The Carolina Hurricanes suffered a 5-2 loss to the visiting Dallas Stars at the RBC Center in Raleigh, N.C. on Sunday afternoon.
The team put out another poor performance in front of 14,815 fans in attendance as they went up against their Western Conference opponents during the two teams’ only meeting of the season.
Injuries, individuals in scoring slumps, and two consecutive games resulting in a total of 10 goals scored against is showing that something has changed and preventing this team from being successful.
What that something is doesn’t seem to be clear at the moment, but something is off.
After losing Jussi Jokinen to a lower-body injury following a 4-2 win over Tampa Bay, coach Paul Maurice had to make adjustments to his lines accordingly.
The Hurricanes had played one of, if not, their best games of the season against the Lightning causing many to think that the team had turned a corner.
However, when playing the Capitals, instead of utilizing their fast-paced forechecking system off the puck, the Hurricanes worked instead to clog up the middle using a neutral-zone trap defense – something that they had not shown in any game to date.
The question is why?
For the first period at least, the strategy worked as they led Washington by a score of 1-0.
That is, until the wheels came off.
As the Capitals picked up their skating and scoring pace through the second and third periods, it seemed as though each Hurricanes player started to work on his own to defend and put forth scoring opportunities single-handedly rather than doing so via the system of play that the team had worked so hard to develop since training camp.
The Hurricanes committed individual defensive and offensive mistakes that had not been seen since the preseason.
Lack of effort
It makes sense that Maurice was livid with the lack of effort from his players against Washington as he pointed out in his post-game comments.
However, on the heels of such an embarrassing display against the Capitals, the team barely improved on the effort, and started with the same defensive set-up against Dallas – a neutral-zone trap.
Again, it begs the question why?
Knowing the difference
Sure, the Stars didn’t come out blazing during the first period, but neither did the Hurricanes.
Playing the neutral-zone trap did not provide Carolina with any type of momentum and speed against Washington nor Dallas – the main factors that have accounted for their winning efforts so far this season.
What was most telling of the Hurricanes’ efforts on Sunday was the crowd’s reaction to it during the first two periods – they began to boo their beloved ‘Canes.
They too knew that their team was not playing ‘the system’.
What he said
After both games, the players had indicated how they had strayed from the system of which they had become accustomed to playing over the first 12 games.
After the Washington game, it was Anthony Stewart who mentioned it, and after Sunday’s game, Tim Gleason reiterated it.
“We can’t let our goalies bail us out every game,” Gleason said. “I think we’re getting away from our system a little bit. If we stick to the system, the system works. If we’re disciplined with the system, it’s going to work.”
Similar to the Washington game, the team’s adjusted defensive set-up could not neutralize the Stars who found the open spots to make passes and scoring plays in close, and all of a sudden the Hurricanes were trailing 5-1 to start the third period.
Going back to basics
In playing the final period, the Hurricanes picked up the pace and started to play the system they were accustomed to working with and ended up outscoring the Stars 1-0 and taking 14 shots on goal, the most taken since the win against Tampa Bay.
Call it too little, too late.
Maurice didn’t have an explanation for the team’s second consecutive loss, and sixth out of the past eight games.
“It’s a physical man’s game and we were trying to play on skill and that is just not going to get it done for us,” Maurice said.
About that system
When asked about the team straying away from the system that they started using early in the season, Maurice didn’t have an answer for that either.
“There’s two different parts of the game,” Maurice began.
“The system’s what you do when you don’t have the puck, and if you’re cheatin’ for offense on that, then it doesn’t matter what you run. The skill part, I’m not sure why we’re trying to make so many slow plays against a team that takes away the middle of the ice,” he continued.
The team has played two different systems over the past two games and it seems that a disconnect now exists somewhere.
In search of answers
Finding the source of the team’s inability to win lies between determining why the players are not putting out a full 60-minute effort and why they are all of a sudden trying to do too much individually and not using the team system they started with.
According to Maurice, giving more effort is what is needed.
“We’ve given up 10 goals at home in our last two games and that’s just not enough fight,” Maurice continued on. “It wouldn’t matter who we play next, the fight’s going to have to be there, or we’re not going to beat anybody right now, playing like that.”
However, according to the players, straying from playing the system is the problem.
Which one is it?
Slide show: Action on the ice – Carolina Hurricanes vs. Dallas Stars
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