Many do not like to draw conclusions from the first part of a long season. More specifically, many do not feel justified drawing conclusions about a team just six games into an 82 game season.
Carolina Hurricanes Road Trip Recap (1-3-2) and Look Ahead
On the other end of the spectrum, the Carolina Hurricanes have certainly had a less than impressive start to the season after a road trip that saw them go 1-3-2. A bad opening trip does not mean Carolina is out of the playoff hunt. It also does not mean that this young team will be bad the whole season. Still, every game is important and trends can turn into season-long patterns. With the wild card format, many teams are fighting for playoff spots until the last day of the regular season. The margin between the getting in and going home can be very slim.
Last season, the Detroit Red Wings and Boston Bruins both finished with 93 points. Boston was sent home and Detroit had a date with the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. For Carolina to qualify for the postseason, they will need every point they can get. Of the five losses so far this season, the Canes have held a multi-goal lead in three of them (Winnipeg, Vancouver, Philadelphia). In those games, Carolina came away with two of a possible six points. The other four points could be the difference between a playoff spot or another disappointing season. After leaving many points on the table throughout this road trip, the Hurricanes quickly find themselves in the basement of the Metropolitan Division.
Yet to play a home game and having over 90% of the schedule remaining, there is plenty of time for this team to climb the standings and ultimately find themselves in a playoff spot. In order to do so, there is a lot of work to be done. These early season trends can not continue.
The Hurricanes have had a lead of at least two in half of the games they have played, yet find themselves with just one win. It is hard to get a lead and so far the Canes have shown no urgency to protect them. Blame the goalie, coach, defense or forwards, none of that matters. The fact remains this is a team who has little margin for error. The Canes need to be winning games in which they have a multiple goal lead or it’s going to be a long season.
I have the utmost confidence in Ron Francis and Bill Peters and believe they can take this team to where they want to go. Peters has shown great ability to develop young players such as Victor Rask while also getting the most out of veterans such as Lee Stempniak. Francis made it a priority last off-season to add some offensive firepower. Adding names including Teuvo Teravainen and Stempniak to the likes of Jeff Skinner and Jordan Staal has already paid big dividends in offensive production.
After a sub-par year for Cam Ward and with many goaltenders rumored to be on the trading block, Francis elected to re-sign the veteran goalie. He is again competing with Eddie Lack for playing time. Early on, this decision has backfired as Carolina sits 28th out of 30 teams in goals against per game. Despite the offensive success, it is going to be hard to win many games while giving up an average of four goals.
60 Minute Games
You would expect professional athletes to give 100% on every shift every night. However, that is just not how this game works. That being said, the team as a whole, needs to play a 60-minute game in order to be successful. After creating a two goal lead in Philadelphia, the Canes seemed to have dead legs for the second half of the game. Subsequently, the Flyers went on a 6-1 run to steal a win on their home ice. That game could have been, in part, attributed to a long road trip where they had already blown two games in which they had a three-goal lead.
After an off-day in Carolina, the Canes went to Detroit for the final game of their opening trip. Again, they came out flat and lacking in effort category. After 20 minutes, Detroit had built a three goal lead. The Canes came out of the locker room and outplayed the Wings in the latter two periods but still fell by a deficit of 4-2. In order to win in this league, you need to play a 60-minute game. It is impossible to take a period off and expect to have a chance.
There are lots of games left and lots of room to grow. This team has the talent, coaching and management to make a return to the playoffs. All that is left to see is if this group can look past a bad start. They need to limit the mistakes, and start to play winning hockey.
The Hurricanes will continue their season on Friday. They host the New York Rangers for the first of 41 home games at PNC Arena.