RALEIGH, N.C. – It’s time to regroup in Carolina.
No one is saying that just yet, but the time is drawing closer.
A 4-1 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets at PNC Arena on Saturday highlighted the glaring point that this team is finding trouble differentiating itself from many opponents.
“The first period was just meh,” Hurricanes captain Justin Williams said.
“It was not the brand of hockey we’ve become used to playing. The good news is we play again tomorrow and we can flush this, and we can have a more different tone when we are here tomorrow at the same time.
“We were just a second off here and there, and because we were a second off, we lost every single battle that was important. They won every small battle tonight. This is a game of winning the little things, and they played like they wanted it more.”
Going all out is showing to be tougher than expected
It’s no secret that in order to win as they did at the start of the season, the Hurricanes have to go all-out for 60 minutes with everyone going as head coach Rod Brind’Amour wants them to go.
However, on this night, led by a hat trick from Cam Atkinson, Columbus took the early lead, at the 11:54 mark of the first and stepped on the gas in the second and increased its margin to 4-1.
They did exactly what Carolina needed to do – played at a pace that the other side couldn’t match and recover from while defending.
What Brind’Amour saw, he didn’t like, and admittedly so for the first time this season.
“I hadn’t been upset all year really because the effort has been there all year, ” he said.
“You can be upset about things not workin’, but for the most part all year I haven’t had to get upset because we’re doing the things we needed to do. Tonight was not that way. That’s why I was not too happy.”
The power play went 0-for-3, Columbus blocked 19 shots, and Carolina gave the puck away 16 times.
Add to that a 30-save performance from goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky to outdo Scott Darling, and the climb out of the hole Hurricanes dug themselves into by 11:20 of the second period was insurmountable.
“It wasn’t the goalie’s fault,” Brind’Amour added.
“We were givin’ 24 shots up. You can’t do that in this league. We were playin’ a really good team over there. That’s probably the best team we’ve played top-to-bottom. There’s no weaknesses in any of their game, and when there is a breakdown, they’ve got a pretty good goalie in there. You can just see they’re pretty confident the way they play in front of him. We needed to be better to beat a team like that.”
“It was a dud, let’s call it what it is,” Williams concluded.
“It was a dud and certainly unacceptable, and like I said, the good news is we come back tomorrow and rectify this.”
Afterthoughts – Defogging the lens
Let’s not get sidetracked by the 31-24 shots-on-goal differential in Carolina’s favor for the game.
Nor wining the faceoff battles.
That’s all significant only if the puck goes in the net.
It’s the final score that counts.
Analytics graphs and the like aside, there is and has been a scoring problem in Carolina.
Or more specifically, a scoring-finish problem that has lingered season after season.
Role players scoring goals can suffice for a time in spurts, but with few natural scorers like Sebastian Aho who tallied the Hurricanes’ lone goal against the Blue Jackets, more reinforcements are needed.
It can’t rest on one player’s shoulders – a problem that’s existed year-after-year with this team.
There is and will only be so much Brind’Amour can do with this current roster.
He hasn’t said that and won’t, but it’s becoming glaringly obvious.
Sitting at 8-8-3, it may appear that the sky isn’t yet falling, but the clouds are rolling in fast as Winter is coming, and it may be a long, cold one at that.
A minus-7 goal differential, sitting below the level line will not translate into a playoff position.
So, the question becomes, will general manager Don Waddell’s management team and majority owner Tom Dundon make moves outside of the system – a trade – to help?
If so, when?
If not, why not?
Hard work from this group right now is showing inconsistent results in finishing plays and scoring goals.
That is impacting the ability to win games.
It’s all obvious, and to continue doing so in this manner will probably not yield the results needed to earn a postseason spot – again.
Peter Koutroumpis: 401-323-8960, @pksport