Any chance the Canes had of rebounding after Darling’s screw up was gone. The Co-Captain of this team borked it once again and let the other team score an easy one. It’s pathetic.
Faulk was once an elite defenseman who represented the USA in the Olympics. My, how far he has fallen. Anyone who watches this team can easily determine he’s more of a liability than an at this point, and is playing on the level of Ryan Murphy as of lately.
Something needs to give with Faulk, and quick.
This one seems simple to all Caniacs now. Something major must change. This team is under-performing and nowhere near meeting expectations. Ron Francis is watching this team collapse and so far hasn’t bothered to do anything. This isn’t to say that Bill Peters should be fired but maybe it is time for a major trade to occur. This team clearly lacks offensive production and they have a major liability on the back end. For some reason the national media thinks he will be an All-Star once again, but in reality needs to be traded.
If a trade is not going to happen, then something must give on the coaching staff. This team is lost. No matter how many good quotes we get from the one real leader on the team, Justin Williams, he can’t seem to fire up the guys enough to come out and compete every game.
His goal 56 seconds in to the game sparked the Canes and you could tell he was trying. After the game Williams said “We need to plow through, rectify this and figure out what it is that's making us be average because we're a lot better team."
Now there are other guys on this team who are clearly trying: Jeff Skinner and Sebastian Aho come to mind. Skinner drew an important penalty shot early in the third that could have tied the game, but where was everyone else? These two guys can’t score every goal despite them trying. Staal, McGinn, Rask, Faulk, Lindholm, etc. — where you guys at??
Ron Francis has done a respectable job at rebuilding this team after the mess Jim Rutherford left him. There is no doubt we are better now than we were then, but yet we are getting the same results. Until Francis steps up and puts his stamp on the organization by making a massive trade - a game-changing deal, not a nibbling around the edges swap of fourth liners - it must be believed we will continue to see the same mistakes and downfalls.
The least penalized team in the NHL managed to take seven penalties last night, and the Rangers scored twice. Meanwhile, the Canes’ 29th-ranked Power Play went 0-2. While both of the Rangers PP goals can be counted off (one was the Darling mess up and the other was in garbage time late in the third) it’s ridiculous that this team, knowing good and well they were facing a team they desperately needed to beat, would go out and take seven penalties. It truly makes a difference in the game and these players do not seem to grasp it. The special teams have gotten much worse this year and until something drastic is done we will continue to see the same old mess.
Last week, during the 6-1 loss, the Canes clearly gave up. One can easily argue they gave up last night after the second goal, but if they didn’t then they surely did once Scott Darling was pulled. It took just 14 seconds for the Rangers to score their first empty net goal. Then just one minute later they let Michael Grabner score another empty netter, which gave him a hat trick.
But it gets better! Bill Peters decided to challenge the play for offsides, which honestly was not a bad challenge as he had nothing to lose and a little to gain. Predictably, he lost the challenge, which meant a penalty ensued against the Canes.
On the following power play for the Rangers it was obvious the Canes were thinking about the plane ride home. A true 2-1 game ended up 5-1 because of the Hurricanes’ lack of effort, which is just not okay.
Jordan Staal said the team couldn’t quit again like they did in 6-1 loss to the Rangers. Not the same situation, but that last PK against the scrubs sure get like a team that had given up on the night.— Cory Lavalette (@corylav) December 2, 2017
What goes on inside the locker room is unknown to the public, but my guess would be there is simply not enough accountability and chewing each other out for their pathetic play. There is no excuse for the final score of this game, period.
Moral of the Story
The Hurricanes have not won a game at Madison Square Garden since 2010. The Rangers were three points ahead of them in the standings, and the Canes lost to them 6-1 at home just last week. None of this was motivation enough for this team to go out and score some goals. Was Henrik Lundqvist good? Of course he was but the Hurricanes hardly made him break a sweat.
This team is not going to make the playoffs as it is, and I hate saying that. They are unmotivated, and it appears the coaching staff has lost touch. No matter how you try to spin last night, or the past few weeks, the Canes have fallen apart. Francis needs to step up and do something because it’s almost too late, if not already.