Normally, a team already guaranteed to make the playoffs, which is first in its division and which is perceived as a serious contender for the Stanley Cup should have peaceful days less than two weeks from the end of the calendar.
Among the Carolina Hurricanes, the Canadian’s next opponent, this is not the time for excitement. Since the trade deadline, their 8-6-1 record has been a midfielder. Since Andrei Svechnikov retired for the rest of the season: 4-5-1. In the last five games: 1-3-1.
Offensively, the hurricane is not blowing very hard, both at even strength and on the power play — the club has been shut out nine times in its last 11 five-on-four games.
Obviously, the loss of Svechnikov hurts very, very badly. “He’s a pure scorer, we miss him a lot,” confirms defender Shayne Gostisbehere. Acquired just before the deadline for transactions, the former Philadelphia Flyers and Arizona Coyotes will only have rubbed shoulders with the Russian for a few days. But he can testify, from what he heard from his teammates and from what he sees on the ice, how critical Svechnikov was to the success of the Canes.
It evokes, as is customary, the “next man up” mentality. The one who wants that in the absence of a key player, another rises to replace him.
But that is precisely what is lacking right now. Nobody took over. Sebastian Aho, Martin Necas and, to a lesser extent, Jesperi Kotkaniemi, remain the leaders of a suddenly very timid attack. Teuvo Teraivainen continues its season of misery. Jordan Staal is going through lethargy. Former Oilers Jesse Puljujarvi, who we wondered if he would revive his career in Raleigh, has still not collected a point in his new uniform. He’s been sidelined twice in the past week.
“We’re playing solid hockey,” Kotkaniemi said Saturday after his club’s morning practice. We were victims of some bad leaps. But we play as we want. You just need to put more pucks in the net. »
Staal, captain of the group, was less tender.
Head coach Rod Brind’Amour agreed. With eight games left, he expects his forwards to reach “a higher level”.
“We rely too much on our defense, which is excellent,” he recalled. As proof, since the start of the season, only the Boston Bruins have allowed fewer goals per game and are more sparing on the penalty kill.
“But our attackers have to contribute more,” he added, without lace.
We feel the coach annoyed by the record of his team in recent weeks.
It’s not that his men are playing badly. “During our last streak, the game I liked the least was the one we won,” he said. However, given the amount of talent in his locker room and the quality of execution of which he knows his players capable, it is starting to be time for the results to be there again.
“We are judged by wins and losses, and we don’t win,” he summed up. And to repeat: “There are guys who have to reach another level. »
Those concerned will quickly recognize themselves. Perhaps they will even take advantage of their visit to Montreal, facing a club that has been reduced as much as possible, to revive themselves.
Antti Raanta will be the Hurricanes’ starting goalie against CH.