In a complete reversal of their previous game, the Carolina Hurricanes ended on the wrong side of a 3-0 shutout last night against the Columbus Blue Jackets. This was a game that made you feel like you were watching the Hurricanes from early in the season — not the Hurricanes that have been dominant in 2019.
Sloppy play, bad puck luck, a slow start, and an inability to score goals despite controlling play for most of the game cost the Canes two extremely vital points in the standings. Last night was not the Hurricanes team we have become accustomed to watching and is on the doorstep of their first playoff berth in nearly a decade. Instead, this was the Hurricanes team that is accustomed to playing golf in April.
The Good - Nothing, Really
If this game was in October or November then maybe you take away the consolation that the Canes were the much better team for the last 40 minutes. But this game is in mid-March against a team you desperately need to beat. There are no consolation points and there are no reasons to accept the type of result that was reflected on the scoreboard last night.
Was Sergei Bobrovksy on his A-game last night? Absolutely. But you simply cannot accept that as an excuse at this stage of the season. You have to find ways to score and the Canes failed to do so last night.
The Bad - Slow Start
In the first six minutes of the game the Canes gave up two goals that gave Columbus all the padding they needed. After coming off a three day rest period the Canes came out flat. The first period was controlled by Columbus who was faster and sharper with the puck than Carolina.
This was a period where you needed your goaltender to keep you in the game and unfortunately for as hot as Petr Mrazek has been he allowed two goals in the first period that he would likely want back.
This first one was off an easy shot from Adam McQuaid just over three minutes in to the game.
McQuaid's first in the union blue! pic.twitter.com/O5YRtpgCLI— Columbus Blue Jackets (@BlueJacketsNHL) March 15, 2019
The key to this goal was the one thing Carolina struggled to do all night, which is getting traffic in front of the goalie. A good screen allowed the shot to get through but this is a goal that Mrazek has been stopping as of late. When you watch Mrazek play he is always fighting to see through traffic but on this goal he wasn’t able to do so.
The Blue Jackets’ second goal was much of the same as David Savard launched yet another easy shot on goal that found its way past Mrazek.
.@dsavy58's fifth goal of the season! pic.twitter.com/FfC2JTi9WH— Columbus Blue Jackets (@BlueJacketsNHL) March 15, 2019
As with the first goal Mrazek would likely like this one back. Both goals are ones you hope your goaltender finds a way to stop when your team in struggling to get going and it just didn’t happen last night.
This in no way is saying this loss in on Mrazek because it isn’t. He shut the door from there forward and gave his team a chance to get back in to it. The team failed to clear the traffic in front of him and you cannot expect your goalie to be lights out perfect like he was on Monday night game in and game out.
The entire team came out flat in the first period and it cost them the game in the end.
The Ugly - Who You Lost To
Once again congrats to Sergei Bobrovsky because he earned the victory for his team. But this loss goes on the Canes more than Bobrovsky in my book. You have to find a way to beat the teams you are fighting against in the standings. To be the best you have to beat the best, right? Well...to get into the playoffs, you have to beat the other teams trying to get into the playoffs.
For as grueling as this last stretch of hockey has been for the Hurricanes, this final stretch to end the season is what will determine everything.
They have every opportunity to control their own destiny over this stretch with their games against every team they are fighting against (minus the Islanders). You have to find ways to win these games and last night they failed. If they put that exact effort out against Pittsburgh, Montreal, Washington, and Philadelphia — who make up seven of their last twelve games — there will be no playoffs in Raleigh.
The Hurricanes find themselves with a golden opportunity to control their own fate playing against all of these teams. They also have games in hand over almost all of them. But none of that matters if they flat line and don’t show up to play hockey like they have done the past two Friday’s.
Moral of the Story
After getting embarrassed by Winnipeg a week ago, captain Justin Williams said the team had to find a way to respond heading in to the second half of a back to back. They did just that by taking down Nashville decidedly. A week later the Hurricanes have to find a way to do it again, this time against Buffalo.
The team should be embarrassed about their loss last night based simply on what the game meant for the standings. With their games in hand and opportunities to play teams ahead of them last night can be just ‘one of those nights.’ But that requires an immediate answer by the Hurricanes tonight.
There will be many eyes on a game in Charlotte tonight by fans in the Triangle. But there’s a much more important sporting event taking place in Raleigh this evening. Your boys in blue will be back there next year just like they are every year, but your boys in red and black may not. So go support the guys on the ice, because they need the help more than the guys on the court.