The Pittsburgh Penguins traveled to Raleigh last night believing they would be entering the eye of a dangerous storm. Upon arrival they found out they were surrounded by many other Penguins and only had to endure a tropical depression filled with occasional strong gusts but nothing they couldn’t overcome.
In what is yet another sad repeat of the same old story, we have to come up with weather metaphors to keep from writing the same stuff over and over again. It’s easy to sit here and say the Hurricanes ran in to a hot goaltender, had bad puck luck, and got defeated by one of the best teams in the NHL. In reality, the Hurricanes have no shortage of much more deep rooted issues and we cannot sit around and keep watching the same failures game after game but expect things to magically change. So what happened last night? Let’s try to find a way to word the same stuff we’ve been saying in a different way.
Stop if you know where this is going. Let’s ponder this question for a moment; aside from Jeff Skinner and Sebastian Aho who truly showed up to play offense last night? Nobody is your answer. Where is Jordan Staal, Victor Rask, Justin Faulk? These are three of the team captains and not a one seems to give a hoot if we win. Not for the past month at least.
Last night we saw a Penguins team have their two main leaders, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin take 10 combined penalty minutes. Yet all the Hurricanes could muster was one power play goal. That is utterly pathetic. So what naturally happened? Both Malkin and Crosby came back to defeat the Hurricanes. You cannot allow this to happen. The Hurricanes power play is beyond horrible. The offense is beyond horrible. The leadership besides Skinner is horrible. Everything since January 17th has been horrible!
While you cannot blame the loss last night entirely on the offense but at what point does management and the coaching staff address the fact that the team can’t score? Was Matt Murray good last night? Yes he was. Was it an amazing performance worthy of a first star? No it wasn’t, and we shouldn’t pretend like it was. The Hurricanes got plenty of shots and dominated play for the first period, yet only scored one goal.
Why is that? Maybe it is because the majority of the chances were very bad or weak shots. Nobody on this team is willing to stand in front of the goaltender. Does Jordan Staal see nightmares of when Marc Staal got hit in the face with a puck, or does the team just needed Bryan Bickell so much they can’t adapt to living life without him? You cannot expect to win when you don’t get to the dirty areas. Jeff Skinner can only snipe so many goals or pick up so many rebounds.
No defense inside the circles
Each goal the Penguins scored has one thing in common; a Penguin was either left alone in the slot or beat the Hurricanes player in the slot. Look at Malkin’s goal and notice how he completely left Victor Rask in the dust.
Malkin: "HMK Line, coming at you... sometimes." pic.twitter.com/0RoNFb5blv— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) February 22, 2017
Or maybe on the Crosby goal we should look at how Slavin and Hainsey lost Crosby and allowed two Pens players to huddle around Cam Ward (Hey Canes, notice how there were two Pens in front of Ward here? Maybe you should take notes). Granted, this was on a Penguins two-man advantage, but there’s no excuse for allowing two attackers to surround Ward.
That's a league-leading 33 goals for Sidney Crosby. pic.twitter.com/2ldp6bCHna— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) February 22, 2017
Last year the Canes’ young defense was the talk of the league but this season you can tell they have slumped. Brett Pesce and Jaccob Slavin have both been really good at times but the rest of the defense can join the entire offense in being called horrible. Justin Faulk has been nowhere near the caliber of an all star and the rotating group of Matt Tennyson, Klas Dahlbeck, Ryan Murphy, and so on has not gotten the job done. Then there is old gritty Ron Hainsey who seems to score as many goals on his own net as he does in the opposition’s.
Last night the defense got exposed by elite players. Unfortunately, they’ve been getting exposed by much lesser opponents for far too long now.
Time for change
This has been harped on many times but something has to give. Ron Francis certainly has to be a seller at the deadline once again. But selling off pending free agents isn’t enough. It’s a cultural norm to miss the playoffs in Raleigh and a major message needs to be sent; somehow, someway.
Rod Brind’Amour is in charge of the offense. Well...the offense is horrible. Justin Faulk is alternate captain but gets exposed nightly. Jordan Staal makes $6 million a year and is signed for 6 years; where’s the production? At what point does a major shakeup occur and we finally admit the organization needs major change?
Francis pleaded with Caniacs to be patient and give it time. Well, aside from Jake Bean and maybe Haydn Fleury, we know what we have. There is no more time to wait and see on prospects. Julien Gauthier is not going to save the franchise. Last night we saw a much more talented team find a way to win a game they shouldn’t have won. The Penguins found a way to win, something the Hurricanes have failed to do for the majority of the season. When will something be done to change this?
Brian tweet-stormed about the organizational issues last night and hit on all the main points. Here’s a small taste of that:
OK, gather round, kids. It’s story time. First: Cam Ward is far from THE problem, but three goals on 17 shots is not a good look.— Brian LeBlanc (@bdleblanc) February 22, 2017
Second: the Canes can’t score goals. You can’t win games 0-0. This is just as true as complaining about the goaltending.— Brian LeBlanc (@bdleblanc) February 22, 2017
The Canes have a multitude of problems. They all need fixing. One isn’t any more of an issue than any of the others. They all contribute.— Brian LeBlanc (@bdleblanc) February 22, 2017
Which is why it’s unfair to point to one thing and say “hey, fix this and you’ve got a playoff team!” Nah. Not nearly that easy.— Brian LeBlanc (@bdleblanc) February 22, 2017
It speaks volumes about what we all truly understand...well, all of us not employed by the Hurricanes, at least.
Moral of the Story
What else can be said that hasn’t been said already? The organization needs a change. The Hurricanes have lost their mojo at home and lack the offensive ability to win any games at all now. A pitiful power play and no scoring led to an inevitable defeat at the hands of Crosby and Malkin.
This team certainly makes us all want to pull a Viktor Stalberg more often than not. If you don’t get the reference, check out Stalberg after taking the penalty that led to Crosby’s goal:
#CrankyCanes pic.twitter.com/utaNddAAYU— FOX Sports Carolinas (@CanesOnFSCR) February 22, 2017
At the start of 2017 this team was in position to make a playoff run. They needed a few pieces, but were very fragile for sure. Since then we’ve seen the team collapse and it’s as if nobody knows how to solve the issues. Is it a coaching issue or a talent issue or a combination of it all? The entire Eastern Conference is very tight this season with the exception of the Penguins, Blue Jackets, and Capitals. The Hurricanes can easily climb the standings and make a run going forward if they learn how to win, or they could also easily continue to play like they did last night and end up with a top-five draft pick one again. We all want the first but it’s time to start accepting the latter is much more likely.