The Carolina Hurricanes have now lost four out of their last five games. There are always conversations around the good teams not letting a slide turn into a lengthy losing streak, but away from a win against a terrible Philadelphia Flyers team, that’s exactly where they would be.
Heading into the game we knew there were going to be issues with the defense after Tony DeAngelo and Brett Pesce were added to COVID protocol. They joined Ethan Bear who is only eligible to return Thursday. This forced the team to get creative with their pairings.
New Guys Settle In
The defensive group still played well in the game, even to the point where the Canes felt good enough to play Maxim Lajoie and Jalen Chatfield together in the third period. Between the two they were a combined -1 rating and were on the ice for fewer goals against than Jaccob Slavin and Ian Cole, who worked as the top pairing on the night.
Granted they played in sheltered positions. Lajoie and Chatfield had the highest possession on the team with an 81% and 80% Corsi, respectively. That translated to a team-high 17.75 relative Corsi for Chatfield and a second-place 13.33 relative Corsi for Lajoie. They both registered expected goals for percentages that are over 90%, Jaccob Slavin had a 70.23%. The defense was not the issue that caused the Canes to lose.
Experience Canes Hockey
Despite outshooting the Dallas Stars by a total of 40 to 17 and out-chancing the stars 37-13, the Canes couldn’t convert the chances they had or get the bounces to cover up for their mistakes.
Someone should have told the Carolina Hurricanes forwards that they were not the depleted group. Heading into the game there was only going to be one way to win, have the best players step up and take over the game, and nothing farther from that could have happened.
The top six looked like a typical bottom six with nothing looking crisp. Despite the obvious talent on the team, they could not complete a play. Everything was just a little off. When they had the right people in the right space, a bounce went the wrong way or they just couldn’t finish.
This could be the fact that the lines haven’t really looked right since the Kraken game that saw an ominous return of first-line Jordan Martinook. The top six is constantly getting shuffled around and we haven’t seen a top line that has worked like the Teuvo Teravainen, Sebastian Aho, Andrei Svechikov OR Seth Jarvis, Aho, Svechnikov. Overall, the top six play left a lot to be desired
Fourth Line Shines
Since moving Jesperi Kotkaniemi to the fourth line, that unit has been the best line for the Canes. Last night it produced the only goal and was consistently the only line that was creating solid chances. Steven Lorentz was bumped to the third line after two great periods, and Kotkaniemi continues to be a great playmaker on the bottom line.
Kotkaniemi’s play has been a great development for the Canes. The young forward now has six goals on the year. Outside of a garbage-time scoring chance in the last minute of the game, the second line, and more importantly Vincent Trocheck, has looked invisible during these last five games. There could be a real question to see if Kotkaniemi gets a tryout in the top six.
Yes, this would mean a Trocheck demotion or a scratch, but even a night of it might not be the worst option. Trocheck has been eight games without a point, while Kotkaniemi on the fourth line currently has four points in his last three games.
This is not a typical circumstance. Trocheck is still a very talented player, but the Canes have an embarrassment of riches at the center position this year, it provides an interesting option for them to try in shuffling their lines.
Power Play Woes Continue
In the past five games, the Carolina Hurricanes are 0-14 with the man advantage and didn’t look close to converting on a power play Tuesday night. In fact, the Canes gave up more chances on their power plays than they were able to generate.
The Canes have had to shuffle units up without Tony DeAngelo, which led to a five-forward first unit. The unit was quarterbacked by Teuvo Teravainen and struggled early. In their first attempt, they let up two shots against with multiple odd-man rushes and had zero attempts. The second unit didn’t fare much better with a 0% Corsi, letting up one shot and having zero shot attempts.
Overall, the team let up three scoring attempts with the man advantage and only generated two. Let’s remember at even strength they out-chanced the Stars 37-17, but had a negative rate with the man advantage. They were WORSE up a man than they were at even strength.
The Hurricane's two upcoming games are just what the doctor ordered. They have the Ottawa Senators on Thursday and the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday. They are two of the bottom three teams in the league and the get-right games are right when the Canes need them.
The Canes will also hope to get Ethan Bear back before the Senators game, which would allow them to ice their top pairing again for the first time since this rough patch started. A couple of wins before another road trip will go a long way in restoring confidence to this forward group that desperately needs to find some goals.