Over the weekend the Carolina Hurricanes feasted on Western Conference foes Arizona and Los Angeles, shutting out both. But the feast came to an abrupt end last night as the Washington Capitals shut out the Canes 2-0, flexing their muscles as the top team in the Metro and taking the season series at 2-1-1.
It was a night that featured quite a bit of horrendous officiating but truly, despite so many bad and missed calls, the referees didn’t dictate the outcome. It was the Hurricanes’ lack of desire to win that cost them. Not a single forward showed up ready to play and was painfully obvious as the team barely made Ilya Samsonov sweat.
The Good - Petr Shut The Door
Despite giving up a very soft goal to Alex Ovechkin, Petr Mrazek was undoubtedly the best player for the Hurricanes last night. He shut the door after giving up two goals in the first period and gave his team every chance to get back in to the game. Making save after save, Mrazek did his job only allowing two total goals.
Mrazek has struggled on the road this season but last night was one of his finer games away from PNC Arena this year. While hockey is a results business, there has to be some appreciation for the effort and willingness to dig in by Mrazek when the rest of the team fail to show up to play.
The Bad - Penalties
Seemingly once a week there is a game where everyone looks around and thinks ‘what on earth are these officials doing?’ Last night was one of those games, but on a much higher level. There were nine penalties called throughout the game, including six against the Hurricanes. Nearly half the first period was spent on the penalty kill for the Hurricanes, which is just as much a product of bad plays by Carolina as an inability to just let the game play out by the referees.
To the Hurricanes’ credit, limiting the ever-dangerous Capitals power play to just one goal on six attempts is quite good. The officials were very one-sided in the first period for the Capitals, but then very one-sided for the Hurricanes in the second, calling three penalties against Washington.
Rod Brind'Amour is a *big* fan of the officiating tonight. He gives referee Justin St. Pierre a big thumbs up after the Hurricanes are given another penalty. pic.twitter.com/YbTADxl6ob— Brett Finger (@brett_finger) January 14, 2020
Calling a penalty a penalty is fine. But call things both ways and make things even or don’t call anything at all. Washington tripped Nino Niederreiter in the first period among the slew of calls against Carolina and it wasn’t it called. Then Samsonov played the puck outside the trapezoid during the second period and it wasn’t called.
While it’s unfair to say the referees cost anyone a goal last night, they certainly disrupted the pace of play. At a certain point they need to call things 50/50 throughout the entire game, or just put the whistles away. Last night was another yet another embarrassment for the NHL in regards to officiating, not because it affected the outcome, but because it was so lopsided throughout the game. Chalk it up as the weekly occurrence because at this point, these types of games are just the NHL norm.
Asked Rod Brind’Amour if it was tough to coach a game where it feels like they’re calling everything then nothing— Sara Civ (@SaraCivian) January 14, 2020
“Well that’s the league now, right? It kinda seems that way every night to be honest with you. But the penalties were penalties.”
The Ugly - Ovi Does, What Ovi Does
Alex Ovechkin is one of the greatest hockey scorers of all-time. He surpassed Teemu Selanne for 11th all-time in goals scored last night and is on a path to potentially end up number one. For Ovechkin, playing the Hurricanes is like Christmas morning. He’s almost guaranteed to get a present in the form of a goal(s).
Alex Ovechkin has 93 points (41 goals, 52 assists) in 80 career games against the Canes lol. That's the most points he has against any opponent and 1st in the NHL in points against the Canes— Sara Civ (@SaraCivian) January 13, 2020
It’s amazing that, even after the Hurricanes have finally improved to being a competitive team, they still cannot even come close to stopping Ovechkin. But give number eight his credit: he finds the holes and makes the opposition pay, as he showed last night scoring two very different styles of goals.
On his first goal Jake Gardiner lost a battle in the corner and Ovechkin beat Ryan Dzingel to the slot for a quick wrist shot.
The second goal was a patented Ovechkin power play slot right from his office. This goal is one Mrazek would likely want back as he had a clean look at the shot. Still, you literally know where Ovechkin is going to be at and you still let him get the shot off, so that’s the ultimate problem.
Ovi wanted No. 686 tonight too pic.twitter.com/B4IC5fO1O1— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) January 14, 2020
Joel Edmundson has to get out and disrupt the play; instead, he tries to stay clear and let Mrazek get a clean look, which cost the Hurricanes a goal.
After years of getting dismantled by Ovechkin, one would think the Hurricanes would learn how to stop, or at least limit, his production. Yet here we are. Ovechkin once again put the Capitals on his back and the Hurricanes once again laid down and let it happen. Until the Canes learn how to limit Ovechkin, they will never be able to consistently compete with the Capitals.
The winning streak including the playoffs was nice, but the past two games against Washington has shown the Hurricanes are still not a better regular season team than the Capitals.
Moral of the Story
Thank goodness Petr Mrazek showed up for the final 40 minutes last night. Had he not, the game would have been very ugly. Washington dominated the game from the start and the Hurricanes had comparatively little interest in making it competitive. Maybe it was fatigue from playing three games in four nights, or maybe it’s just the kryptonite that is the Metro division. Whatever the case, Carolina continues to fail at winning within its division and every time they get something good going, they ruin it with games like this one.
It truly is feast or famine with the Hurricanes right now. They can dominate like they did over the weekend, and then they can completely flat-line like they did last night. They have yet to go on a very long point streak this season because they continuously find themselves not showing up for a game about once a week. The last game was against Tampa and before that it was the Rangers and Toronto matches.
Right now the Canes are barely holding on to a wild card spot with many teams playing much more consistent hockey than them. Justin Williams will likely enter the lineup over the weekend, but expecting him to be a savior is a tough ask. His leadership will be welcomed, but whatever he brings, it will be a long second half if the Canes don’t find a way to avoid completely blanking the bed once a week.
- The Capitals continued making news this morning as they announced a contract extension for Nicklas Backstrom.
- Brad Marchand tried a whole new kind of penalty shot in Philly on Monday.
Bruins lose after Brad Marchand has the worst shootout try in the history of the sport pic.twitter.com/x9IVt4eDgG— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) January 14, 2020
- In Pierre LeBrun’s trade rumblings, the Canes are mentioned as a possible landing spot for Alec Martinez, should the Kings decide to deal the veteran defenseman. [The Athletic, $]
- Kris Letang was named the Captain for the Metropolitan Division All-Stars. [NHL]
- The Toronto Maple Leafs suffered a major injury setback as Morgan Rielly is slated to miss significant time. [TSN]
- John Forslund is set to be named Co-Sportscaster of the Year in North Carolina alongside radio host David Glenn. [National Sports Media]
- Teuvo Teravainen goes in on his Swedish karaoke go-to’s and his teammate he would most like to road trip with. [NHLPA]
- Our colleagues over at Raw Charge (Lightning) put together some interesting stuff regarding some goalie stats that should help us understand and use them better moving forward. [Raw Charge]