The Carolina Hurricanes were eliminated from playoff contention last night when they failed to earn two points against the Winnipeg Jets.
Earlier in the season it looked like the season could have been a successful one for the Hurricanes. Cam Ward was earning wins, the acquisitions of Jordan Staal and Alexander Semin were added scoring depth and Jiri Tlusty broke out helping to create one of the top lines in the NHL, but in late March things began to fall apart for the Canes.
So what happened to the team that was leading the Southeast Division at one point and looked like the playoffs would be a guarantee?
Carolina was dealt some of the worst news possible on March 4 when the team found out that Ward was injured and would need surgery. GM Jim Rutherford announced that Ward would miss six to eight weeks and the star goaltender will not make a return this season.
Instead the Canes relied on Justin Peters and Dan Ellis to replace Ward, which did not work out for Carolina as Ellis also missed games with injuries and the two could not earn the wins the team desperately needed.
But goaltending is not the only area the Hurricanes have dealt with injuries, the defense also suffered with injuries to Joni Pitkanen and Justin Faulk. Pitkanen was injured in late March after hitting the boards dangerously while in a race for an iced puck. The Finnish defenseman was ruled out for the season a couple days later after the injury.
Faulk also missed nine games with a knee injury in late March-early April. Without those two defensemen Carolina’s transition game took a heavy hit along with the power-play.
Unfortunately for the Hurricanes the two did not help as much as they had wished, but the offense didn’t help fix the problems as the Canes had problems just getting shots on net while on the man-advantage.
The power-play eventually fell to 27th in the league, but has improved over the past few games scoring three games in a row during one stretch and climbed up to 22nd in the league.
However, the Hurricanes’ penalty kill also experienced problems later in the season. The unit currently sits at 27th in the league.
Losing Tim Brent and Pitkanen hurt the team on the penalty kill. Brent can play a defensive role and win face-offs, but without him there was no forward in the bottom six that could replace what Brent brings to the table. Pitkanen logs over 2o minutes a night and the penalty kill is included with that, so the team had to use Corvo and Bobby Sanguinetti to fill his missed time. Both are better known for their offensive play rather than defense.
Lack Of Offense
Even if Ward had never been injured, it’s possible the Hurricanes still would have fallen out of the playoff race because the offense dried up for a number of games in March and April.
Skinner was on an 11-game goalless drought and Semin and Eric Staal scored three times in 15 games in March and April. The Hurricanes do not have great scoring depth so the team relies on the top two lines to account for most of the scoring.
In the 22 games since Ward’s last game this season, the team has scored two goals or fewer in 13 games. It would be nearly impossible for any team to win with any goalie in net with numbers like that.