The “top of the table” comments were fun to make for a fan base so used to a near-infinite state of “still figuring things out.”
Some of us wondered if Rod Brind’Amour could be an immediate harbinger for the playoffs. Some thought Curtis McElhinney could be giving the starters a run for their money. Some got caught up in the clutch come-from-behind theatrics and bought in heavily to the idea of a solid team that will find a way.
After three straight losses that all wrote similar scripts, the Canes must now find answers to the concerns that were sometimes overshadowed by energy, fun and hope.
Power Play Is a Good Thing, Right?
Because it doesn’t really feel that way. I’m sure you’re as tired of hearing about it as we are of writing about it, but nothing seems to be getting better on the man advantage — we’re 1-for-29, y’all — and, even more concerning, few things seem to be getting tweaked.
The most glaring issue seems to be the inflated time that Justin Faulk is getting versus Dougie Hamilton and even Jaccob Slavin. Can I be 100 percent sure that getting either of those two on the ice over Faulk will be a marked improvement? No, but at some point, when the power play is effectively dead in the water, you have to raise eyebrows about the quarterback.
Plus, when you consider the fact that Hamilton and Slavin are the top D pairing and spend a ton of time on the ice with Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen — the guys who we expect to be set up to score on the top power play unit — it’s even more of a head-scratcher.
But we stuck with what we’ve been doing, and on Saturday, Carolina went 0-for-5 on the power play with only nine shots. Or better expressed in a single tweet:
oh my god they literally just passed the puck around the outside for 60 seconds and did absolutely nothing— Brett Finger (@brett_finger) October 20, 2018
The penalty kill hasn’t gotten any better either. After allowing a power play goal on Saturday, the Canes now sit at a laughable 65.7 percent penalty kill.
To be fair, the goal they allowed on Saturday was pretty wacky, the hockey equivalent of throwing a pass off the backboard to yourself in basketball, except in this case the backboard exists unintentionally.
One thing that stood out to me: the Avs put up eight shots on goal in four power plays versus 10 shots on goal at even strength. Three of these became goals, which leads to the next question.
Blame the Goalie?
Obviously, 19-for-22 is not a strong stat line for Curtis McElhinney, especially when you consider the fact that backup Philipp Grubauer was able to go 42-for-43 to counter (more on that in a second). How much of Saturday’s loss can we put on him?
Of course, we all won’t agree, but it appeared he had something of a “good, bad and ugly” day. On that power play goal, maybe he could have tracked the puck better, but that’s a tough save by my judgement.
But getting beat on a very short-side shot was tough to watch. Landeskog was at a sharp enough angle to warrant securing the post, and McElhinney left a decent gap to let the puck through.
As far as MacKinnon’s goal, question McElhinney all you want, but gracious, why is one of the top forwards in the league skating with that much free ice when not even a few seconds ago he was surrounded by three Hurricanes?
I’m just not able to rationally place the blame of the loss on McElhinney. As a waiver addition, he’s been a reasonable help to the team. At some point, you have to ask why the Hurricanes can’t do anything “special” with special teams and are putting up 40+ shots and converting only one or two of them so often.
A couple of closing thoughts:
- Pucks on net hasn’t worked the past three games. Our best chances have generally come from slick passes around the crease or breakaways, which is a little different than the chances in the games that go us so hype early on. Something has to start clicking in front of the net to create deflections instead of blocks or easy saves.
- Sure, Micheal Ferland’s goal was arguably Aho’s goal (speaking of slick passes), but he’s scored three of the Canes’ past four even strength goals. His returns have been impressive, he’s been a key part of our top line and my god, will that man go to war for our team?