Afternoon games, for whatever reason, have long been a thorn in the side of the Carolina Hurricanes, and with one on the schedule for Sunday it stood to reason that the crowd filing into PNC Arena was a little bit uneasy about what would transpire with the San Jose Sharks in town for a Super Bowl Sunday matinee.
That fear was well-placed.
The Canes never got out of first gear and fell meekly to the Sharks, losing 3-1 in an eerily similar fashion to the team’s loss to the Red Wings two days before. Defensively, the Canes were a dumpster fire despite Bill Peters mixing up his defense pairings pregame.
But it wasn’t only the defensemen who were making their share of own-zone brain farts. Timo Meier’s goal to put the Sharks up 1-0 4:06 into the first period was the result of Brock McGinn and Victor Rask both losing track of their man and watching the puck, and Chris Tierney’s goal with 35 seconds left in the first period was a master class in derpiness, four Canes within five feet of each other along the near boards and leaving Tierney all alone with no one in the same area code to beat a helpless Cam Ward.
Caution: not safe for work.
Sebastian Aho, the only player who has shown even a hint of scoring prowess over the past week, did tie the game a minute and a half before Tierney put the Sharks ahead for good, but other than him it was an offensive black hole, yet again, for the umpteenth time in what seems like an eternity.
Brent Burns’ turnaround slapper from in front of his own bench snuck through a screen two minutes into the second period made it 3-1, and realistically the game was over at that point, although McGinn gave the Canes a bit of a jolt when he dropped the gloves with Brenden Dillon midway through the period. It was the most spark the Canes showed all night, but still got them nowhere on the score sheet.
Out of ideas, by the end of the period Peters had put the lines in a real blender, with Skinner demoted to the fourth line, McGinn playing left wing on the top line and Joakim Nordstrom somehow found himself playing on a line with Victor Rask.
But they didn’t stay that way, reverting to form to start the third period. And with the team sleepwalking their way to their third straight loss, it may have been a tacit admission by the coaching staff that no change was going to be sufficient to raise the Canes out of their teamwide malaise.
No sequence better encapsulated the lost afternoon for the home side than when the Sharks’ relentless forecheck kept the puck cycling in the offensive zone for the better part of two minutes, and when the Canes finally broke past the blue line on a two-on-one Justin Williams deked to make a defender miss, opened up a shooting lane, and promptly passed it into a defender’s skate.
Enjoy the Super Bowl, and please dear lord baby Jesus let it be more entertaining than this game was.
I didn’t think we were very good. I thought some guys were fast asleep at the start of the game. They were better than us from the start of the game right to the end. We didn’t start very well, shots were 7-2 halfway through the first period and their guys were skating right by our guys. Very disappointing effort.
I’m really disappointed in our compete today. Just a disappointing effort, disappointing preparation. We got what we deserved.
This lineup’s been together a little while now. Maybe there’s some complacency there. It will be different Tuesday. There are three healthy bodies that can go in, and if not those three there’s a group in Charlotte too. You can’t put that group out there again after that. It’s not acceptable. They let each other down there in the room too.
[On whether there’s an explanation for one or zero even strength goals in nine of the last 13 games:] Yep. [Can we have it?] No. You can write why you think the reason why, but there are reasons.
Whether we’re in the eighth, ninth, tenth, first spot - that effort today is unacceptable. Period. The effort, the intensity we played at was probably something you’d see at a neutral site game in September.
Our game hasn’t been good, and it showed in the last couple of games. I don’t know if it’s pressure, but we definitely know what’s at stake. They’re big points every game. At some point something’s got to give. We’ve got to stick with the positives and the game we know how to play, and continue to work. We’ve tried to make too many cute plays. Maybe we were holding onto the puck too much and not getting dirty and ugly.
We’ve got quite a few games coming up, and it’s just so tight. There’s still a lot of games left. We’re going to keep moving forward, but we have to learn from these games that we have got to be better.
When you’ve got one goal in each of the past couple, we’re getting a few chances here and there but a lot of goals are scored within a few feet of the net. We have to continue going to the net more and get some more goals.
I’m sure if we could put a finger on what’s wrong, it would be a little easier to not have it happen. Brutal, I guess, is the only way to say it. We have to be better, and we’re coming down to the time where we can’t take periods off. We had some wins in there, so it kind of covers it up a little bit, but it has to stop and we have to find a way to get off to good starts.
If you’re not on top right away, things start to get random, especially with shot opportunities and rebounds. It’s a game of bounces, so if you don’t end plays early and eliminate their opportunities, it does look like you’re running around and scrambling out of position. That’s the way it was tonight. It doesn’t look good.
We started slow. I don’t know if you can pinpoint that on the system or the lines or matchups or what not, but it’s on us to make sure we’re ready to go every night. We know what every night can do. Teams are jumping each other every other night. One team wins, one team doesn’t, and the standings look different every day.
- Peters took much longer than usual to come down to his postgame press availability, and when he did arrive he was absolutely furious. He’s never going to be confused with Mike Keenan, but that was a Tortorella-esque press conference, the first I can remember from Peters in his four years in charge.
- And with good reason. It was a dumpster fire all the way around. At this point, who can be considered untouchable out of that group? Aho, absolutely, and probably throw Staal (goal-scoring issues notwithstanding), Pesce and Slavin in there as well, plus maybe Teravainen if you squint closely enough. Everyone else is expendable, and it had the distinct feeling of Peters being at the end of his rope with this roster.
- So will that prompt any changes to the roster coming out of the corner office? Who knows? I wouldn’t be surprised to see a big name scratched Tuesday, and maybe two.
- Might be nothing, but Roland McKeown’s nameplate was above a stall in the Canes’ locker room. Could he be on his way to replace someone for Tuesday night?
- It was sure an oddball game from a special teams perspective: only one power play on either side, the one the Canes got out of the McGinn/Dillon fight in the second period. And it may have been more revealing that the vast majority of the game was played at even strength, given the Canes’ well-chronicled issues at 5-on-5 over the past couple of weeks.
- From the “hey, we’ve got to find a silver lining somewhere” file: the Canes outhit the Sharks 33-17. So there you go. They’re back on the ice tomorrow morning for practice, and you can bet your mortgage that Peters won’t be calling this one off the way he called off the one yesterday.
Rank the Performances
Here’s your chance to weigh in on how you think the team performed tonight. Upvote the players you think played well and downvote the ones who didn’t.