The Carolina Hurricanes are in the middle of their basement tour where they are playing five teams in a row who are not in playoff position. I originally thought, hey, this would be a good opportunity for the team to finish out strong and see some young guys get playing time.
Well, the Canes had other plans.
There was some excitement coming into the game. First, they were coming off of a win against the Islanders. Second, NHL rookie and AHL goal-scoring leader Valentin Zykov was recalled to the Hurricanes. There was also news that he had taken Derek Ryan’s spot on the power play, which was a much-welcomed change.
However, the Canes never came out to play in this game. They had a lead for 23 seconds before giving up three straight goals and effectively ending the game. They didn’t play a strong possession game, or a strong defensive game, or a strong offensive game. That’s how you end up losing the game 7-3.
Zykov got 15 minutes of ice tim, but he didn’t make an impact in any phase of the game. He finished with a minus-1 rating and two shots on goal, but he just didn’t stand out. (Which, to be fair, in a game where the captain finished minus-4, is damning with faint praise.) Zykov is supposed to be a skilled scorer, but he made little to no impact with the puck on his stick.
In the offensive zone, there were times that he didn’t look like he knew where to go. He was crowding the puck carrier and not keeping in his lane. In the neutral zone, Phil DiGiuseppe and Victor Rask seemed to carry the puck in the zone. I didn’t notice him at all in the defensive zone.
Hopefully, they are first game jitters for this stint in the NHL. These games are going to be very important in determining his role on the team with the next couple of seasons. If he doesn’t impress he is likely to lose the next call-up opportunity to another prospect.
Faulk Continues to Struggle
Co-captain Justin Faulk has continued his down season. He has continued to look unsure with the puck everywhere on the ice. In the second period, Faulk pinched and made a quick slap pass towards the net without looking. That decision led to a turnover which sprung a three on two for Edmonton and a goal.
In his next shift, he was unable to gather the puck along the boards, with plenty of time to do so. As a result, Edmonton was able to maintain possession and eventually score a goal with tired legs on the ice. Faulk was tied for a team-worst -4 last night, right in line with his play all season. Maybe its the pressure of the “C” but I would tend to think he needs to be back to an alternate next season.
Peters’ Tenure is Over
It’s clear that Bill Peters is on his way out. The team has looked like a ship without a rudder for the last two months. They had multiple chances to reach out and take a playoff position, but instead they played inconsistent hockey down the stretch. We’ve seen it evident in third-period collapses over the past few weeks, and it culminated last night.
The second goal of the game came on a mismatched line matchup, when Peters played the TSA line in combination with the Jaccob Slavin-Brett Pesce pairing without Connor McDavid on the ice. As soon as they came off the ice, McDavid came on and had an assist on the goal. It was the only point McDavid had all night, which makes the mistake even more glaringly obvious. Matchups on home ice are supposed to be easy to control - that’s the point of home ice advantage and having the last line change - yet the Hurricanes couldn’t take advantage.
Scott Darling has also been forced to play the puck consistently, and he has proven time and time again that he is not comfortable with it. Normally, when a player is struggling in any area of the game, you try to simplify their game and make it easier for them to succeed. However, he is still being asked to play the puck time and time again, and it never looks natural to him. You could see it again last night, fumbling around playing the puck behind the net and nearly creating a couple of turnovers out of what should have been solid possession.
The Hurricanes don’t have too much time to dwell on this lackluster performance. They are back in action tomorrow against the surging, but still bottom dwelling, Arizona Coyotes. Professional reputations are still at stake, so there’s nowhere to go but up after allowing a seven-spot despite the opposition providing little more than token pressure, right?