After winning eight straight, the Canes have now lost two in a row and have only scored two goals in each of their last three contests.
Here are a few takeaways from last night’s game:
Taking a Breath
It’s an age old Rod Brind’Amour mantra.
“We took a breath.”
Typically said when the Canes lose a really tight game usually based off a slight breakdown in coverage, long shift or turnover.
He didn’t say it last night after the team’s 3-2 overtime loss because honestly, that wasn’t the type of game it was.
It didn’t feel like the Hurricanes let it slip away as much as they just couldn’t catch the bounces at the end.
But in a way, the loss does almost feel like the old mantra. That the team just took breaths at the wrong moments.
Jordan Staal couldn’t control an over-sauced pass at the exact same time that Dougie Hamilton pinched into the offensive zone. Columbus came the other way on a 3-on-2 and Jaccob Slavin lost his guy who just so happened to be the one that got a stick on the rebound.
And after taking the lead in the second a late penalty bit them. The Canes did manage to technically kill it, but the tired killers never made it off the ice. Brady Skjei moved his stick out of the passing lane and nobody picked up the far-side attacker as Max Domi managed to slide a backhand pass cross-ice for the one-time finish.
And finally as the Canes were dominating overtime, a shot off the Jackets’ netminder led to a change in possession and Warren Foegele over-committed towards the puck carrier and allowed a 2-on-1 to spring out which Columbus won off of.
It didn’t quite feel like a game that imploded due to taking a breath, but man can we see those breaths taking their toll.
But the NHL is a game of mistakes, meaning that the team that capitalizes on their opponents shortcomings more usually is the one that walks away with the two points.
The Canes had chances of their own to end it earlier, but a diving paddle save on Foegele in the second and a pair of timely overtime saves by Joonas Korpisalo were the difference makers. Simple as that.
Production from the Top
Sebastian Aho collected both of the goals last night and each of his linemates, Nino Niederreiter and Martin Necas, collected a single assist. Hamilton grabbed a point on the power play to extend his point-streak to 10 games, one shy of matching the franchise record for longest point-streak by a defensemen.
Sebastian Aho. Snipe. Back of the net. Tie hockey game in the second period. pic.twitter.com/515MCVs2Zf— Canes Country (@CanesCountry) March 19, 2021
Sebastian Aho went ahead and just did it again. Martin Necas with the feed. Hurricanes strike on the power play to take a 2-1 lead. pic.twitter.com/kYDRHa3pa7— Canes Country (@CanesCountry) March 19, 2021
However, getting production from only a single line isn’t ideal. In both of the Hurricanes’ latest losses, the only goals have come from the top line players, even on the power play.
That’s not to say it’s a problem yet, but this can’t be a pattern that continues.
Granted, the losses that the Canes have sustained — that being Teuvo Teravainen and Vincent Trocheck — are massive losses. The team has managed to sustain the blow of Teravainen for a majority of the season, but losing that second-line center in Trocheck has really stressed the depth of the roster.
Brind’Amour has been forced to run two of what have been essentially his energy/fourth lines and while these guys create sustained pressure and have been positive in terms of chances and Corsi, they aren’t finishers and most of what you get from them is a bonus.
This leaves two lines for the Hurricanes to lean on.
The Aho line, which essentially slides him into Trocheck’s spot with Niederreiter and Necas, and has been great.
And the Staal line with Andrei Svechnikov and Jesper Fast is a feast or famine line. Sometimes that line seems to be working great or at least working well enough, like last night, where they generated chances and looks, but the sync was just off with many chances seeming to be whiffed or forced.
And other nights, like the 4-2 loss to Detroit, the line just gets shelled and can’t get anything going.
So it seems that some nights, the Canes are just a one-line team. The others get their looks, but if only one line can put the puck into the net, then that’s a problem and one that can seemingly only be solved by waiting and hoping for a faster recovery for those key players.
Or they can just keep pumping in power-play goals as the team is still standing astnumber one in the league.
Hard Work and Preparing for the Next Game
This season is a mental slugfest.
All of the players that we’ve heard from comment that the hardest part of this season is not so much the physical toll as it is the mental grind.
The physical side does take its toll — i.e. Trocheck, Teravainen, Gardiner, Mrazek — but getting mentally engaged for a game every other day on top of travel, COVID-19 protocols, isolation and other various factors is difficult for many of these guys even if they won’t admit it.
The Canes had a horrible compound of misfortune in getting home to Raleigh after their games in Detroit and that supposed rest day — that many of the guys are relying heavily on — getting cut into probably hurt even though they won’t admit that that may have been a factor.
These guys are professionals and they understand the expectations of them. But at the end of the day, they are still humans.
There will be more bad starts in the future and that’s just how this season is going to look.
Aho said last night that it’s up to the individual players to mentally prepare themselves and Brind’Amour echoed that sentiment.
A lot of these guys are physically trained to handle this volume of competition, but many are just learning how much the mental toll is.
Players will get better at it as it all goes along and more of life returns to normal — I mean, come on, how often do we see the Canes storm back from bad starts? — but until then, people should understand that there’s more to it than just showing up and playing hockey each day.
Guys are giving it their best, but sometimes it just doesn’t go your way.
However, that won’t stop some from trying even harder to make it right.
Take Svechnikov for example.
An hour after a tough loss, when probably most have packed up and gone home, he came back out onto the ice with a bucket of pucks.
In casual dress, along with skates and mitts, he took shots for around a half hour all over the offensive zone.
Tonight's game ended over an hour ago. Andrei Svechnikov came back out and has been practicing his shooting for the last several minutes. pic.twitter.com/llt5fMbez3— Andrew Schnittker (@aschnitt53) March 19, 2021
Svechnikov is in the midst of a goal-scoring skid with only two goals in his last 20 games, but he isn’t sulking. He’s too proud and driven for that.
He will always go the extra mile. That’s probably why he has already emerged as a part of the Hurricanes’ leadership group.
We all know that he’ll more than likely be alright, but he wants to make sure.
He wants to be better.
Not just tonight. Not just tomorrow. But always.