The Carolina Hurricanes have had a stellar first 65 games played in the 2022-23 NHL season as they share the Metro Division lead with the New Jersey Devils. But the past weekend has left a bad taste in the mouths of Caniacs all over the world.
Heading into the weekend, the Canes were by themselves in first place with a 4-point lead over the Devils. Two straight losses and today the unselfish Carolina hockey team shares first place.
It is important to note that the Canes do have a game in hand on the Devils and could be a huge difference when all is said and done in April.
What can be taken from this weekend?
Despite being in the stretch run of the NHL season, it is actually far too early to jump ship on a team that has had such success this year and in the past few seasons.
Frustration is undoubtedly warranted after last spring’s early exit from the playoffs at the hand of the New York Rangers. Does this mean that will happen again this spring? The short answer is no.
The Las Vegas Knights are a good team that puts an emphasis on blocking shots in front of the newly acquired goaltender, Jonathan Quick. As advertised, the Knights blocked 19 shots in the game and Quick made 24 saves for the shutout.
Playoff hockey will be tighter and teams will look to sacrifice anything to block an opponent’s shot. Naturally, this would be concerning if the result was a loss but it is not an exact blueprint of what will be seen come April.
The shot total for Carolina did not get up to the normal and that is more concerning as the team seemed to find the “perfect” shot or play to beat Quick.
The combination of a solid goaltender and a shot-blocking blue line will get in the heads of many players on many teams but it cannot take them off their game. The game that has brought them to the top of the division.
Sunday in New Jersey seemed like a bad time and situation to have such a big game but no excuses are given by this group or coaching staff.
Some uncomfortable play early by Calvin De Haan and Pyotr Kochetkov made the possible look impossible early in the match. De Haan is not comfortable with his new role and that is obvious. The good news is that this is not the final product as Shayne Gostisbehere was brought here to play with Jalen Chatfield.
Missing Andrei Svechnikov was not the reason that the Hurricanes fell to the Devils yesterday but it cannot be ignored. The Canes lone All-Star representative has been starting to find the net more and would have helped but not made the difference between a win or loss.
The opportunities and shots were more available against the Devils and that is progress during a scoring slump but is certainly not anything to be excited about.
Something to not forget is that this is a group full of character with a top level coach.
The lessons learned from last season and this season will all come together in the game plan when it counts in the playoffs.
The division is not lost and is absolutely attainable for this squad and that is the most important thing moving forward. Playoff beards and attitude await this team but for now one game at a time needs to be better than the team across the ice.