Sixteen teams will compete for a spot in the Stanley Cup Finals, and this year the Carolina Hurricanes will not be one of them. Carolina had two chances to make the playoffs, but their season came to an abrupt ending.
They failed to win two Sundays ago against Eastern Conference rival Buffalo Sabres. Had they won that game, pressure would have been taken off their shoulders and they could have easily sneaked into the playoffs.
Carolina managed to get two remarkable wins against the Detroit Red Wings and Atlanta Thrashers, thus giving them another opportunity to get into the playoffs in their final regular season game against a solid Tampa Bay Lighting. The Hurricanes came in hot, and possibly a little over their heads. They knew they had to dominate the first period, especially considering that they were up against a solid team like Tampa Bay.
Sloppy play, bad turnovers, and soft goaltending resulted in a Tampa Bay first period 3-0 lead. ‘Canes goaltender Cam Ward stood on his head the past two games stopping 42 shots against Detroit this past Wednesday and had an outstanding game against Atlanta. Ward let in too many soft goals that he wouldn’t have allowed in his solid performance against Detroit and Atlanta. Considering his performance against Tampa Bay, the better idea might have been to start back-up goaltender Justin Peters.
Along with bad goaltending, Carolina didn’t have enough hits. If they had played a more physical game, they might have had more of an advantage and had been able to throw off Tampa Bay’s game a little.
Another factor to Carolina’s poor performance was not getting enough shots on net. But the weight can’t all be put on the offensive side; Carolina’s defense played poorly as well. Carolina’s defense made bad turnovers that led to breakaways or bad breaks down the ice. To think if they had only come out and played the way they needed to, they could sustain a spot in the playoffs.
It was obvious that they weren’t hungry enough for the eighth spot. If the Rangers had lost their game that day, Carolina would be in eighth place whether they earned it or not. However, it’s not certain if they would have made it past the first round.
As far as the coaching staff goes, this is head coach Paul Maurice’s second pickup by the Canes. He was fired in 2003 by Carolina and then rehired in 2008 after coaching two seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs. From the looks of it, it doesn’t seem likely he will be remaining in Carolina for long. Maurice is a good coach, no doubt about that, but he just hasn’t fulfilled the success the ‘Canes need to keep him as a coach.
If Carolina can play the way they did in the games against Detroit and Atlanta, they will be a good team next season. But if they continue to seize destiny and then lose it again, they won’t be getting anywhere.