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About Last Night: Just Plain Bad

(annoyed grunt)

NHL: Nashville Predators at Carolina Hurricanes James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

For the Carolina Hurricanes, everything about last night’s 3-0 loss to the Nashville Predators was just plain bad. The Canes were outworked all night and seemed to lack any sense of urgency. Nashville was able to capitalize on their chances and earned their first victory against Carolina since the 2015-16 season while handing the Hurricanes their first shutout of the year.

The Good

Thank you, next.

The Bad - Where’s the scoring?

Andrei Svechnikov saw his nine-game point streak come to an end last night despite being the only forward who appeared to be trying. After his slow start Sebastian Aho has come to life as of late and Teuvo Teravainen has been consistent as always. The problem for the Hurricanes is outside of those three, no other forward has been able to find any consistent production.

Martin Necas and Ryan Dzingel have provided scoring here and there, and Erik Haula was a goal producing machine before his injury. But as it stands the Hurricanes only have one dangerous line and three non-producing lines.

Nino Niederreiter has been one of the worst forwards for the Hurricanes so far producing just three goals and ten points. Sitting at a minus-six, Niederreiter is showing everyone the player Minnesota was desperate to get rid of. Despite his great spring with the Canes helping the team get to the playoffs, Niederreiter is now more of a liability than an asset.

Players such as Jordan Martinook, Brock McGinn, and Warren Foegele are not expected to score a lot but the Hurricanes need more than they are getting from them. Martinook has yet to score a goal this year and McGinn has just six points. Foegele has the heart of a warrior and seems to find a way to elevate his game when placed in the top six, but then he goes dry for long periods of time.

Then there’s Jordan Staal, whose play in the offensive zone has been extremely sub-optimal. Staal has just seven points on the season, fewer than stay-at-home defenseman Joel Edmundson. Nobody expects Staal to score 70 points, but his offensive production is hindering the Hurricanes - especially with Haula out - because Staal is playing like a $6 million dollar 4th line and penalty killing center.

Simply put, the Hurricanes cannot keep relying on Aho, Teravainen, and Svechnikov to score every game. The depth scoring and existence of a true second line must come to life as the team enters in to a very difficult stretch in December.

The Ugly - It’s Time To Sit Jake Gardiner

For the last few weeks Trevor van Riemsdyk and Haydn Fleury have been rotating in and out of the lineup generally being paired on the third pairing with Jake Gardiner. Fleury is playing the best hockey of his young career and TVR is a steady defenseman who rarely makes mistakes. Combine those with the fact that Gardiner has been the worst player on the Hurricanes by a long shot this season and it’s time to accept that fact that Rod Brind’Amour needs to bench Gardiner.

Brought in to help improve an ailing power play and to replace the offensive production of Justin Faulk, Gardiner has scored just one goal, sits at a team worst minus-17, and was on the ice for two of the Predators goals last night.

The first goal was directly caused by a Gardiner turnover in the offensive zone that led to a breakaway for the Predators. Notice how after he turns the puck over he also doesn’t hustle back to try and break up the play. Gardiner leaves Teravainen alone to try and get back and Rocco Grimaldi was able to get the puck past Petr Mrazek.

The second Predators goal was a result of a breakdown by the forwards but Gardiner fails to block a shot when he had a chance to. Haydn Fleury had broken his stick and none of the three forwards would give him their stick. Combine that with Martin Necas running into Lucas Wallmark and that equates to a golden opportunity for Calle Jarnkrok. You would like to see Gardiner get out and attack the shot instead here trying to block it instead of just standing there and flinching at the potential shot coming towards him.

Adjusting to a new team is always hard and maybe Gardiner has some other reasons why his place has been so egregious. For example, we didn’t know why Dougie Hamilton was struggling so much early last season until it came out months later that his hand was injured. Whatever the reason for Gardiner’s play, it’s time for Brind’Amour to make the tough decision and take Gardiner off the ice in favor of two defensemen who are playing better hockey and are less of a liability.

Moral of the Story

To quote former captain Justin Williams, the Hurricanes need to “eat a poop sandwich” after last night. The month of November was supposed to be the easy month for the Canes. They had thirteen straight games against teams who missed the playoffs last year and with one game remaining in the month they sit at just 7-7-0 which just outright not acceptable. This team was supposed to compete for the Metro Division title and with a tough December schedule awaiting, it’s easy to see how the Hurricanes could be sitting outside the playoff cut line come 2020.

Tonight is a very critical game for the Canes and it presents them with a chance to at least finish the month above .500 and going in to December on a positive note. The team captain needs to elevate his game and the coaching staff needs to make some tough decisions with the defensive lineup. If they can do that, and the secondary scoring can find the back of the net here and there, the team can still climb up the standings. If they do not, and changes are not made, the type of lackluster performance we saw last night could become far too familiar going forward.