With the Metropolitan Division leading Pittsburgh Penguins coming to town, it was a chance for the Hurricanes to make some sort of a statement that this banged-up team can still play quality hockey. Granted, facing the division leader — which includes the NHL‘s current points leader, Sidney Crosby — with an AHL level goaltender in Justin Peters is a pretty tall order. However, fans expected at least some sign of hustle and progress.
Head coach Kirk Muller was already behind the eight-ball as far as injuries. Further digging, however, shows that other than Cam Ward and Anton Khudobin in goal, Jeff Skinner was the only major injury affecting the offensive output of the team.
When you can have both Eric and Jordan Staal on a line together and follow that up with the likes of Alexander Semin and the explosive Nathan Gerbe, how is this team not putting up an average of five to six goals a game?
Is goaltending the problem? Take a look at the three goals in Monday’s loss to the Penguins. The defense was caught woefully off-guard for those. While Ward or Khudobin may have been able to handle them, they weren’t in goal. Peters was. To blame a goaltender is both a cop-out and wrong.
What happened against Pittsburgh was the rest of the Hurricanes — not Peters — phoning it in, plain and simple. Monday night was punctuated by busted cross-ice passes, miscommunications, flat out stupid penalties, and most of all poor momentum management.
It’s impossible to point a finger at where the breakdown was Monday night because there aren’t enough fingers in the Tarheel State to properly show the weak points. It’s easier to say what the team did right. Which, other than Gerbe playing out of his mind and nobody getting injured, is scarce.
That second one is touch-and-go as it is, since the younger Staal left the ice in the third period possibly injured. While he returned to the game, at some point you have to question the idea that all these injuries are “bad luck.” Two or three of them could be coincidence but not the pile-up Carolina is dealing with.
With the Tampa Bay Lightning coming to town on Friday night, the Hurricanes have a solid three days to duct tape and bubble gum some kind of fix to the team’s offensive woes. Somehow maintaining their spot in the top three of the Metropolitan is a blessing which should be capitalized upon.
Baring any further injuries, the team should be back to a full roster within four weeks. Between now and then, however, there is work to be done.