The Hurricanes will have to wait until at least the 2022-23 season for their first victory in the Evergreen State, as Carolina went into Climate Pledge Arena Wednesday night and fell 2-1 in its first meeting with the Kraken.
Brendan Smith scored the Canes’ lone goal in the opening period, as nothing else Carolina was able to put on Philipp Grubauer was good enough to beat him. The Kraken tied the game in the second period on a questionably earned power play, before winning it late in the third on a Marcus Johansson winner.
I’ll (try to) keep the takeaways short and sweet today, and I’ll start off by wishing everyone in the Canes Country community the happiest of Thanksgivings. Thank you, as always, for reading and engaging in this community, and I hope that everyone can take some time today to appreciate the good things in life.
And now, some thoughts on Wednesday night.
Thankful the end is in sight
Extended road trips in the NHL are hard. Extended west-coast road trips for an east-coast team are even harder.
The Canes started out their six-game road swing in the same fashion they started the season, winning the first three games and hitting that big .500 mark for the road trip in the front half. The Hurricanes certainly didn’t play their best in all those three games, but they got three wins nonetheless.
But then the road trip hit the back half, and the results have shifted. Monday night in San Jose, the Canes couldn’t overcome a middling Sharks team and fell in overtime. Wednesday in Seattle, Carolina couldn’t muster enough good opportunities in a game that it probably didn’t deserve to win.
Road trips are hard, and the Canes haven’t looked their best for the last week now. There’s other things going on as well, with Ethan Bear out with COVID, but this is also as grueling of a stretch as the team is going to play. Carolina has looked relatively flat the last few times out, and it has cost the Canes their first losing streak of the season.
But the end of the road trip is in sight, and that’s a good thing for the Canes. It doesn’t necessarily get easier now, with a quick cross-country turnaround to take on the Philadelphia Flyers Friday afternoon before getting just one home game before hitting the road once again.
“Nah, it’s not ideal, obviously,” said Rod Brind’Amour. “And then we come home and have another afternoon game and then go back on the road. Everyone has tough schedules, but this one is a little crazy. It is what it is. We’ve got to bounce back.”
But hey, at least the Hurricanes will only be in the Central Time Zone instead the Pacific for their trip to Dallas to wrap up the daunting month of November.
Some suspect officiating
Listen, I’m not one to play the ref card often. I think as a general rule, blaming the refs for losses is a cop out.
And Wednesday night in Seattle, the Canes probably didn’t deserve to win the game anyway. But the referees certainly didn’t help.
Seattle’s first goal, the difference in the game if you want to look at it that way, came on the power play, a power play that was far, far, far from earned by the Kraken. Jaccob Slavin, yes Jaccob Slavin, got called for a phantom holding, and well, it simply wasn’t.
“I don’t know how Slavin got a penalty on the one that leads to a goal, too,” Brind’Amour said, in an answer to a question about Andrei Svechnikov’s fight late in the game.
The power play led to a Kraken goal, one that changed the dynamic of the game and, in a one-goal game, was obviously part of the difference.
And now to that Svechnikov fight, which came late in the game and took the bigtime goal threat off the ice. Svechnikov laid a hit on Vince Dunn and then took a high shot back from Dunn (one that honestly could have been called) and then the two duked it out.
The result? Five-minute fighting majors for both, and a two-minute roughing call on Svechnikov. The Kraken didn’t score on the power play, but still, it wasn’t exactly something that helped the Canes any, either.
All that to say the Hurricanes still can’t blame the refs for this one. Carolina wasn’t its best, and the effort is probably well reflected by the final result. But it still feels important to call these things out sometimes.
“I wasn’t very happy with the call on Jaccob,” Smith said. “He doesn’t get many penalties to begin with, and then I think if we break that down that’s probably not a penalty. That changed the outcome. That’s the game of hockey. I guess the hockey gods weren’t in our favor.”
A target on their backs
A final thought, one that was talked about by both Brind’Amour and Smith following the game.
The Canes are an elite NHL team, one that is a Stanley Cup contender in the minds of everybody. And with that talent and profile, Carolina is going to get the very best effort from every single team it plays.
Against the Sharks and Kraken, neither necessarily off to a great start, the Canes couldn’t find the scoring touch, with both of those squads super active in making life difficult for the Hurricanes.
“We get everybody’s best game,” Brind’Amour said. “We haven’t played one game this year where the other team was bad. Not one game. We’re getting their best. That’s a change from years gone by, I can tell you that. We know that. That’s part of it.”
Smith’s thoughts were much more detailed, and were a really good insight into what it’s like to be on that side of the equation.
His comments, in full:
“That’s what’s going to happen. All good teams forever, since I was a little kid, that’s always been what happens. When I was playing with them, it was the Red Wings are coming into town. You had to have your best game or they were going to shell you. We see that now. Teams are blocking shots. These last two games, teams are selling out to make those blocks and they’re competing.
“We’re going to get team’s bests. We want it that way. We want to be prepared all year so that when it comes time for the playoffs, we’re going to be prepared for that. That’s good, that we see the best competition from each team. Like I said earlier, there’s so much parity in the league, and if you’re getting their best on a nightly basis, we’re going to get better. You’re right. I agree with you. I feel like teams are playing well. You know what? That’s great. That’s exciting. We’ll take it.”