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About Last Night: More of the Same; Kuokkanen Recalled

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The same issues continue to plague the Hurricanes, which in turn continue to lead to losses.

NHL: Toronto Maple Leafs at Carolina Hurricanes James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

Night in and night out, the Carolina Hurricanes seem to struggle with the same things and it is continuing to cost them valuable points in the standings. The Toronto Maple Leafs showed up on time last night while the Hurricanes did not, leading to a 4-1 defeat. The Canes struggled immensely on their power play once again and they allowed key defensive breakdowns to gift wrap the game for the Leafs. While it may be the season of giving, Carolina has reached a point where they are giving away too much and it will come back to bite them around April 2019.

The game started at 7pm, not 8pm

There have only be a handful of games this season where the Hurricanes came out as flat as they did last night. The entire first period was dominated by Toronto almost to the point that you have to wonder if Carolina forgot what time the game began. Mustering just eight shots in the first 20 minutes, the Hurricanes allowed Toronto to control everything including getting on the scoreboard first.

Tyler Ennis completely outworks Dougie Hamilton and gets the rebound to put the Leafs up 1-0. Hamilton, who had a very bad night, loses his man and stares at him while Ennis nets the first goal.

In what would become a common theme on the night, a defensive miscue gave up a goal and put the Canes behind the eight ball less than ten minutes in to the game.

The worst part of the first period was when William Nylander took a double minor penalty for high sticking Calvin de Haan. The ensuing power play was outright draining and not in a good way. The Canes generated nothing on it over four minutes and was nearly unbearable to watch.

Carolina would bounce back and actually show up for the second period, but with their play in the first period they were very lucky to be down by just one goal. From sloppy passing, a very poor power play, to the inability to simply get pucks on net, the Canes first period last night was beyond unacceptable and it would ultimately cost them.

The only good thing

The Hurricanes actually came out playing much better in the second period. Dougie Hamilton took a tripping penalty and the Canes came up with a big kill that included some nice saves by Petr Mrazek. Not long after the kill the Hurricanes got their own power play with familiar face Ron Hainsey going to the box.

The first half of the power play was stagnant but then Sebastian Aho feathered a nice pass to Justin Williams on the entry and Mr. Game Seven drove the net and sent the puck top shelf beating Frederik Andersen.

Notice how Aho draws three defenders which allows Williams to get in on net all alone. This says more to the fire power of Aho than it does to Williams’ ability to find empty space. When opposing teams know they only need to shut down Sebastian Aho because he’s the only offensive threat on the Hurricanes, it hinders Aho’s ability to score himself. However, when teams go in to this mindset it in theory should open up more chances for other plays like Williams. Being able to capitalize on these chances has been the Hurricanes’ kryptonite.

The Back Breaker

They say in hockey the most important time in any game is right after a goal is scored. That couldn’t have been anymore true than last night. With the Hurricanes clawing back in to the game and building momentum Toronto was able to kill off all hopes just 67 seconds after Carolina appeared to be right back in the game.

The Canes had just taken a penalty therefore Toronto was about to go on the power play, which alone would have been a momentum killer unless Carolina had killed the penalty. But it never got that far. Morgan Rielly flung the puck on goal and Hamilton did the rest. Hamilton swiped at the puck and beat Mrazek cleanly through the five hole.

While Toronto would go on to score two more goals this was the true ending to the game. It sucked every ounce of life out of PNC Arena and the Hurricanes bench. Carolina’s play would digress from there on.

Had the goal come later in the period, or in the third, the Canes may have had an chance to fight back but the sheer timing of the goal alone was back breaking. Patrick Marleau scored just over five minutes in to the third to seal off any hopes of a comeback. William Nylander got the puck across on a two on one where Calvin de Haan was unable to break up the pass and it was an easy goal for Marleau.

It’s almost as if the Canes knew at that point the game was over. If they had any hopes of coming back after the Leafs’ second goal it was sucked out at this moment. While this salted the game away, Dougie Hamilton’s own goal for the Leafs was a back breaking goal that just cannot happen, especially at that point in the game.

Can we get some goals for Christmas?

Watching William Nylander do Nylander-like things shows even more how desperately the Hurricanes need about two to three more players of that caliber. Teuvo Teravainen is not playing up to his potential. Leading goal scorer Micheal Ferland left the game after half a period. So many games this season have seen Carolina not just struggle but downright fail to generate minimal offense. Phil Di Guiseppe is seeing consistent power play time now with Jordan Staal and Ferland out. That shows how bad things are in Carolina.

Yes, they scored a power play goal last night, but it was off the rush and not your traditional power play goal. On the man advantage Carolina generates nothing while struggling to even hold the zone. No crisp passing, no setting things up, no deflections, no one timers, just soft shots from outside the circles if that.

The four minute power play last night or the 90 seconds of a five on three last week are absolute killers. These one goal games are literally costing the Canes their season.

All we want for Christmas is goal scorers! Whether that in the form of Martin Necas and Janne Kuokkanen, or some other outside form, please Santa Waddell make this happen!

Moral of the Story

Times are difficult around Raleigh currently. Toronto is a great team, no doubt, but they didn’t beat the Hurricanes. The Hurricanes beat the Hurricanes. Self inflicted defensive wounds and managements refusal to find goal scorers cost Carolina last night. It was a 1-1 game when the Hurricanes we all know reared their ugly heads and ultimately that’s why they lost.

They must now face a tough three games in four nights with a major question in goal. There’s still life on the season but if they manage to continue to only score one goal and be inept on the power play the next three games could turn ugly quick.

And right on cue, the Hurricanes called up the aforementioned Kuokkanen from Charlotte on Wednesday morning. He was on the ice next to Victor Rask and Brock McGinn at practice, and the Canes moved Jordan Staal (concussion) to injured reserve to make space for Kuokkanen. The release from the team is below.


Staal placed on injured reserve

Don Waddell, President and General Manager of the National Hockey League’s Carolina Hurricanes, today announced that the team has recalled forward Janne Kuokkanen from the Charlotte Checkers of the American Hockey League and placed forward Jordan Staal on injured reserve retroactive to Dec. 5th.

Kuokkanen, 20, leads the Checkers and ranks tied for eighth in the AHL in scoring with 27 points (11g, 16a). The Oulunsalo, Finland, native has tallied a point in 19 of 26 games this season. Kuokkanen made his NHL debut with Carolina on Oct. 7, 2017, vs. Minnesota and posted 40 points (11g, 29a) in 60 AHL games with Charlotte in 2017-18. The 6’1”, 193-pound forward was drafted by the Hurricanes in the second round, 43rd overall, of the 2016 NHL Draft and represented Finland at the 2017 and 2018 IIHF World Junior Championships.

Staal, 30, has missed two games with a concussion. The Thunder Bay, Ont., native has recorded 11 points (5g, 6a) in 27 games this season and has registered 245 points (91g, 154a) in 439 career games with the Hurricanes. The 6’4”, 220-pound forward was acquired by Carolina from Pittsburgh in exchange for Brandon Sutter, Brian Dumoulin, and a first-round pick in the 2012 NHL Draft (Derrick Pouliot) on June 22, 2012.