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Red and Black Hockey

Are the Hurricanes headed for another disaster?

The Carolina Hurricanes have lost their last two games badly, getting outscored 15-3.  Earlier this month, they played in three other lopsided games and were on the winning side of two of those.  There hasn’t been a real rhythm so far.  They haven’t won more than two in a row and they haven’t lost more than two in a row.  They’ve looked really bad one night and great the next.  It’s hard to say how the season is going, but one thing that’s for sure is that the home game against Ottawa on Wednesday will be a real gut check.

They’ll have to bounce back from a really poor showing at Montréal in which they lost 7-2 and an embarrassment at home against Philly on Veterans Day, which they lost 8-1.  To be fair, those teams lead their respective division, and they’re both very good.  However, those games weren’t even competitive for more than a few minutes.  Ottawa is also a good team, three points ahead of Carolina in the Eastern standings.  They’re going to have to be better.  This means making some changes.

Patrick O’Sullivan has only played in seven games and has been a healthy scratch since the Canes were shut out by the Penguins at home on October 30.  He’s been in the press box, watching.  He’s been on the ice, doing a lot of individual drills.  He’s been practicing hard.  He’s been watching film.  He’s been doing everything except playing.  He’ll get his chance on Wednesday when he enters the lineup and Jiri Tlusty comes out. 

The lines have been juggled a bit, and the JET line was broken up for a bit, moving Jeff Skinner up to the Staal line, but I really like that second line and I hope JET is reunited.  O’Sullivan will be joining the fourth line with Jon Matsumoto Tom Kostopoulos.

These changes, and a break in the action long enough for the Canes to schedule some real practice, will give them a chance to refresh and reset.  This game against Ottawa might seem like just a game in November, but it might be one that defines the season.  If they have another bad game, it could crush any confidence that they have and send them down a dark, dirty trail that they went down in October and November of last season.  Nothing went right for 14 games, and they were in a hole much too deep to dig themselves out of.  Some part of it was that they were a team beset by injuries.  Part of it was that they just weren’t very good.  Part of it, too, was in their heads.  Confidence contributes to success and lack of it begets failure.  I honestly thing that they lost some of those games last year simply because they had no faith in themselves.  Conversely, after Christmas when they were simply en fuego, the wins were rattled off with ease and the players had smiles on their faces.  All you have to do is listen to the tone of Tom Kostopoulos’ voice in his post-game interview from Montréal, and you can tell that they weren’t just beaten—they were dejected. 

I’ll stop short of saying that Wednesday’s game is a “must win”, but it is a “must compete” game.

Ottawa is playing at Philadelphia tonight, and as I write, they’re on the short end of a 5-1 score midway through the third.  They might have some frustrations of their own to work out on Wednesday. 

Carolina will wrap up this week with a back-to-back with travel.  They’ll be in Pittsburgh on Friday night, then at home against the struggling Nashville Predators on Saturday.

Filed in: | Red and Black Hockey | Permalink
  Tags: carolina+hurricanes, ottawa+senators, patrick+o'sullivan

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About Red and Black Hockey

David Lee is a restaurant manager with an unused degree in political science.  He can be found at Carolina Hurricanes games, Scrabble tournaments and indie-rock shows.  Sometimes, all in the same day. 

David has contributed to CBC.ca for their Stanley Cup playoff coverage in 2006 and to the New York Times Slapshot blog for theirs in 2008. Red and Black Hockey was founded in July of 2005.