The Carolina Hurricanes made their return from an extended break Saturday night in PNC Arena, playing the New York Rangers in their first game in 10 days.
And the rust was evident as the Rangers blew the Canes out 6-2, with Artemi Panarin finishing the night with four goals and five points in a rout that stopped Carolina’s win streak at seven games.
It was an uncharacteristic stinker from the home team, one that the Canes will want to flush quickly.
About last night:
Tip your cap and move on...
While it’s obviously important for the team itself to analyze what went wrong Saturday night, from a fan’s perspective it’s one of those games that you really can just tip your cap and move on from.
For starters, the Canes were off for 10 days. That’s not an excuse, but it is a legitimate reason for a poor outing. Rust was prevalent, as the Canes couldn’t execute when they needed to and left big holes and opportunities for the Rangers to score. It happens. It’s an 82-game season. You’re going to have bad nights. It makes sense that one might happen against a good team coming back from a long break.
And secondly, sometimes you just get beat by a team and player that’s on. The Rangers had their stuff Saturday, scoring six goals despite fewer shots and scoring chances than the Hurricanes had. New York took advantage of almost every opportunity it had. The Hurricanes did not.
And while you tip your cap to the Rangers, you tip it even farther for Panarin. The Rangers’ star scored four times, assisted another, and was flat-out excellent for New York in a commanding win. It happens.
That’s not to make excuses for the Hurricanes. There was a lot of bad that happened that can’t be simply attributed to rust or a hot hand coming into town. But over the course of the season, games like this happen. It’s important not to panic, especially about a team that is now 34-10-8.
...but also see the bad trends
And while the Canes haven’t made a habit of laying eggs like they did Saturday — at all, they’ve been one of the best teams all season — they did once again have a failure in the special teams department that maybe didn’t make all the difference in this one, but was still an issue.
The Rangers went 1 for 1 on the power play, while the Canes went 0 for 2.
Starting with the Carolina penalty kill, Mika Zibanejad scored on the power play in the first period, a quick 48-second man advantage for the visitors that featured three high-danger chances and was overall just well executed.
The penalty kill hasn’t necessarily been a problem for the Hurricanes by any means, but it also hasn’t been the strength that it was last year. After putting up historically good PK numbers last season, the Canes are at 81.5% this season and eighth in the NHL. Again, not bad by any means, but not a strength.
And Carolina kind of needs the PK to be a strength to offset the power play — like it did last year — as the Hurricanes’ man advantage is now at 19.8% and ranks 22nd in the NHL. For another year, the Canes’ power play is bad. It was bad Saturday night, and the inability to convert there cost Carolina any real chance of competing in this game.
This is pointing out the obvious, and it probably rings true for every single team in the NHL, but Carolina’s success on the PP and PK has been pretty telling of whether the team is going to win or lose. In wins, Carolina has a PP% of 23.5% and a PK% of 84.4%. In losses, the PP% is 11.8% and the PK% is 71.0%.
Again, those differences are pretty similar to some of the other teams that have similar records to the Canes, but the Canes are also starting from a lower spot — especially in the power play — than a lot of those teams.
It’s certainly not a novel thought to say the Canes need to figure things out on the power play, especially as far as consistency is concerned, but it’s still an issue. Scoring on the power play wouldn’t have made a difference Saturday night in a four-goal game, but maybe it would have swung some momentum.
Regardless, someone to add anything on the power play would be a welcome boost to the roster as the trade deadline approaches.