While teams sometimes lose, the problem with Saturday’s loss was that it completely encapsulated everything that was awful about this past season. Carolina has struggled through a season where they should have been performing magnificently. The entire night against Columbus read as a narrative of the low points from the Kirk Muller era in Carolina.
The Hurricanes were able to come out swinging in the opening minutes of the first period — but collapsed the moment Columbus began to fight back in the slightest. This has been all year for Carolina, as they have failed to hold any sort of pressure on any opponent they faced. Once Carolina would make headway, they allowed themselves to get skated all over and drug up and down the rink. This is what Columbus was able to do on the back end of the first period. There’s no reason for a professional hockey team to only maintain pressure when yelled at to do so at intermission.
As the Hurricanes finally broke the seal in the second on a Jeff Skinner goal, the pressure problem popped up again. Immediately after his goal, Columbus fired right back nearly immediately, taking the air out of the building and off of the bench. Again, this is another running theme for the Hurricanes as they have failed to hang onto game momentum.
Momentum, as any coach will tell you, is the most important thing in all of sports.
The biggest issue of the season has been the power play and the inconsistency that comes with it. There is hardly any team Carolina faced who didn’t take full advantage of the Hurricanes issues on the man advantage and commit penalties with wanton disregard for the consequences. Sometimes the Hurricanes were able to capitalize, other times not. Yet other times, they plain got lucky.
As they did Saturday on the Andrei Loktionov power play goal.
Despite converting on that play, Carolina looked disgusting on the man advantage — as they have all season. It’s hard to imagine how many games they would have come away with had they been putting out an effective power play unit. In fact, it’s a safe wager they’d be looking at a playoff spot at the moment had they converted 10-percent more of their power plays.
To cap it all off, seeing Jiri Tlusty take a completely moronic overtime penalty for closing his hand on the puck was just one in a long line of idiot penalties the Hurricanes have taken this year. That is a discipline problem, and, ergo, a coaching problem.
As Ron Francis is the likely successor to GM Jim Rutherford, who finally is stepping down after this season, watching film of the disaster against Columbus could be step one in the process of planning the impending offseason fire sale.