With their 2-1 loss at the hands of the New York Rangers last night, the Carolina Hurricanes remain just outside the playoff line. Over their past three games some ugly habits from months past have started to rear their heads again and this time it cost them. Yes, Henrik Lundqvist was dominant in goal, but sloppy play in the offensive zone, an inability to find the back of the net, and far too many penalties cost the Canes two big points.
The Good - Marty & Dougie
It was a night filled with much disappointment as the Hurricanes had another opportunity to jump in to a playoff spot and they squandered it. There were few good things to take away from this game as the Canes got dominated by an opposing goaltender. That being said Jordan Martinook, who scored the Canes’ only goal along with Dougie Hamilton continued to shine.
Martinook has been a newer version of Chad LaRose for the Hurricanes and he continues to find the back of the net. There’s likely few people who would have guessed that Martinook would score already have scored 12 goals including a hat trick and become a fan favorite when he was acquired last summer, but here we are. His goal last night was setup by a great pass from Dougie Hamilton who has really found his way as of late. Hamilton’s vision and hockey senses are a thing of beauty in the offensive zone. His season did not start great but he has been on fire since the calendar flipped to 2019.
Pretty passing, pretty goal pic.twitter.com/5c1D22hHAJ— Carolina Hurricanes (@NHLCanes) February 20, 2019
So while the rest of the game was less than pretty, props to these two guys for connecting of a great play and getting at least one goal past Lundqvist last night.
The Bad - Penalty Trouble
Part of the Hurricanes’ foundation is built on avoiding bad penalties. That foundation left the building last night as they took four penalties, three of which were in the third period. When you are in a tied game going in to the third period the one thing you absolutely cannot do is take dumb penalties. Lucas Wallmark was called for holding at 2:49 and then Brock McGinn tripped Tony DeAngelo on the ensuing penalty kill. It was a dumbfounding move by McGinn that really put the Canes at a disadvantage.
While the Rangers did not technically score on any power play chance, their second goal of the game was essentially a power play strike. McGinn had just stepped out of the box and had not had a chance to rejoin the play in the Hurricanes end. That goal would be all the Rangers would need thanks to Henrik Lundqvist.
As if the Wallmark and McGinn penalties weren’t bad enough, Justin Faulk was caught breaking the rules twice during the game. His second penalty came with just under nine minutes left to go in the third during a time where Carolina needed to be on the attack.
It’s hard to justify why Faulk is still being given so much leeway for his egregious mistakes in both the offensive and defensive zone that have become normal. He is still playing on the top power play unit and still logging tons of minutes. Faulk has been a constant thorn in the Hurricanes side despite actually playing better this season, but it is time for something to give with his role. His penalties last night were unnecessary and serve to show that if there is a right shot defenseman that should be traded first, it’s him.
The Ugly - Scoring Woes Are Back
Over their last three games the Hurricanes have struggled to score. Yes, they scored three goals in each game over the weekend, but there were large gaps in the middle of each game where the team was unable to generate any offense at all. This all came to a head last night when Lundqvist shut them down.
The team still lacks firepower outside of the Sebastian Aho line and desperately needs consistent scoring depth in the bottom six. They managed to sneak by the Oilers and Stars but they cannot rely on their goaltenders to make a ton of ridiculous saves every game. The offense has to get back going and find ways to be consistent.
Give Lundqvist credit, he played a great game including a fantastic save on Justin Williams near the end. He is now 21-4-0 in his last 25 games against Carolina which says something about his play.
But the Rangers are a low level team that is about to sell off their stars at the deadline and losing to them at home, given the desperate need for point, is borderline unacceptable no matter how hot Lundqvist is. If Carolina cannot get their scoring issues back on track it could easily turn ugly when they go up against teams like Washington, Tampa, Pittsburgh, etc down the stretch.
Moral of the Story
Last night was a game the Hurricanes could have and should have won. Sloppy play combined with penalty trouble and offensive woes haunted the Canes all night. Henrik Lundqvist played great but the Canes needed to find a way to beat him and they could not.
They will now go on a two game road trip where it seems very likely Jordan Staal may return to the lineup. Staal’s addition could be huge for the team as they have struggled with face offs lately, but Rod Brind’Amour has to be careful to not mess up the chemistry the Canes have formed without Staal by over slotting him. Every game must be treated like a playoff game at this point, with more heart, more determination, and more effort given every game. If that doesn’t happen and we get more performances like last night, the Canes will be on the outside looking in come April.