Saturday night’s ugly 6-0 drubbing has pushed Carolina to the brink of elimination. Coach Rod Brind’Amour aptly summarized his team’s performance in his postgame press conference, “We were bad from start to finish, really. It’s tough to pick out a guy that I thought had a good game.”
Rather than reliving one of the half dozen goals against, let’s take a look at a few of the missed opportunities on two of the five failed Hurricanes’ power plays. Down by just a goal, the Canes took the ice on the man advantage after Evgeny Kuznetsov high-sticking and John Carlson goaltender interference minors, respectively. The ensuing power plays encapsulated the Hurricanes’ evening.
The Hurricanes win the draw, but an errant Jaccob Slavin pass and lackadaisical puck pursuit immediately sees the puck cleared. On the regroup, Slavin dishes the puck to Lucas Wallmark, this time it’s on his tape.
With no good options, Wallmark dumps it in. Unfortunately, it’s not a very intelligent dump. Instead of rimming around to an oncoming forechecker, the puck ricochets right to Braden Holtby. With no forechecker able to pressure the puck, the Caps get another clear. On the way back to retrieve the puck, Slavin moves towards Petr Mrazek’s left, but not with the hustle needed to be an option. Pressured by Tom Wilson and not wanting to risk it, Mrazek covers for a whistle.
After a line change and the ensuing faceoff, the Canes are able to enter the offensive zone in the form of Nino Niederreiter. Covered well, Niederreiter forces a weak wrister towards Holtby that trickles behind the cage. Despite having the man advantage, the Hurricanes are inexplicably outnumbered three to one on the loose puck behind the net.
That’s not a systems or personnel issue; it’s a matter of will. Too often on Saturday the Hurricanes did not appear ready to match Washington’s compete level.
Some credit must be given to the Caps’ penalty killers though. They took away Carolina’s time and space all over the ice, especially on zone entries.
They also were unafraid to continue the nastiness that has been ever present in this series, as showcased here by Brooks Orpik.
Orpik gets away with a dangerous trip, knowing it would likely take a murder for the officials to hand either team a five on three in a one-goal playoff game.
The Canes would receive five power plays in total, all with similar results. While credit can be given to the Capitals’ killers, the Hurricanes man advantage will need to be far more engaged, in addition to executing better, if they hope to stave off elimination on Monday night.