About That Tampa Bay Game
Last night, the Carolina Hurricanes fell 5-4 to the Tampa Bay Lightning. That’s not horrible, considering the Bolts sit atop the NHL standings. However, last night’s game (and the reactions to it) had so many layers, I couldn’t help but hop behind the keyboard to share my thoughts.
The offense was good, hell, we even scored two power play goals. Brock McGinn tallied his first career power play point, and Justin Faulk lit the lamp (FREE QUESO!). I’m not really here to break down the forwards, because they played a damn fine game.
Let’s talk about the defense, shall we? What the hell was that?
Hanifin had one of his worst games in recent memory. Pesce played nearly 20 minutes and was at best, not noticeable. Dahlbeck had that one heavy shot that did nothing. Faulk scored and had an assist, but his defense was still suspect last night. Slavin, you’re cool.
It… wasn’t good. Worst of all was it seemed like there were communication breakdowns, which can be somewhat attributed to the Blend-O-Matic, but the levels to which our defense was like watching elementary school soccer was discouraging. Tampa had WAY too many odd-man rushes, and I don’t know if it’s a seasonal allergy, but if someone could on the team wouldn’t mind clearing the opposition away from our goaltender during play, that would be swell.
The Canes blue line was the worst unit on the ice last night, but since we all probably agree on that, let’s keep it moving to the point of contention: goaltending.
This is the tweet that seemed to be the spark for a lot of debate last night:
.@NHLCanes played hard, scored 4 times, got more than enough from Ward, but allowed too many quality chances to the best team in the sport and paid the price.
— Adam Gold (@AGoldFan) January 10, 2018
Cam Ward made 29 saves on 34 shots. He allowed five goals (six if it weren’t for that pesky offside call). Based on how the defense played in front of him, I’m not calling it a total clunker of a game in net, but in what world is allowing five goals and having a save percentage of .853 “more than enough?” Did Cam make some good/great saves? Absolutely. That’s also what I like to call “his job.”
When we talk about how local media loves them some Cam Ward, this is what we mean:
Here are the Ducks 3 goals tonight.
Double miscue by Faulk allows good chance that Darling should have stopped, but he can’t you know, catch…
— Adam Gold (@AGoldFan) December 12, 2017
I’m not here to argue that Cam hasn’t been the better goalie this season. To this point, he has been. His individual numbers are better and he has more wins. That’s great, but his last few starts might be an indication that playing this much isn’t good for him or the team.
Let’s take a trip down goal support lane, shall we? In 26 games, Darling has had an average of 2.42 goals scored by the Hurricanes. In 18 games, Ward has had an average of 3.38 goals scored in front of him. That’s essentially a difference of a goal per game. Nine times that Darling has been in net, the team in front has scored one goal or less. Ward has had that experience only twice this season.
This isn’t meant to bash Ward (when I do it, you’ll know) or to praise Darling, because neither have earned those reactions this season. I’d just like some consistency when it comes to talking about how our goaltenders play. If they suck, let’s say they sucked. If they stood on their head, let’s applaud them. Just please stop grading on a curve.