Three takeaways from the Carolina Hurricanes’ 3-1 loss Sunday to the San Jose Sharks.
— Are the Carolina Hurricanes feeling the pressure and not handling it well?
It’s easy to say that. It looks that way.
Positioned on the NHL playoff cutline in the Eastern Conference, the Canes have not only lost two straight games at PNC Arena with a chance to move up but looked awful in losing.
The Canes were outskated Friday by the Detroit Red Wings, losing 4-1. It was more of the same Sunday as the San Jose Sharks, a good, well-balanced Western Conference team, had all the answers in a 3-1 victory.
“They looked tight today but for no good reason,” Canes coach Bill Peters said. “Why would you be tight? You should be excited. It’s an exciting time of year, really.”
In both games, the Canes were one point behind the Philadelphia Flyers, who hold the last wild-card playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Win either game and the Canes take over the spot. Instead …
“I know I’m squeezing my stick a bit and I know a few guys, as well, are getting frustrated and wanting so much more,” center Jordan Staal said. “We do have to take a breath sometimes, but we do need more, as well, and it’s a fine line of staying loose and being confident in what you can do as player. And there’s a point where you have to be ready and dialed in to play. It’s fine line in this game.”
— Peters said after Sunday’s game there would be a different lineup Tuesday for the Flyers game, and there should be.
“There will be different people and I hope they bring energy, some passion and some pride,” Peters said.
If the Canes look to Charlotte and the Checkers, their AHL affiliate, they could call up Russian forward Valentin Zykov, who has 22 goals, or forwards such as Warren Foegele (20 goals) or Aleksi Saarala (17), who scored twice Sunday. Zykov is a big guy at 6-foot and 209 pounds who is hard to budge when he’s in front of the net.
Carolina’s even-strength offense has been badly lacking of late — in nine of the past 13 games the Canes have scored one or no even-strength goals.
Asked Sunday if he had an explanation for it, Peters, “Yep.” Would he explain? “No.”
Settling for outside shots in one explanation. A lack of an effective forecheck in recent games is another. Net presence? Not enough. Hunger? Not enough.
Peters said Sebastian Aho, who has a team-high19 goals, is playing well and he liked Brock McGinn’s effort Sunday. “But there were some no-shows,” he said.
— The coaches and players are always talking about doing all the little things right and attention to detail.
So what happened Sunday? The Sharks’ Timo Meier went unchecked in the slot in scoring the first goal. Chris Tierney then found himself alone in front of goalie Cam Ward and scored late in the first period when the Canes were caught with four players along the wall chasing after the puck
The Canes’ lack of attention was glaring and must be troubling. It was the perfect example of how teams lose games.
“Those are breakdowns that shouldn’t happen,” Staal said. “It goes to show we weren’t ready mentally in the first period to win that game.”