Before we start, let’s set something straight: these are not the Canucks of last year, who earned a measly 69 points in the Western Conference (compared to Carolina’s 87). If you’ve been only watching the Hurricanes this season, you may not know that the top line of Goldobin-Boeser-Horvat and third line of Baertschi-Gagner-Vanek have been strong offensive forces this season, and Jacob Markstrom doesn’t get enough credit for what he’s been able to do, posting a 2.54 GAA.
So the Canucks are actually good right now despite their name’s connotation in the past couple years. But are they “shut out the Canes” good? Well, apparently, but I don’t think it’s completely accurate.
True, they are 10-0-0 in the last ten games against Carolina, which is the definition of “getting wrekt.” But it seemed that the Hurricanes were keeping pace early in this game, and then getting outskated into the second period.
I mean, do you remember the eternal shift of Justin Faulk and Haydn Fleury midway through the second? One of the contributors for that was Fleury getting blown away by two Canucks, leading to a Scott Darling save. The shift was probably close to three or so minutes, but it felt like forever that the two were stuck in their defensive zone.
(Don’t forget, Fleury also got undressed by the shot fake of Derrick Pouliot for the first goal.)
The speed.— Vancouver Canucks (@Canucks) December 6, 2017
The goal. pic.twitter.com/7rPGuRhfA8
I think that long shift was indicative of the entire second period. The Canes looked slow. After that first goal, they looked deflated. And they couldn’t create any kind of offensive zone, partially because of the way they attempted zone entries but also because of a failure to forecheck consistently in the defensive zone.
The team’s recent performance in the second period is just inexcusable.
So, second periods. Including tonight, #Canes have been outscored 10-2 in the middle frame in their last six games.— Michael Smith (@MSmithCanes) December 6, 2017
For the season, the second period is the only one in which the #Canes currently have a negative goal differential (25-18).
Even though the Canes would put up about the same amount of shots in the third period as the first, none were anywhere near the scoring chances of the earlier shots. Sebastian Aho ringed one off the post with a top corner open, Justin Williams missed glove side from close range and I have a hard time believing Brock McGinn wouldn’t have scored had he not been hooked by Daniel Sedin.
Speaking of Williams missing glove side, it’s worth mentioning this area of goaltending that Markstrom improved on greatly with his performance against the Hurricanes. The best of chances Carolina had tended to happen on the glove side, and while I screamed in my head “test the blocker!” it turns out they actually had a point to try that side.
So is what the Canes need not a physical bout that leads to an OT game-winner but a 6-1 blowout or something of that magnitude? Do they need to blare Forslund’s call of the Noah Hanifin goal before games? Should they start selling pieces or rearranging drastically?
I just don’t know what the Hurricanes are missing. They are in that uncomfortable point where we say, “Well, the analytics look fine, so something’s gotta give.” But this is a game played by humans, not numbers, and I’m just not sure the humans we have on the ice are doing the small things -- skating with an extra ounce, being a split-second quicker to pucks in the crease, watching attackers’ eyes and adjusting, etc -- that are common to teams that actually win games.
And if this continues, it’s going to be an even longer, 7500-mile road trip.