Early starts have been imperative for the Carolina Hurricanes in their four game win streak, but both those early starts and the win streak itself came to a close last night at the hands of the St. Louis Blues. Out of the gate, it was obvious playing two nights in a row was already taking a toll on the Hurricanes.
Kyle Brodziak tallied the first goal on a pass from Alexander Steen behind the goal line. Broadziak was wide open in the slot due to missed coverage, a lack of communication, and focus. Even in the opening seconds of the game, the Blues appeared more desperate for a win and showed more physicality.
The Hurricanes finally found their legs a little bit through the next half of the period or so, as Justin Faulk scoffed at a one-time opportunity from Jeff Skinner. Faulk had no reason to miss that chance, which proves he’s still not playing to the level expected of him. He was wide open in the slot and had all the time in the world. Although the Hurricanes got some skip in their step during the second period, they still struggled with sloppy play in the first with numerous giveaways in their own zone.
There seems to be an underlying factor with goaltenders who aren’t Cam Ward: the Hurricanes don’t play confidently in front of them. But it’s a bit of a chicken-or-egg problem: if your goalie has no confidence, how are you supposed to play in front of them? Ward accounts for ten wins this season despite starting ten fewer games than Scott Darling.
The motif continued to play on as the Blues scored in the second period just one second earlier than they did in the first. Alex Pietrangelo and Patrik Berglund played a nice, easy, uncontested game of catch for Berglund to net his sixth of the year. The Blues came out with energy once again and were killing the Hurricanes in transition. Faulk tried to finish a hit, which caught Klas Dahlbeck in a two-on-one situation.
In nine of their last 10 games, the Hurricanes had not sacrificed a goal on the penalty kill, and those kills gave the Hurricanes a little momentum. Derek Ryan exited the box and scored after the Hurricanes killed penalty number one. Then, several minutes after Jaccob Slavin’s penalty cleared, Lucas Wallmark netted his first NHL goal with good net-front presence. Momentum off a penalty kill has long been a hallmark of the Hurricanes’ units and it’s a good sign to see that coming around again.
Bad pinches, not much physicality, lack of focus, and sloppy passes were the story of this game. The Blues absolutely killed the Hurricanes in the transition game, scoring all of their goals on the rush. By comparison, when the Canes had their sixth attacker, there were no bodies screening in front of the net. The Blues played desperately and they’re the ones sitting in a current playoff spot. The Canes needed those two points last night, but they didn’t play like they wanted them enough.