Not even the most rousing rendition of “Brass Bonanza” could lift the spirits of a Caniac last night as the home team fell 4-1 to the Detroit Red Wings.
Carolina was riding the high of a three-game win streak that kept it competitive in the packed Metropolitan Division. It’s still well in the mix and has a lot of games left, but questions linger about if the Canes are actually improving on history or doing the same things.
Last night wasn’t a great answer for that question, as we saw a number of things that made it difficult for the Canes to extend their winning streak.
1) Who’s the go-to scorer?
The Canes have guys who can shoot, who can crash the net and guys who pass well. What they lack, I think, is a player to look to consistently produce a few scoring chances—not shots—every game. Right now, our best hope is Sebastian Aho, who ranks T46 in goals (17) and 56th in points per game (0.81).
Meanwhile, Jeff Skinner is far away from his top ten performance last year in goal scoring across the NHL (6th with 37), currently tied for 67th with 15 goals.
Then again, the Canes missed the playoffs with Skinner’s impressive season last year, but in last night’s game, with rebounds galore yet no one to corral them, you can’t help but think that a team like Pittsburgh or Washington would have a player there to turn those into goals.
2) Trust in netminding
It’d be impossible to blame Scott Darling for the outcome last night, but four goals is four goals and a couple weren’t giving us any more confidence in his gloveside skill.
Sure, he started the game strong with 15 of 16 saves in the first period, the lone goal being a near-crease deflection. And as the Canes did the aforementioned trying-to-score-but-not-scoring to even up the game in the third period, they allowed an all-expenses-paid trip to the back of the net for Darren Helm out of the penalty box (a sequence that is also reminiscent of the Canes’ ways).
But on the save-able shots—against Trevor Daley and Gustav Nyquist—both flew over Darling’s glove, a side that he’s really struggled with all season (I don’t have the stats to back this up, but you’ve seen him).
It’s hard not to imagine some kind of intervention for this issue by the coaching staff, but I guess we’ll get a chance to see it once more against a hot-shooting team, given that the Canes face the Canucks and Avalanche in back-to-back games next week.
Our goaltending has sunk us for years now, and this one-two punch isn’t cutting it. It’s just hard to imagine a playoff future in which the Canes get to the postseason on Cam Ward’s back alone, and Darling isn’t giving us any reason to believe in an alternate scenario.
3) We can’t have nice things
Finally, what else is new? The Canes energize the fanbase, saying we can score, we can stops shots, we can skate quickly, only to have games like this at home.
We sit on the brink of the playoff cutline, fall enough to warrant crisis, win a handful and restore hope, then say nevermind, we’re actually still that mediocre team. The worst part is it always seems to go off the rails around the middle of the season, the prime time to establish a point buildup instead of rushing for points at the end of the season.
As Luke DeCock said last night of the Hurricanes, “they cannot stand prosperity.”
Am I overreacting? Maybe, but when you’ve been stuck on the edge of breaking the longest current playoff drought and you don’t feel like much is changing, maybe you’re entitled to a little overreaction.