The Carolina Hurricanes nearly stole the game Wednesday night against the Florida Panthers, but instead came away with only a single point as they couldn’t hold on to the lead late in the third and folded quickly in overtime
It was another disappointing finish for the Hurricanes who are now 1-2-2 in their last five games since returning to play.
The first period saw two high-end teams battling hard, with Carolina getting the edge thanks to a broken stick and odd-angle shot, but the final 40 minutes saw the Canes barely being able to skate with the Panthers.
The Hurricanes managed to get only eight shots on goal in the final two periods and just two shots for the third period. They had only two power play shots on goal despite a full five-on-three and an additional power play.
The Canes failed to maintain any pressure on Florida and were gifting them chance after chance with yet another parade to the penalty box. However, Carolina’s elite PK proved to stay strong, managing to actually generate more offense than its power plays did.
The Hurricanes got lucky to steal a point from the Panthers, but that isn’t good enough for a team with Stanley Cup aspirations. The roster is capable, but there are still a few areas where they need to improve.
The Hurricanes pride themselves on trying to play the same way, every night, up and down the lineup.
It’s an aggressive forechecking system in the offensive zone that aims to overload opponents into making mistakes and in the defensive system involves tight man-to-man coverage. It’s a system that leaves no room for error from your opponents, but as such, little room for error by the Canes themselves.
It’s why so often, the Hurricanes are sunk by small mental mistakes. Because that’s all it takes to exploit the system.
When it works, it wears away opponents and leads to Carolina heavily outchancing the opposition, but when it runs into problems, it unravels quickly.
Also, because of the system, the Hurricanes are getting less and less off the rush, which is the best way to score goals in the NHL and although the Canes may be getting more shots off, they aren’t necessarily leading to goals.
The Canes have the talent to play a higher-level offensive system, and that’s not to say they should abandon their current one, but they need something to fall back on when it’s obvious it isn’t working.
In the last few playoffs, it’s been that failure to adapt the system that has led to Carolina’s exits. Bruce Cassidy’s Bruins were able to outmuscle a much younger Canes team and prevent them from getting anything in close and Jon Cooper’s Lightning swapped so effortlessly between high-octane offense and stingy, give-nothing defense.
The Hurricanes are a well coached and smart team that is fully capable of being able to switch up their style on the fly, and I think that’s the next step for this club.
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But for now, for the Canes to be successful, everyone needs to be clicking and currently some players are just off their game.
One such player is Martin Necas.
If he was scoring, this wouldn’t be as apparent, but currently on a ten-game goal drought and with just 2 goals in his last 20 games, his shortcomings are becoming more magnified.
He has the lowest expected goals for percentage on the team and his penchant for stickhandling away chances — second on the team in turnovers — is frustrating. He isn’t going to the hard areas and as such is disrupting the all-in system that the Hurricanes utilize.
We’ve seen the impact that Necas can have on this team when he is engaged and on his game, but he’s currently falling far short of the expectations many had for him entering this season.
Necas’ struggles are only amplified when he’s not the only guy in the Canes’ top-six who is struggling.
Seth Jarvis, who dazzled onlookers early, has just one point and no goals in his last 10 games but those growing pains are to be expected from a rookie.
But when a third of your top-six is struggling to score, you aren’t going to win many games.
Would a simple shakeup of the lines help the Canes? Moving Niederreiter back to a line with Trocheck and Necas which looked great last year, Svechnikov back to the top line and Jarvis down with Kotkaniemi to help free him up from the opponents top shutdown players.
Or is this more something to be addressed on the trade market to try and bring in a more proven winger to help out.
Outside of the forwards, the defense has also had it’s fair share of struggles.
Brett Pesce — usually one of top defenders in the league — ranks last among Canes defenders in terms of CF%, SCF%, xGF% and HDCF%, Brady Skjei is an extremely hot or cold player, Ian Cole is constantly in the penalty box, Ethan Bear has struggled since exiting COVID-19 protocol and Tony DeAngelo, for all his offensive talent, is not really reliable in his own end.
At least there is Jaccob Slavin.
Again though, would a move for a new defender make more sense or is this just something you hope improves with time? Is this a need for the system to adapt to what the players are currently achieving or will it work for them in time?
The answer isn’t clear, but time is going to quickly run out in the coming days.
This isn’t to say that the Canes are bad or doomed come playoff time because they are still one of the top teams in the league with ample talent and solid coaching, but too many little red flags are starting to pop up.
This is a team more than capable of righting the ship and one that more than likely will. It’s just up to them to do it.