In an alternate universe somewhere, Tuesday’s matchup between the Carolina Hurricanes and Edmonton Oilers was one that saw a team comfortably in the Eastern Conference playoff race going at it against a team that is on the short list of Stanley Cup hopefuls with a chance to win the whole thing. With the firepower of Connor McDavid and company facing a Hurricanes defense that has proven its mettle time and again when up against the top scorers in the league, the Canes and Oilers would have been a callback to the high-level hockey of the 2006 Stanley Cup Final.
Back here on planet Earth, the Canes and Oilers played a sloppy goal-fest that set the game of hockey back to the 1980s, an 7-3 Oilers win that left no one on either team happy in a game that will be the Wikipedia example of “meaningless game” for generations to come.
If you wanted, you could say that the Canes lived up to their billing in one regard: McDavid had one assist but was held to one shot and played to a minus-one in a game the Oilers won by four goals. The problem is that the Oilers are more than just McDavid, and Leon Draisaitl was happy to pitch in to fill the vacuum, scoring one goal and setting up three others to set a season high with four points.
Scott Darling, albeit doing himself no favors on the final three goals, was largely the victim of circumstances beyond his control for the first four. Drake Caggiula’s equalizer, 23 seconds after Brock McGinn opened the scoring, came when Haydn Fleury got caught puck-watching in front of the net; Matt Benning’s goal two minutes later was a puck batted out of midair behind the net and banked off Darling’s back into the cage. Then, three minutes later, Ryan Strome scored somehow after Darling had made a save and sent the puck into his own net while attempting to slide his legs together for a whistle.
After Sebastian Aho scored to pull the Canes back to within one on a power-play goal Cam Talbot had no business allowing, Pontus Aberg made it a two-goal lead again 1:32 into the second period after Justin Faulk’s clearing attempt caromed off a referee and right into the slot.
The Canes did see point streaks by Aho and Teuvo Teravainen extend to six games, and Aho’s 26th goal extended his career high in that department, but this was a game the Hurricanes would seemingly have been fine with ending ten minutes in. Aho, Teravainen and Trevor van Riemsdyk were the only Hurricanes players to finish even on the night, with the Faulk-Klas Dahlbeck pairing going minus-4 apiece.
The crowd of just over 10,000 was lifeless all night, understandably with the Hurricanes looking much the same on the ice. In fairness, the Oilers didn’t exactly cover themselves in glory either, with seven goals not really doing justice to how out of sync both teams looked all night.
The Canes continue their week of games against non-playoff opponents Thursday when the Arizona Coyotes come to town, their tragic number down to 9 pending the result of the Devils/Sharks game in San Jose later Tuesday and looking every part of a team that simply can’t wait for the calendar to show April 8.
They Said It
Disappointing. It got away early, but saying that we did make it 3-2 with lots of time, then 4-3 with lots of time, but we never had a spark, never got engaged. Not sure why that is.
They’re very receptive. I don’t think there’s a guy in there who’s proud of his game tonight, and collectively, when you get in that situation and it looks like it did tonight. The only thing that was probably good was our power play in the first, we won four faceoffs, got the puck back a bunch, ended up with a bunch of shots and a goal. I thought our power play was good. That was the shining moment of the night.
I think it’s on the team, all of us, the coaches, players, all of us as a group. We weren’t good enough tonight. We gave Darling the chance to go tonight and try to win back to back games coming off a pretty good game in New York on Sunday. They scored their sixth one late in the second, we talked about possibly making a change there, but we were pretty flat. I didn’t think that would do much for us.
It’s hard. It’s disappointing when our compete was the way it was tonight. When we don’t compete, and if we aren’t the hardest working team, we don’t give ourselves a chance. When we don’t bring it, it’s a little disappointing, and that’s an understatement.
We talked earlier today about the two previous home games, we played real hard and well, and played better in those losses than we did in the win. You have to have some perseverance and you have to stick to it.
Aho was good again tonight, he had the puck lots. They’re competitive. They’re still at that young age, Turbo is 24, where there’s room for growth. We talked about a five game plan and [Aho] going in the middle for the next four. Turbo left the game at the five minute mark with a little tweak, so I don’t know if he’s available, but Seabass will be in the middle for the next four. [What did he tweak?] His body.
Obviously where we are in the standings there’s something to be said [about giving up] but that goes to show that we have to come to work. We play in the NHL, we have a privilege to be here, and we can’t lay eggs like that every game. We can’t just not work. It looks like that when we don’t. It’s no fun to play, it’s no fun to let each other down like that, and I’m one of them, I wasn’t good enough tonight. It’s too bad and I’m going to be ready for the next game.
When we aren’t skating and working, our game isn’t going to work. We looked a step behind in what looked like a loose game. When we’re skating, we’re on top of guys and don’t give them time to make plays. We’re creating turnovers and playing in their end when we’re playing well. Tonight was pretty much the exact opposite. It’s the work ethic and the effort and it just wasn’t there.
- Hard to say much about that game. It felt very much like a preseason game. There was little sustained pressure on either side, and the goals that were scored were more the result of players being in the right (or wrong) place at the right time than they were about set plays being executed.
- Seven goals on 30 shots for Scott Darling is what it is, but that’s probably a little bit unfair to him since four of them were oddball bounces that left him no chance.
- Peters was asked about if he’s ever gone through adversity like this in his coaching career, specifically being on the verge of missing the playoffs for four straight years. His answer was “no, that doesn’t bother me,” but I feel like I should point out here that his reaction was much more rooted in the fact that he doesn’t dwell on what’s happened previously in his career and not so much as an Alfred E. Neuman-style “what, me worry?” approach. It seems evident that Peters knows that the issues with his team go beyond whether or not they qualify for the postseason, so don’t read too much into the quote - I don’t think there’s anything to get carried away about with it.
- Aberg’s three-point night was the first of his career, and - this shocked me - it was only Draisaitl’s second four-point game of his career, and first since December of 2015 (!!).
- The Canes are back on the ice for practice tomorrow and will skate Thursday morning prior to their matchup with the Coyotes.
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.