If the Carolina Hurricanes’ streak of missing the playoffs were a student in North Carolina public schools, it would be giving book reports on the Town Creek Indian Mound and going on a field trip to the State Capitol this year.
The streak reached nine straight seasons in appropriate fashion on Saturday night at PNC Arena, with the Hurricanes wrapping up an 0-4 season against the New York Rangers with a 2-1 loss at the hands of Henrik Lundqvist and company. It’s now tied for the second-longest streak in NHL history, trailing the ten seasons that the Florida Panthers (2001-2011) and Edmonton Oilers (2007-2016) went without seeing the postseason.
And as if it was by design, the loss came on jersey giveaway night, where the Hurricanes ran their record to an eye-poppingly bad 1-10 in the past eleven seasons.
It started out decently well for the Hurricanes, who owned possession through the first few shifts of the game, highlighted by Brock McGinn hitting the post for (at least) the tenth time this season just under a minute in. Despite a sag in the middle portion of the period, the Canes came back and nearly scored the opener with under a minute left as Justin Williams was robbed by Lundqvist.
At the other end, Cam Ward came up huge to deny Filip Chytil on a breakaway, the first of two great saves that Chytil will see in his nightmares.
But when the Canes came out for the second period, they left their game in the locker room. Ryan Sproul’s opening goal was a textbook example of blown defensive coverage, with four defenders shaded to one side of the ice. They were incapable of completing even a single pass in the offensive zone, and their carelessness with the puck cost them the second goal as Sebastian Aho fumbled an attempted keep on a power play and Justin Faulk played the resulting two-on-one too tentatively. Kevin Hayes took advantage to double the Rangers’ lead.
Shots in the second were 12-5 for the Hurricanes, although two of the Rangers’ shots went into the net and anyone in the crowd of just under 15,000 would be hard pressed to remember even one of the home team’s chances.
Jeff Skinner spoiled Lundqvist’s shutout bid with 11:53 to go, taking a nice backhand pass from Derek Ryan behind the net to go upstairs. But Lundqvist would allow the Canes to come no closer, stoning Phil Di Giuseppe in the next shift and the rest of the night on his way to a 40-save performance. With the win, Lundqvist has a 28-11-1 record all-time against the Canes, his .700 winning percentage the highest of his career against any Eastern Conference team.
The Canes got a late power play with Ward pulled and 1:15 to go, but despite a bevy of chances they were unable to convert, Skinner somehow missing chance after chance including one that he thought had Lundqvist beat behind his skate.
The Canes, now officially playing out the string for the final three games of the season, start a two-game road swing on Monday with a visit to the Panthers.
They Said It
It’s been a grind for quite a while. Obviously, we were mathematically alive, but realistically not so much. I thought the guys played well last night, played hard, had some detail to our game, but we came off it tonight.
[Was this season more of a grind than others?] I think so. There were more expectations, more realistic expectations and higher expectations.
The Rangers have owned us. If we had an answer, we’d try something different. We tried something different with Wardo’s first start against them. Both teams were on a back to back. We have a hard time scoring against this team, for sure. We have a hard time scoring in general.
I thought in the first we were the most dangerous offensively. In the third we had a lot of volume, but not a lot of quality.
His effort’s been good. Everything’s been real good. That line didn’t have enough detail away from the puck. They gave up two breakaways tonight, gave up the first goal. It was defensively where that line was a little inadequate tonight, so that’s what led to the lines being shook up.
We have some guys being looked at. If we need to, we’ll get some guys from Charlotte.
It’s frustrating that we couldn’t finish. We had chances. Wardo made some big stops. We didn’t give up much, but some of the chances we gave up were pretty good opportunities for them. We had enough, I think, to be able to finish more than one.
Yeah, it’s disappointing. That’s about it. It’s disappointing, but we have three more games. We have to come to the rink and work hard, be pros and do our jobs.
I think it would have been nice to get one on the PP. We had a couple good chances, but the execution wasn’t there. We had enough chances 5-on-5 to be able to get one by. We just weren’t able to get one in. It’s been a problem that’s happened a bunch this year.
Showing up to the rink and playing hockey shouldn’t be hard. This is the NHL, it’s the best league in the world. Anytime you go out there you’re trying to play hard for your teammates and take pride in playing in this league.
I don’t think we played a bad game. I think we made a few mistakes that ended up in the back of our net, and they didn’t make any big mistakes. We found a way to get one but in the end our bigger mistakes cost us.
It’s been frustrating for a few games now. The PP hasn’t been running the way we’d like, whether that’s just being aware and execution or just competing. Obviously a big mistake ended up in our net. Those hurt.
I think we’ve known for a while, especially unofficially. We still have to be ready to work, be a pro, and show up and win games and play well for our fans. I thought we had a solid effort tonight, a few mistakes and we came up short.
It’s part of being a pro. It’s building a team, an organization, a work ethic. No one likes losing. It’s never fun walking out of here with a loss. It’s always better to play hard to play for each other and find ways to win, whether they mean something or not.
- The season series against the Rangers ended up ugly: an 0-4 mark, outscored 19-6 in the season series, a Lundqvist GAA of 1.00 and save percentage of .972. Never mind Tom Dundon; we’ve found who really owns the Hurricanes.
- There wasn’t much anger in the locker room over missing the postseason. It was more a quiet resignation to the inevitable. That’s part of the problem, no? Not so much tonight, because their formal elimination was a fait accompli. But there was no fire, no real “dammit, this is NOT going to end this way” a month ago as the Canes sleepwalked toward the culmination tonight.
- For the record, the Canes would have been out regardless of how tonight’s game ended by virtue of the Devils beating the Islanders. So this was the last stand either way.
- Tonight was the 11th time this season the Canes have fired 40+ shots on the opposing goaltender. They’re 5-5-1 in those games, with one win each in overtime and in a shootout. Put another way, they’ve won just three of 11 times in regulation when taking at least 40 shots this season.
- Not much more to say. The Canes are off tomorrow and fly to Florida in the afternoon.
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.