Okay, we’re going to skip the lengthy intro.
Tone-Setting First Period
The opening period just about summed up what has been going wrong for the Hurricanes as of late.
In the first 20 minutes, Carolina outshot Ottawa 20-3, had ten high-danger shot attempts, and benefited from two power plays. And they got outscored 1-0.
Around the 2:30 mark, Seth Jarvis centered a beautiful pass to Jesper Fast, who got shut down by former Hurricane Anton Forsberg on a golden opportunity. The puck instantly went the other way, Alex Formenton beat Brendan Smith to a scoring area, and he managed to get a shot by what seemed to be a well-positioned Antti Raanta.
It would’ve been great to get that save from Raanta, but there’s no denying that Smith got beat, and that was the primary culprit for the goal against.
When a team is in a rut like the Hurricanes are currently in, those first periods can be killers. Heading into that game, the Canes had lost back-to-back games and four of their last five. In those four losses, they had scored just five total goals.
Offense has been the problem. And more specifically, finishing has been the biggest problem. They’ve produced plenty of scoring chances over the last week and a half, but they haven’t converted on the chances.
We’ve all heard that one before, and the first period on Thursday was another one of those periods.
Picking a Bouquet of Oopsie-Daisies
If the first period’s comical levels of disappointment weren’t bad enough, the hockey gods’ sick and twisted sense of humor made things much worse.
Down 1-0 near the halfway point of the third period, while outshooting the Senators 37-15, the Hurricanes finally scored a goal.
On their own net.
Formenton drove the puck to the front of the net, and then Martin Necas came back on the backcheck and somehow kicked the puck from outside of the crease, under Formenton’s body and just inside of the far post.
I mean... wow.
Less than three minutes later, the Hurricanes scored a goal on the correct net. Jaccob Slavin had a nifty keep-in at the blue line during a Canes power play, which led to Sebastian Aho connecting with Teuvo Teravainen on a gorgeous one-timer to cut the Ottawa lead in half.
1:45 later, another great play from a defenseman, this time being Maxime Lajoie, led to the Hurricanes netting another goal and coming back from the brink of embarrassment.
Andrei Svechnikov, who was outstanding all night, got a deserved bounce as Jarvis’ shot rebounded right into the heart of the crease. Svech poked it into the yawning cage, PNC exploded, and it felt like it was going to be one of those great nights where things finally worked out in the end.
Not so fast, my friend.
The Senators used their timeout, and then 19 seconds later, the hilarity continued.
I mean, where do you even begin with this one?
Ian Cole had numerous chances to hold the blue line and then get the puck in deep after he couldn’t keep the zone. Instead, he seemingly couldn’t locate the puck under his body, and the Sens pushed the puck the other way for a 2-on-1.
It would’ve been one thing if it was a great passing play that resulted in the go-ahead goal, but Josh Norris’ initial chance was taken care of by a combination of Cole and Raanta. Cole then dove into Raanta and took the puck with him into the back of the net.
In 19 seconds of in-game time, the vibed shifted completely, and the Hurricanes managed to make a rollercoaster of a night that much wilder.
A night like this would be infinitely easier to swallow had the club not been on this kind of run already. I’m not sure if you could go into the lab and concoct a loss more absurd or disappointing than the one that the Canes got handed on Thursday.
They outshot a 4-15-1 team with a team save percentage of .883 49-20, scored two own-goals, and lost 3-2 on home ice after mounting a quick comeback and giving it away instantly.
“There’s nothing you can do about the finishing,” Rod Brind’Amour said after the loss. “Practice shooting more? That’s not gonna do anything. You’ve got to get those opportunities. If we’re losing these games and getting 20 shots and six scoring chances, I’m like ‘ok, wait. We’ve got a big issue.’ That’s not what’s happening. We’re getting lots of opportunities. We’re getting lots of scoring chances. You can’t change that. There’s just no way around it.”
That’s a sentiment that has been expressed a lot as of late for this Hurricanes team, but when the results are like what they’ve been over the last six games, those words start to ring hollow.
Are things truly as bad as they seem? No. This is the same team that set a franchise record with their start to the season, and every number in the book suggests that the Hurricanes should have won more than just one game in their last six outings.
Those numbers don’t matter, though. The wins are what matter, and this team just isn’t getting them right now. As a result, the Canes have dropped to third in the Metropolitan in points and points percentage.
As great as their start to the season was, I don’t think anyone reasonably expected them to be some kind of NHL record-breaking team all year. That just wasn’t going to happen, but they also aren’t 1-4-1 in six games bad.
It’s important to put this skid into additional context. Half of the team’s blue line is on the COVID list, which has forced guys like Cole and Smith into playing minutes they really shouldn’t be playing. The same goes for the call-ups like Lajoie and Jalen Chatfield. Though, it’s very much worth mentioning that the two new guys have been nothing short of outstanding in their first few games with the big club this season.
This has been a frustrating stretch of games, and hearing the same narrative about this team only adds to it. These losses are infinitely more puzzling when the team thinks they're doing everything right. If there were one or two glaring issues that could be worked on in short order, the losses would still be irritating, but at least then you know what needs to get fixed.
Brind’Amour doesn’t see it that way. He thinks they are doing everything they need to do to win, and quite frankly, it’s hard to blame him for feeling that way. If his team can manage to flip the script here soon, he will be vindicated to an extent. And keep in mind, this is far from the first time the Canes have had this kind of stretch under Brind’Amour’s leadership. They’ve flipped that script time after time, at least in the regular season.
That needs to happen soon, though, because losses like the Hurricanes experienced last night can really weigh you down.