It’s only a weekend break, a few days away from the game, but the Carolina Hurricanes have much to ponder.
The Canes have lost five straight games, all in regulation. With the NHL taking time off for the All-Star Weekend in Los Angeles, the Canes sit at 21-20-7, seven points out of playoff position in the Eastern Conference with 49 points.
A year ago, the Canes were 21-19-8 after 48 games and in the midst of their best stretch of the season — a 10-3-3 surge that began in early January with back-to-back wins over the Columbus Blue Jackets. Their longest regulation losing streak during the season was three games.
But that was last year. What needs to change after the All-Star break?
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“Everything,” Canes coach Bill Peters said Thursday after the 3-0 loss to the Los Angeles Kings.
But here’s the short list:
Since scoring two power-play goals against the Vancouver Canucks on Dec. 13, the Canes have gone 4-for-56 in the past 19 games. That’s anemic, and the Canes failed to have a power play in two of the games, which speaks to other issues.
There’s hesitancy. Too much passing, not enough shooting. Not enough crashing the net.
Forward Bryan Bickell, sidelined since November after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, said one solution might be to simplify.
“I think we need to make the picture really small,” he said. “Get pucks to the net and get some greasy ones. We get in (the zone) fine but we can’t find the first and second opportunities. If we paint that picture a little small and get our confidence, I think then we can explore different things to make that picture bigger.”
If the Canes fail to reach the playoffs again, their road record will be a big part of it. Carolina began the season with six road games and went 2-4-0. The Canes are 6-14-6 overall away from PNC Arena.
Of the 16 teams that qualified for the 2016 Stanley Cup playoffs, the worst road record was Minnesota’s 17-17-7. In the 2014-15 season, it was Tampa Bay’s 18-16-7 record.
The Canes have 15 road games remaining. Getting their road record close to “NHL .500” would require a sudden, dramatic turnaround down the stretch.
Jeff Skinner leads the Canes with 17 goals but went into the All-Star break without a point in the past six games and without a shot against the Kings — a first for the winger this season.
But others have had similar stretches. Like Skinner, center Victor Rask and winger Derek Ryan also are without a point in the past six games. Teuvo Teravainen had a stretch of eight games without a point this season, and Jordan Staal and Lee Stempniak each have had seven-game pointless streaks. It all adds up.
Simply put, the Canes need their scorers to score. They need more scoring from all four lines, regardless of the line combinations.
No one expects the Canes to reel off 16 straight wins, as the Blue Jackets did this season. And the Philadelphia Flyers won 10 straight, a reason the Flyers are holding on to a wild-card playoff spot.
The Canes won five in a row in November, beginning with a 5-1 victory over the Washington Capitals. They won four straight at home earlier this month before the five-game slide.
Odds are Carolina will need something better — let’s say a 9-0-1 run — to get somewhere back in the playoff conversation. But are the Canes capable of it?