The Carolina Hurricanes have dropped three straight games, all to division rivals and twice on home ice. Despite carrying play for large portions of the games and generally winning the possession and shots battle, the Canes have been loose with the puck. It’s a troubling trend, especially when it seems that every mistake made is winding up in the back of the net.
Against New Jersey, Brock McGinn wins the puck, but instead of reversing the play or using his feet to skate out of trouble, he blindly fires it up the wall. The puck stays in and McGinn’s second chance to clear is stymied by the eventual goal scorer Miles Wood.
Joel Edmundson chips the puck out to the point where it is held in by Will Butcher. Edmundson then continues his path towards the point. With centerman Lucas Wallmark already rotated up top, Edmundson’s decision leaves two wingers below the dots cover New Jersey’s forecheckers. Butcher wisely uses an intentionally wide shot to generate a bounce back in front. McGinn and Trevor van Riemsdyk are both caught puck watching, leaving two Devils all alone on the top of the crease for the finish.
Then in the first minute of the second, Sebastian Aho tries to corral an Andrei Svechnikov pass with one hand. Devils’ captain Andy Greene breaks the play up and the 37-year-old wins the loose puck battle with Aho. It springs former first overall pick Nico Hischier, who proceeds to put Jaccob Slavin in the spin cycle before beating James Reimer glove-side high.
The Devils’ game-winner came courtesy of a tenacious forecheck by Miles Wood and a few lapses in judgement by Carolina defenders. James Reimer comes out to play the puck in the trapezoid, but under duress turns it over. We don’t know if Dougie Hamilton was calling for the puck on the other side, but if Reimer had used his backhand to find Hamilton the Hurricanes likely have a clean exit out of their own end. Instead, Wood skates to the point and Slavin follows. At the same time P.K. Subban slides down the wall and towards the net. Sebastian Aho gets caught puck watching and Subban has a clear path to the crease and nets a beautiful deflection.
In Philadelphia, Carolina again conceded a goal early in a period. Just over a minute into the third, the Canes attempt to break out. Warren Foegele fires a risky pass looking for Svechnikov. The pass is too hot for Svechnikov to handle with Sean Couturier bearing down on him. Off the quick turnover, the Hurricanes fail to get sorted out in front, leaving Travis Konecny all alone for the easy finish.
Ten minutes later, another turnover, this time at the defensive blue line, winds up in Carolina’s net. With a rolling puck, Aho chooses to slap at it rather than control it. Unfortunately, it ricochets off of Jake Gardiner’s shin pad allowing Philly to attack with speed. Again the Hurricane defenders are in decent position, but fail to find a man or tie up sticks.
Against the Rangers, the backbreaker again came just over a minute into the third. Under pressure, Gardiner attempts to settle a rolling puck, but is stripped by Pavel Buchnevich. Both Aho and Gardiner then attempt to pick up the trailer instead of pursuing Buchnevich. With Brett Pesce tracking Filip Chytil to the back door, Buchnevich is able to come cross crease with a net drive. The 20 year-old Chytil then outmuscles Pesce for inside position and wins the battle to earn a tap in.
Turnovers are an inescapable part of hockey. Often they can be the result of poor puck luck, but the Hurricanes have done a poor job recovering after turnovers. Too often opponents are left in high danger areas unmarked and it’s leading to scoring chances that are winding up in the back of the net.
The good news is, it should be an easy fix. If the Canes are just a little stronger and more decisive on pucks there will be fewer turnovers. And if they can find the composure to recognize proper defensive responsibilities after the turnovers that do occur, they should be able to clean up the mistakes. They’ll have their first chance to snap the losing streak tonight in Ottawa.