Well, that game certainly happened.
The Carolina Hurricanes suffered a tough loss to a desperate Nashville Predators team last night, which also saw their Metropolitan lead shrink to just a single points.
Their offense regressed and the goaltending faltered and so it was simply put, just not a recipe for success.
Let’s take a deeper look at last night’s loss:
The Face of Nightmares
If there’s at least one positive to take from this game, it’s that it’s a blessing that the Hurricanes and Predators aren’t in the same division anymore because Juuse Saros is seemingly a part-time owner of the Carolina Hurricanes.
Like, let’s get this straight. Saros is an amazing goaltender. He’s willed the Predators into the playoffs the past two seasons and might do it again this year. In fact, according to MoneyPuck.com, he’s now the NHL’s leader in goals saved above expected with a staggering 43.4.
He’s awesome, but he’s exceptionally awesome against Carolina.
The Hurricanes have faced him twice this year and managed to put up 100 total shots against him yet have scored just three goals.
To be fair, the Hurricanes did beat him twice last night, but those goals were deemed “illegal” for some made-up rules like “interference” and “offsides.”
In 14 career regular season meetings, Saros holds a 0.927 save percentage and who can forget the scare he gave the Canes in the 2020-21 playoffs when he took Carolina to six games with a 0.921 save percentage all while facing an average of 42 shots per game — he had two games in which he saw 56 and 61 shots and of course he won both of those.
He’s got the full package and it’s a shame Nashville hasn’t had the pieces to build around a goaltender of his caliber.
The last thing I’ll say on Saros is that Nashville isn’t close to winning a cup, and they do need to rebuild and they do have an heir apparent goaltender in waiting in Yaroslav Askarov and even more importantly, he’s Finnish.
Just something Carolina should think about — and perhaps do a little more than just think — this offseason.
Despite the Hurricanes actually managing to put two pucks into the back of the net, those were not actual goals and the truth of the matter is that Carolina has been shutout four times since the start of March.
The will power of Sebastian Aho has been pulling the Hurricanes along now for a while, but there is still only so much he can do. Martin Necas has been involved more than most, but the Canes still need even him to give that much more with everyone else’s struggles.
Losing Max Pacioretty and Andrei Svechnikov are extremely tough obstacles to overcome but it’s doable. But when you add in the struggles of Seth Jarvis, Teuvo Teravainen, it’s not a recipe for success.
It also doesn’t help that the power play is back to being bad and the bottom six scoring has dried up.
And sure, the Hurricanes have the league’s top scoring blueline, but that should be a supplementing the forwards, not carrying them.
All in all, it isn’t looking great this close to the end. Which leads to an even more concerning problem...
Goaltending is the end all be all for most any team. It’s the ultimate Band-Aid, able to mask most any other team problems and vice versa, bad goaltending will sink a team no matter their strengths.
Unfortunately for the Hurricanes, goaltending has been perhaps their most inconsistent commodity. Whether it’s stretches of hot play followed by abysmal outings or lengthy injuries, the Canes have endured tremendous highs and lows with their netminders.
And that’s the worst possible feeling heading into the postseason, because goaltending is what it’s going to take to overcome the offensive losses.
It was another game for Frederik Andersen in which he was beat off the rush or let in a bad angle shot — last night featured both. That’s unfortunately been the most consistent thing for him the past two months.
He doesn’t have the same confidence or swagger he had last season and while he’s been good at times, he’s yet to be great.
Antti Raanta on the other hand has points in 17 straight decisions, a franchise record, and has battled in most of his starts for the Hurricanes. His downside however, is that he’s faced almost exclusively teams not in a playoff position and he’s been in and out of the lineup all season leaving questions about if he is durable enough to hold up for a series.
And while Pyotr Kochetkov has shined bright at times, he’s also had really tough falters, which is what you expect from a rookie netminder, but still not something you want to bank on yet.
So when the time comes for the postseason to begin, there is going to be a tremendous amount of question marks surrounding the Hurricanes’ net.
I’ll have a deeper dive into those questions and this topic in the coming days.