After Thursday night’s 4-1 loss to the Detroit Red Wings the Carolina Hurricanes challenged themselves to come out and give a full 60 minute effort against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Instead of successfully doing just that in a must win matchup, the Hurricanes were tossed around like rag dolls by the Pens during the 3-0 drubbing. In a game where a response was needed not just for the season, but for a sign of hope for the future, the Canes came out flat and laid an egg as we’ve become all too familiar with.
The Good - Goaltending
Curtis McElhinney is truly the only reason the Hurricanes were even remotely close last night. He fought all the way to the end of the game and made numerous huge saves to keep the game within reach. He picked up right where he left off before his injury and that is a great thing to see. Without him, last night easily would have been a 8-0 contest.
Other than that, not a damn thing was good about last night. There is no nicer way to say that.
The Bad - The Atmosphere
Home ice advantage should come with many perks. Generally it means a good sleep at home, normalized routines, better training equipment, and fans cheering you on. The only thing that changes that is when your arena is overrun by the opposing team’s fans.
If you had the had the, um, pleasure of attending last night’s game in person you may have been confused about who the home team was. Not because of the uniforms or an error on the scoreboard, but by the enormous amount of Penguins fans out of the 16,264 people in attendance. There’s been many a night where the opposing team has filled a large portion of PNC Arena with their fans, but last night may have been the worst yet.
Thousands upon thousands of Penguins fans filled the Hurricanes’ arena last night and they ruled the evening. During the first intermission I counted five Hurricanes fans in the restroom (including myself) compared to the 17 Penguins fans in line. The entire arena looked this way.
Is this the fault of Hurricanes fans? Partially. Many of those Penguins fans will be back tonight wearing red (or green?), which is unfortunate in its own right. But this issue goes much deeper. It’s a true reflection of how irrelevant this organization has become. No team should ever have more opposing fans in its building and while no official number will say this, I fully believe there were more Penguins fans in Raleigh last night than Hurricanes fans.
The Ugly - Everyone but Curtis
An old saying in sports is that you live and die as a team. The Hurricanes did that to a tee last night but not in a good way. The entire team looked very bad. From multiple defensive breakdowns to losing key battles around the net, scoring was made easy for the Penguins on all three of their goals.
Sidney Crosby doesn't even need to be skating to make an impact on the game.— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) December 23, 2018
Crosby's pass from his knees went straight to @Letang_58 (four points in his last five games; 1G-3A), who made no mistake and buried it up high. pic.twitter.com/wFAQET8Piw
Sidney Crosby set up the opening tally from his knees after he outworked Justin Faulk behind the net. Then Kris Letang was able to get free in the slot and had an easy tap in to get the Penguins on the board.
Jake Guentzel scored this one through traffic... Guess who had the assists?— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) December 23, 2018
If you said Sidney Crosby and Bryan Rust again, you'd be correct. pic.twitter.com/gtik4gugCS
Crosby would then repeat himself in the second period by outworking the Carolina defense behind the net and finding a teammate in front of the net. Jordan Staal was outworked and then Jaccob Slavin allowed the pass to get through in what was a terrible example of team play.
You might say that these guys are feeling pretty good— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) December 23, 2018
Guentzel's second of the game was assisted by Sidney Crosby (you really shouldn't be surprised at this point) and Phil Kessel. pic.twitter.com/iStLWt3Oce
Jake Guentzel would net the final tally after yet another defensive miscue allowed him to get wide open right in front of McElhinney. Staal ended up a minus three and played another costly role in this goal, although eventually he left with an upper-body injury so it could probably be fairly argued he wasn’t himself most of the night.
But the defensive issues are not the only glaring issue. The blatant lack of offense is just as much to blame. You can’t win if you don’t score. Another game where the Hurricanes looked beyond bad on their power play led to another game where the Hurricanes lost. This team is very bad at scoring goals, as we’ve come to learn, and last night was another case of that. Matt Murray played fine, but that is one of the easiest shutouts he will ever get.
It’s time to wake up, management: this team, these guys, aren’t getting the job done offensively and that’s more to blame for where they are in the standings than anything else.
Last night was pegged as a gut check game following the Detroit loss and the Hurricanes failed the test. They actually managed to play worse than they did on Thursday and that sinking ship feeling is setting in fast. They absolutely must find a way to win tonight or the players will be making April golf reservations very soon.
Hockey is ultimately a team game and the Carolina Hurricanes, as currently constituted, simply are not very good, and it’s become an embarrassment.