Remember the last time the Carolina Hurricanes played the Dallas Stars in American Airlines Center? The Stars went up 5-1 before giving Carolina four goals to tie it in the third, but then Patrick Sharp won the game for the home side with 20 seconds left. The comeback showed plenty of heart for the young Canes team and was a key jumping-off point for the rest of the season.
Yeah, that didn’t happen yesterday.
Carolina was outperformed in every facet of the game during yesterday’s matinee. Dallas played the same way, once again putting up five goals—three of which coming before the Hurricanes managed to shrug off whatever funk they found themselves in for the first half of the first period.
But as gutting of a loss as that was, it’s still worth a discussion.
The First 10 Minutes
Even in an off-year, the Stars possess some impressive offensive firepower. Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin are not to be overlooked. Apparently, the rest of the Stars feel that their time has come as well.
Carolina was burned thrice early by three smaller names on Dallas’ roster—Esa Lindell, Curtis McKenzie, and #FormerHurricane Patrick Eaves. Here’s a hint, if you’re playing a team that has a pedigree (even if just for a season) of scoring quick and scoring often, maybe tighten up a bit more during the first period.
Sure there were a couple of lucky bounces (more on that below), but the ill-advised pinches and slow backchecking doomed the Canes before they had a chance to stand on their own two feet.
Eaves, the journeyman winger, has found himself with 21 goals on the season, two of which came yesterday thanks to a few defensive breakdowns from the Hurricanes. His opportunistic nature paid off as he outworked the Canes’ defense on multiple occasions.
Lindell came out of nowhere off of a Carolina offensive-zone faceoff to strip Jaccob Slavin of the puck and go down on an unlikely 2-on-1, where he easily beat an unprepared Cam Ward.
And McKenzie’s goal (as seen in the section below) was a stroke of self-inflicted bad luck for the Canes. Another poor defensive decision gave up an odd-man rush, and the puck ended up behind Ward once more. Yes, the bounce was very lucky. But the opportunity did not come from fortune—instead, it was a gift from the lackadaisical Hurricanes to their opponents.
Every team is going to be somewhat prepared to weather some type of storm, but putting yourself behind the eight ball as Carolina did is unlikely to be a viable game strategy.
Speaking of those bounces, Carolina owes part of their lack of success to physics and random acts of nature. Two Stars’ goals came from highly unlikely events—one ricocheted off of a well-positioned Matt Tennyson and into the net, and the other rising high up and over Cam Ward on a wraparound attempt.
One would say the Stars were due for something like this, after Jiri Hudler all but cost the team the game with his own goal against the Senators the other night. Dallas spent the better part of the evening creating chances like this, and the Hockey Gods smiled on them in the form of three quick goals.
Make no mistake, the Hurricanes’ defensive coverage and general speed were nowhere to be found during the first frame, but having awful luck did them no favors either. With these two factors in play, it’s no surprise the game ended as it did.
Paging doctors Skinner, Rask, Ryan, Teravainen, Stempniak...
For as great as Elias Lindholm/Jordan Staal/Sebastian Aho have been, the remaining forwards must rediscover their own scoring touch for the Hurricanes to be successful.
The theme of the year has been a revolving door of star lines, with several trios carrying the mantle of the offensive brunt. Aho has done more than his fare share over the past month, and Lindholm has stepped up his impressive playmaking and translated it to quite a few assists.
But they cannot be alone in carrying the team’s scoring. Jeff Skinner, in particular, seemed to have a storm cloud of mediocrity lingering over his head all afternoon. He was stoned in close by Kari Lehtonen twice, and never really seemed to find a groove.
Victor Rask’s offensive issues have certainly been noticed, with his point-less streaknow hitting 11 games. Teuvo Teravainen and Lee Stempniak are two players who have proven scoring prowess, but don’t seem to be around to help steer a game in favor of Carolina.
It’s nice to have chemistry and production like the Canes have with 16/11/20, but they need the remaining scorers to step up and carry the load if a playoff run really is in the cards.
The bye week now presents an opportunity for regroup, and experience dictates that we will see a rejuvenated Carolina side after the break. The All-Star Weekend yielded a respite for the slumping Canes, and they showed up in a big way with Aho’s first hat trick in a win over the Flyers. Trust Bill Peters’ guidance and expect better performances from the team following this off-week.
Next game is against the Avalanche on Friday night.