Carolina Hurricanes: Weekend recap as Canes’ win streak ends

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 24: Anders Lee #27 of the New York Islanders is stopped by Scott Darling #33 of the Carolina Hurricanes at Barclays Center on November 24, 2018 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. (Photo by Mike Stobe/NHLI via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 24: Anders Lee #27 of the New York Islanders is stopped by Scott Darling #33 of the Carolina Hurricanes at Barclays Center on November 24, 2018 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. (Photo by Mike Stobe/NHLI via Getty Images) /

It was fun while it lasted. The Carolina Hurricanes were brought back down to earth with a resounding crash, as the team’s three-game win streak was ended unceremoniously by the New York Islanders on Saturday. Let’s take a look back at the Canes’ last two games and look ahead to the coming week.

Just when the Carolina Hurricanes make you think they’re on to something, the team has an awful game to really spoil the atmosphere. Saturday night saw the team play their third game in four days, and their second consecutive back-to-back weekend set, and produce one of the most lifeless performances in years in losing 4-1 to the New York Islanders. It was a stark contrast from the night before, where the team extended its win streak to three on the back of Jordan Martinook‘s first career hat-trick to lead the team to a 4-1 win over the Florida Panthers.

Friday Fun: 4-1 W vs Florida Panthers

This game was all about Jordan Martinook and his unexpected goalscoring exploits. A first career hat-trick took him to seven goals for the season, bringing him level with Sebastian Aho for second in goals scored for the Canes. If any further evidence for the need for increased scoring was necessary, there are only three forwards currently projected to score 20 goals this season – Aho, Micheal Ferland and Martinook. For a team blessed with exciting young forwards, there is precious little scoring coming from them. We need the likes of Teuvo Teravainen, Andrei Svechnikov, Warren Foegele and Jordan Staal to put the puck away more often, as the Canes are currently far too reliant on Ferland and Aho.

Another pleasing element from Friday’s game was the performance of Lucas Wallmark. He so often goes under the radar, but put himself into the spotlight with all three primary assists on Martinook’s goals, and another assist on the lone goal against the Islanders the following night. While only having one goal for his efforts across 23 games so far this season, Wallmark now has nine assists, is enjoying more than 14 minutes per game of TOI, and has settled quite nicely on a 54% success rate in the faceoff circle. He’s doing very well, and credit should go to him for playing solid hockey despite all that’s going on around him.

Praise is also due to veteran journeyman Curtis McElhinney, who may not have guaranteed his starters gig with this performance, but almost certainly earned it the next night without even playing. He stopped 34 of 35 Florida efforts, only losing his shutout bid three quarters of the way through the third period, and you could see the confidence that his play inspired in the team. Having a goalie that the team believes will rescue them from bad plays is so crucial, and while I’d never have thought it possible at the beginning of the season, McElhinney is clearly the most inspiring of our goaltending menagerie.

Special teams also continued their recent upward trend. The Panthers were given just one powerplay, which the Canes shut down, while PP went 1/3 thanks to Teuvo Teravainen’s goal. If this special teams form carries on, the Canes could soon be in possession of a league-average powerplay and penalty kill.

97. Final. 4. 109. 1

Saturday Shocker: 4-1 L vs New York Islanders

There really isn’t much that can be said about this game. The Islanders scored on their first two shots on Scott Darling, the team looked mostly lifeless, and Rod Brind’Amour had this to say about the team’s seeming lack of effort:

"“We wouldn’t have beat a minor-league team. That’s what we looked like out there tonight. I don’t even think they played well. It was a gross game for two periods. They capitalized on mistakes we gave them, and they hunkered down.”"

He wasn’t finished there either:

"“It’s a tough one because we wanted to keep moving forward, but man, I’ve never seen us play that bad. That was really poor, to a man. Each guy, we didn’t come ready to go and we got what we deserved.”"

If I’m one of the Carolina Hurricanes, I am putting my guts on the line when I come out against the Canadiens this week. I’d hate to see my coach this angry at my team’s performance, and I believe we will see several rebound games as a consequence.

Sadly, even the most positive of Carolina Hurricanes fans are now struggling to defend Scott Darling. After a decent return to the team, in which his save percentage was above the league average after his first five games of the season, recent performances have been – at best – turgid, and have seen his stats take a tumble commensurate with his play. He now sits with a save percentage of just .892% and with a GAA of 3.14, which is significantly worse than the GAAs of McElhinney (an excellent 2.25) and Petr Mrazek (2.75). Darling’s only saving grace is that Mrazek’s save percentage is even worse than his own (.880%), and that his contract pretty much precludes him being waived and sent to Charlotte. One thing is for certain though: Scott Darling needs to improve, and quickly, else this situation is going to turn sour very soon.

4. 106. 1. 109. Final

If you’re looking for positives from the game, I’m not sure I have many. Justin Williams had the team’s lone goal, his fourth of the season and his third in four games. Special teams were again good, with identical numbers to the game the day before: the Islanders were shut down on their sole PP and the Canes went 1/3 on theirs. The best news may have been the following day when the Canes responded to RBA’s comments and called up Jake Bean and Valentin Zykov from the Checkers.

Bean will be looking to make his NHL debut, having been the team’s first round pick (13th overall) in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, while Zykov will look to make the kind of impact he had last season, rather than in his first stint with the Canes this season. It’s great to see management making positive moves to shore up weaknesses – with McElhinney in net, and an infusion of energetic and keen youth, we will hopefully see the team bounce straight back to form.

Next. The return of Victor Rask. dark

Question for CC readers:

We have three games coming up this week – how does the team respond to RBA calling them out? Can they ride out three wins over Montreal, Anaheim and Los Angeles?