After the Carolina Hurricanes lost in overtime Thursday night against the Colorado Avalanche despite heavily outshooting them, they decided to go with a totally different style: no shots for anybody.
And for 57:23 the strategy was working perfectly against the Minnesota Wild as the Canes seemed perfectly happy sitting on a 1-0 lead provided by Sebastian Aho and Martin Necas.
However, as well all know, staving off the inevitable push of a desperate team by parking the bus usually never works out well.
The perfect strategy would have been to apply the pressure against a spiraling Minnesota team, one without a deep group and who was fielding a goaltender who was 1-4-1 and barely above 0.900 on the season.
But that isn’t what Carolina did. They incrementally took less and less shots each period — 11 to 5 in the first, 7 to 8 in the second, 3 to 6 in the third, and finally 0-2 in overtime. They begged Minnesota to come back into the game and that’s exactly what happened.
The goal that Sam Steel eventually scored late in the third period was improbable. He managed to get off a wrist shot while choked up on the puck and his stick pulled into his body and Stefan Noesen directly on top of him and pushing him.
Pyotr Kochetkov, who was stellar throughout the evening, had gone down early expecting an instant shot from Steel, but because of the positioning, Steel couldn’t do that. That delay left the net open for the goal.
The game was tied. And when a moment like that happens, the momentum shits completely.
Overtime came soon after and while the Canes had a good chance between Aho and Necas, when you miss the net and lose possession, you’re on your heels.
And so the puck started moving the other direction and a gassed Aho lost Alex Goligoski breaking to the net. Steel sauced the puck over and the only one there was Goligoski as Aho desperately reached out with his stick to no avail.
It was the fifth loss in the last seven games for Carolina, an uncomfortable trend that has been followed along by two other trends of strong goaltending and poor goal support.
Sometimes it’s just the third line going for the Hurricanes. Sometimes it’s only Aho or Necas. Sometimes just Svechnikov. But it’s almost never been a group effort as of late and that’s been the biggest issue.
Sure, the Canes are missing some big names like Teuvo Teravainen and if they had a better supporting cast of wingers like Max Pacioretty and Ondrej Kase healthy, that might help too., but the goals are too inconsistent for the group.
They generate chance after chance, but the goals fall way short of the expected goal total.
They suppress a majority of chances against, but then the one they give up is a brutal grade-A chance the other way.
And maybe if the power play could look average at best, it would go a long way towards winning some games.
So while the effort and game plans look good on paper and on the stat sheet after the game, the execution just hasn’t been there and at the end of the day, that’s all that matters.