Red and Black Hockey
by David Lee on 10/08/11 at 11:09 AM ET
The Hurricanes made some personnel changes on the bench and on the ice over the summer. There are a lot of new guys, but the result of the opening night game was pretty much the same as a lot of games from the last two seasons. They worked hard and looked great in the first period. They lost the edge in the second, and then they just got outworked in the third. Penalties, poor special teams play and lack of focus all added up, and the sum was a 5-1 loss at the hands of Tampa.
Jeff Skinner scored the Canes’ only goal at 8:07 of the first and was really the best thing the Canes had. He and defenseman Joni Pitkanen were good. Justin Faulk was good. Everyone else was either invisible or was noticed for the wrong reasons.
After Martin St. Louis tied the game early in the second, the Canes still had plenty of chances to pull ahead in the middle frame. Late in the period, when it looked like it would be a great game, the wheels fell off for Carolina.
Faulk was whistled for interference at 17:31 of the second. It was his second penalty of the game. His first penalty probably saved a goal, so nobody can fault him for that. Unfortunately, Jussi Jokinen didn’t like the interference call and drew an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. This gave the Bolts two minutes of five-on-three. They only needed 19 seconds, as Vinny Lecavalier scored the game-winning goal at 17:50.
The Canes killed off the rest of the one-man advantage, and they were only down by a goal heading into the second intermission. Unfortunately, things didn’t go well in the final period.
With Canes captain Eric Staal in the box for interference, Steve Downie gave the Lightning the only insurance they needed at 12:22 of the third. On the ensuing center-ice faceoff, the Hurricanes got caught snoozing and Adam Hall made them pay for it. Just ten seconds after Downie’s goal, Hall made it 4-1. That was enough to send much of the home crowd to the parking lot.
Ryan Malone closed out the scoring at 16:58 of the third, to make the ugly final 5-1.
All summer long, the mantra was that they were going to get better at things like special teams and defensive coverage. They were going to get better at getting to the net and creating more scoring chances. They were going to improve their faceoff winning percentage. During the pre-season, it didn’t really look like these issues had been properly addressed. They had a miserable 1-4-1 showing in the preseason, but we Caniacs could say “well, it’s just the preseason.”
After one game, it’s way too early to start making blanket statements, but the special teams were horrible. They were 0-5 on the power play, and they gave up two power play goals to the Bolts out of six chances. Granted, one of those was a two-man advantage for Tampa, but it only took them 19 seconds to make it happen. That doesn’t look good.
Coach Paul Maurice used the same old line that he always uses after the game:
“I liked a lot of the five-on-five game. I thought we had a good effort. I liked the way we came out. But penalties kill you against that team. ... We normally don’t take those kind of penalties. We’re a very disciplined hockey team.”
Read that N&O story here. I never have liked that line, and it’s starting to reek of desperation. I’ve never been a “Mo Must Go” guy, and I won’t jump on that bandwagon just yet, but he’s got to accept some responsibility. They weren’t ready to play 60 minutes last night, and the special teams were bad. Those were the prevailing issues last season. And the season before.
They’ll have little time to reflect and regroup, as they’re back at it tonight on the road against the Capitals.
I’ll expect to see some slightly different line combinations, and some shuffling of the nine defensemen. Maybe Murphy will be in and Harrison out tonight. I don’t think there was much to fault about Faulk’s game last night. I really do wish, though, that they’d end this silly experiment and send someone down or trade someone. Nine defensemen is just too many. And it’s not fair to Derek Joslin, who is really getting the short end of the stick with this experiment.
Puck drop will be 7:00. The competition is tougher, but they’ll need better results. If not a win, they’ll at least need to have a better showing by the special teams.
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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.