Just 15 days ago the Carolina Hurricanes entered Verizon Center in need of a big win versus the league-best Capitals. It was shortly after the presidential inauguration, tension was high in DC, and the Hurricanes seemed more interested in the sightseeing than they were in playing hockey.
Fast forward to last night: tensions are certainly still high in our nation’s capital, and the Hurricanes failed to show up for their scheduled hockey game in DC once again.
The Canes lost 5-0 to the best team in the league last night. The special teams failed, a backup goalie struggled for the Hurricanes, and there is nothing positive to take away from this trip to DC just as it was a few weeks ago. To be the best you have to beat the best, and so far the Canes have proven that they are definitely not the best this season.
Let’s see if we can decipher what exactly went wrong last night.
Road Woes (cont…)
Is there anything new we can add to this narrative yet? The Canes still can’t seem to win games on the road consistently. A win here and there (see the Islanders game Saturday night) have kept the Canes from being historically bad on the road, but this is the most bipolar team that has possibly ever donned the Hurricanes logo.
Until we gather more information on why this case of déjà vu keeps occurring and why the Canes can’t find their game on the road we’ll just chop it up as the greatest mystery on the season. Nothing more to say here that hasn’t been beat to death so let’s move on to something else.
Canes lose to a vastly superior team. But you never lose 5-0 when you play well. Carolina helped the Caps' cause.— Cory Lavalette (@corylav) February 8, 2017
Capitals served a cold lacko taco
A cold taco that’s been sitting out since November can’t be good, can it? It appears the Capitals love this meal and we’re told they’ve requested it each time the Hurricanes return to Verizon Center.
In all seriousness, Bill Peters couldn’t have thrown Eddie Lack in to a worse position than what he did last night. Conventional wisdom said that Lack would start in the back to back over the weekend, but Peters decided to use his number one guy in games the team really needed.
Knowing the Hurricanes stood a very tough task against the Capitals, it seems Peters decided if the team was going to lose anyway, they might as well let Lack get some playing time. Lack was playing very deep the entire game and could be blamed for at least 2 of the goals allowed. Look below at the third goal scored by Lars Eller: it would be nice to see Lack take a step out and cut down the angle of the shot.
Some fantastic handles by @bconnolly8 before this @Eller_89 #CapsCanes on @csnma pic.twitter.com/CxzbgKvxAv— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) February 8, 2017
Lack needed to play at some point, since Cam Ward can’t play every game from here on. That being said, you have to question Peters’ decision to throw Lack to the wolves against the Caps. It was hard to see where he had a reasonable chance to succeed last night. Who knows when Lack will play again, but one thing is for sure: if he doesn’t find his game soon, Cam Ward is unlikely to get any rest going down the stretch.
"A lot of different emotions."@eddielack both happy to be back and disappointed with the result of #CARvsWSH pic.twitter.com/KFYSS8RjFA— FOX Sports Carolinas (@CanesOnFSCR) February 8, 2017
This is probably the most disappointing note from last night. The Hurricanes’ special teams seem to keep falling off each game. Last week the power play showed signs of life, and now it’s back to being on life support. The Canes were 0-3 last night with the man advantage and they only had a handful of scoring chances during those six minutes. Against the best team in the league, you have to make them pay when they take a penalty.
On the other side, the penalty kill surrendered 2 goals on three power plays for the Caps. The one claim to fame the Hurricanes have had this year has been their penalty kill. The Capitals have scored three goals in five power play chances against the Canes in the past two games they’ve played. The Canes will not beat Alex Ovechkin and company if they allow the Caps to score power play goals seemingly at will.
The entire team looked to have no energy after the first 10 minutes of the game, and when they needed a spark from their special teams none was provided.
The Capitals have flat out embarrassed the Hurricanes in 2017. Outscoring the Canes 11-1 in two matchups this calendar year, nothing positive can come from either game for the Hurricanes. The defense has not found a way to shut down the phenomenal talent of Ovechkin and the power play of the Caps.
All up and down the Washington lineup there are dangerous players. From Ovi to Justin Williams, to T.J. Oshie, to Nicklas Backstrom, and right on down the line. Combine these with the league’s best goalie in Braden Holtby and you have a team poised to make a run for the Cup. Their offense plays so smooth and all the players gel. Just look at this stat:
Per @EliasSports: @Capitals are first team to score 5+ goals in a span of 9 straight home games since Calgary from March 3 – April 1, 1990. pic.twitter.com/l21Bw0bGFl— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) February 8, 2017
Watching the Capitals and how they operate really makes it obvious how far apart these two teams are talent wise. The Hurricanes practically look like an AHL team when lined up against the Caps, or even the Pittsburgh Penguins for that matter. Until the Canes realize that they need to make some personal improvements roster-wise, it’s hard to see a scenario where they will climb the metro standings.
Moral of the Story
It would be nice to sit here and say the Canes defeated the Caps in Washington last night thanks to a great special teams performance and shutdown defense. It would be nice to say Eddie Lack had an epic game in his first action since November. It would also be nice to say Hurricanes have found a consistent road game.
Of course we could say all of this, roll with it, and just call it all “alternative facts.” Sounds good, right?
As nice as that would be, let’s get back to reality now.
Call it déjà vu or whatever you wish to, the fact is the same Hurricanes team got thrashed by the same Capitals in DC for the second time in 15 days last night. On a night the Hurricanes had hoped to send the Caps home with the taste of seabass, all they served up was a cold stale taco. Eddie Lack was thrown to the wolves by Bill Peters last night with no expectation of the team or Lack succeeding. The result was pathetic and yet another game in DC that we want to just forget happened.
The defense was not sharp and even after Peters reunited Brett Pesce with Jaccob Slavin halfway through the game it didn’t matter. The entire team was walked around, and nothing good came from last night. This team has been on the right page since the All-Star break but just took a major step back.
Cam Ward will undoubtedly be back in net Saturday and hopefully the rest of the team will show up in Dallas. The Canes need a win going into their bye week. Confidence and momentum will be very important moving down the stretch, and all last night did was suck the life out of the Hurricanes. Thankfully the Canes do not have to see the Capitals again this season, but they cannot afford to let this loss bother them going forward.