All good things must come to an end, and just like that, another Carolina Hurricanes winning streak is ended. But at least the point streak is still active.
The Hurricanes have two games remaining on the six-game, West Coast + Philly road trip and have gotten at least a point in each of their last five games now.
While the Canes have been the first to admit that they haven’t been playing their best for a little bit now, they are playing good enough to keep collecting points.
So, about last night:
Swimming with the Sharks
Like I said, the Hurricanes were playing good enough hockey to steal wins, but not good enough to dominate the pace of play and, because of that, they were due for a loss sooner or later.
The Canes came into the SAP Center on a four-game winning streak and a perfect three-for-three road trip, but despite being the better team, they got dragged into San Jose’s game pretty fast.
To credit the Sharks, they had a game plan and they stuck with it. They raised the physicality from the get go and just dug in on with a huge commitment to shot blocking.
A ton of Carolina’s offensive generation comes from shots from the blueline and then creating chaos in front of the net, but when those shots don’t get through, it becomes an issue for the Canes.
San Jose blocked 23 shots last night which threw a huge wrench in the Canes’ offense.
“We knew that coming in,” said Rod Brind’Amour on San Jose’s shot blocking. “That’s kind of how they play. Some nights you’re going to have that. Some nights those are going to go through, and you’ll be all alone at the net. We had a few of those too. You’ve got to take what they give you, and we did. We just didn’t capitalize.”
Some shots did manage to make it through, like Tony DeAngelo’s second-try blast for his 4th goal and 16th point of the season, but not at the volume that the Hurricanes needed.
If at first you don't succeed... pic.twitter.com/SEfWgXxZKn— Carolina Hurricanes (@Canes) November 23, 2021
But despite outchancing and outpossessing the Sharks, the final shot counter favored San Jose, 27-23, thanks in large part to their persistent shot blocking. But even further than that, the real teller of this game was the drastic difference in high-danger chances which the Sharks also led, 12-3 (NaturalStatTrick.com).
One last little surprising tidbit is that the Canes — who were third overall in faceoff win percentage going into last nights game, now down to sixth — did not do well at the faceoff dot, winning just 41% of draws. That’s back-to-back games where they’ve had trouble at the dot (40% win rate against LA).
Raanta Settling In
If coming into the season, you had your fair share of concerns about the new goaltending tandem for the Hurricanes, you were not alone.
But now it really does seem like Carolina made the right decisions.
Frederik Andersen has looked amazing, and his partner Antti Raanta, despite only three starts, has looked pretty good.
“I’m just starting to feel more comfortable in there,” Raanta said after the game. “We kind of knew what it was going to be today. There was going to be a lot of shots from the point, a lot of screens. For me, I just know that if I can control my rebounds and makes saves we’re gonna be successful... It’s getting better. I feel good. I feel confident. It’s fun to play.”
He’s had a bit of bad luck in terms of the team in front of him for his last two outings, a 4-2 win over Vegas and now a 2-1 OT loss to the Sharks, due to the amount of high-danger chances the Canes are giving up.
Between Timo Meier and Logan Couture, that's got to be a pair of frustrated customers for the Sharks.— Walt Ruff (@WaltRuff) November 23, 2021
With just seconds to go in the period, a pretty dangerous shot from the slot is stopped by Raanta and then he gets the rebound for good measure. He has been awesome through 40. pic.twitter.com/shxAb37sTr
But he is stepping up to the plate and making the saves look routine.
That should give the Hurricanes a lot of confidence going forward that Andersen won’t have to do it all and that Raanta should be able to carry some of that burden.
“Obviously every goalie wants to play and every goalie wants to get in that rhythm,” Raanta said about starting to get more games now. “But when Freddie [Andersen] is playing like he’s playing and when the schedule is giving us the chance, obviously you have to go with the hottest goalie in the league. Whenever I get the chance, I just want to get out there and give the team a chance to win. I put in the work in practice and get that confidence and good feeling from there. Obviously the last couple games I’ve been better. I’ve been close to what I can do, but I still feel like I can be a little bit sharper in some moments. It’s getting better.”
Another nice sequence from Raanta, who is really starting to string them together now.— Walt Ruff (@WaltRuff) November 23, 2021
First he shuffles away Logan Couture, then a few moments later he swallowed a point shot that he was able to track through a good amount of traffic. pic.twitter.com/vRwHUbfqgX
When the game seemed to be getting away from the Canes, Raanta kept them in it and that’s kind of the way he’s had to play in his limited starts. He’s making himself big, challenging shooters and doing a great job of battling through chances.
If not for Raanta, the Canes would be leaving San Jose with no points rather than one.
Nice job by Raanta to keep the pad down, once again shutting out Timo Meier.— Walt Ruff (@WaltRuff) November 23, 2021
Still single digit tests for the #Canes netminder thus far tonight, but he's had to be really good on a few of them. pic.twitter.com/IEpUK9905j
The power play has been a bit stagnant for the Hurricanes in the month of November with just four goals for — and one against — in 26 attempts.
It’s been decent with some good looks here and there, but for the most part, it’s very inconsistent.
You get the slam dunk plays where a cross-ice feed is one timed into a yawning cage or a lucky rebound right to the net-front guy, but the power play as a whole can also look like a complete disaster at times.
There’s a lot of talent between the two units, so it should be expected to be able to score at a higher clip, but we haven’t seen a dominant unit yet this season.
In today’s NHL and especially when it gets to playoff time, a dangerous power play is the most potent tool a team can employ and the Canes still need work in that department to make sure they are going to be as good of a team as they can be.
Like, it isn’t bad because they are still eighth in the league with a 22.4% success rate, but that was inflated from the start of the season.
It shouldn’t necessarily be about changing personnel on the ice, but just some minor adjustments, so whether that involves the current staff designing more plans to generate lanes and get goaltenders moving or bringing in a power play specialist, just get some fresh ideas on the table.
Because it just feels like there needs to be a little more emphasis put on the man advantage right now.
But on the other hand of the special teams equation, Rod Brind’Amour’s penalty kill is still really damn good, allowing just four goals on 31 shorthanded opportunities.
The Canes take the fourth most penalties per 60 in the entire league (4.27), so if it wasn’t good, Carolina would be much, much worse off.
Goaltending is a big part of the penalty kill too and all three netminders who have seen action have done a tremendous job in those situations too.