Carolina Hurricanes Lacking Defensive Identity vs. Tampa Bay Lightning

By Michael Peckerar
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What did one math book say to the other? We’ve got problems. The Carolina Hurricanes have problems, but not the kind you’d think.

After dropping a 5-3 decision to the Tampa Bay Lightning Sunday night, it would be easy to enter freak-out mode and scream about how the Hurricanes are terrible again. They aren’t. Tampa Bay is a really good team, Martin St Louis is on a streak, Justin Peters has been away from the ice for a bit, and sometimes back-to-back games can go like that. That’s part and parcel of being an NHL hockey team. However it didn’t have to mean a loss.

Here’s a very simple statistic. The defensive pairing of Justin Faulk and Andrej Sekera were on the ice for every single one of Tampa Bay’s five goals. Coincidence? Not if you take a look at the catastrophic decisions made by Faulk. Watching skaters blow past him, doubling up on skaters coming into the zone, and having his back to a shooter that was his assignment. The only time Faulk was where he belonged was when he was on the bench.

Sekera had issues of his own with his impeccably timed hooking penalty in the second period.

This is odd to tell the truth. Faulk was named to the Team USA for the 2014 Winter Olympics and this was probably for a good reason. Probably. Sekera has been on it lately and usually has that head of his on pretty straight.  However the two of them had the reverse Midas touch.

The blame can’t go on Faulk and Sekera entirely. There was of course Pat Dwyer‘s braniac move of going to the bench or a new stick during a penalty kill and in the defensive zone. He didn’t stay in there and put his body in front of a shooter like any coach will scream at you to do. No, he created a 5-on-3 and Tampa Bay took advantage, passing to where Dwyer should have been covering. That one can go on Dwyer, but it was still on Sekera and Faulk’s watch.

The problem here is that Carolina cannot figure out their defensive identity. Faulk has his moments where his Olympic spot makes sense, but then has even bigger moments where he needs to be taken off the ice for the sake of his own reputation. Further down the depth chart, there’s no real game plan. There’s nobody who really wants to take the reins.

John-Michael Liles could — but does he want to?  The same could be said for Jay Harison.

Losing to the Lightning is not a death sentence. With the Philadelphia Flyers and Buffalo Sabres coming up, there’s still a way to keep the needle pointed in the right direction. Carolina has fared well against Philadelphia this season, and Buffalo is a complete joke.  So long as the Hurricanes find a defensive identity, the hot sticks of Alexander Semin and Jeff Skinner can do the rest.

Michael Peckerar is a Hurricanes writer for Follow him on Twitter @peckrants, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.

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