Five observations from the Carolina Hurricanes’ loss Sunday to the Vegas Golden Knights, matching the number of goals allowed by the Canes.
— Some might say the outcome was predictable: the Canes in the second half of a back-to-back, the Golden Knights resting on Saturday while the Canes played in Detroit.
But the Knights put on a 60-minute display of why they’re the talk of the NHL and have a league-leading 66 points in their 5-1 win. They’re fast. They’re dangerous in transition. They have a bigtime goalie in Marc-Andre Fleury who is giving his team high-quality starts in net game after game.
“They play quick and they play committed and I think it starts from their net out,” Canes defenseman Jaccob Slavin said. “They’ve got a strong goaltender and they’ve been able to buy into their system there.”
— When Canes coach Bill Peters is disgusted with his team’s play in a game he often talks about having too many “passengers.” Kirk Muller once said that when he coached the Canes. Paul Maurice said it.
One reason the Canes have missed the the playoffs the past eight years, and a reason they may miss the playoffs for a ninth, is having too many passengers too many games. That includes Sunday’s game. As co-captain Justin Faulk said, “We just didn’t have it tonight.”
Peters said winning hurts. But losing needs to hurt just as much. It’s hard to say how much losing hurts this Canes team.
“Some guys might be a little too comfortable, there’s no question about that,” Peters said,
— The Canes keep pointing to an eight-game homestand — their longest of the season — after the All-Star break as the time to make a strong move in the standings. They also play 10 of their 12 games in February in PNC Arena.
But here’s a sobering fact: the Canes are 0-3-1 in their last four home games. Their last home win was Dec. 29 over the Pittsburgh Penguins.
New owner Tom Dundon wants PNC Arena to be an intimidating place for visiting teams and is determined to have bigger crowds down the stretch of the season. But the Canes, competitive on the road, can’t exhale at home.
— No one can say how long forward Sebastian Aho will be out. Peters believes that what the team is calling a lower-body injury — Aho hurt his left knee — could heal fairly quickly. But with a concussion, there is no defined timeframe on recovery.
“It would be magical if they both heal at the same time,” Peters said.
Coaches and players use the “next-man-up” talk when a key player goes down. That always sounds good in theory but who replaces Aho?
— It has taken a few years but forward Elias Lindholm has developed into a tough, edgy, effective NHL player. It’s easy to second-guess the Canes on taking Lindholm with the fifth pick of the 2013 NHL draft when center Sean Monahan was available, and quickly taken by the Calgary Flames. But Lindholm, who could be at center next season, is a sound two-way player who is showing he can score as well as scrap.
Nate Schmidt and Jonathan Marchessault of the Golden Knights both felt Lindholm’s sting Sunday, absorbing hits from No. 28. He likes it physical.