It may not seem like it, but over the last week, the Hurricanes have been generating more offense than they have all season.
In the last five games, the Hurricanes have taken 179 shots on goal, which is their highest output in any five-game stretch this season. They’ve taken at least 30 shots in all of those games, peaking with a 41-shot effort last Friday night in Washington.
Of course, that doesn’t begin to tell the story. The team has had little to show for all that pressure, scoring on just seven of those 179 shots – a percentage of just 3.9. In the same five-game set that they’ve been peppering opposing goaltenders, their goal output is actually tied for the lowest of any five consecutive games this season.
For a team desperately needing wins to get back into the playoff picture – they’ve gone 1-3-1 in those five games and will now need a solid run of wins to pass Buffalo or the New York Rangers – that’s come as a tough pill to swallow.
“At the end of the day, the energy on offense was exactly the way we want it to be and the concepts were there,” said coach Paul Maurice. “It is very frustrating for a group that’s gone a bunch of games now and put a tremendous amount of offense at the net not to have scored.”
“We’ve been much better at five-on-five than in previous games, and we’ve spent a lot more time in the offensive zone than the defensive zone as well,” said Tuomo Ruutu, who has 2 goals in the last five games, more than any other Canes player. “It’s tough to say why we’re struggling to score, but it’s not just about luck.”
Although they didn’t practice on Thursday, the Canes had a team meeting to try and find answers. There’s no question that scorers who haven’t been scoring are starting to feel the pressure mentally at a key time of the year, which may be affecting decision making at important moments. Sometimes, the Canes wait too long to take shots and miss opportunities. Other times, they shoot regardless of the situation, as evidenced by Toronto’s 32 blocks in Wednesday’s loss.
“We’re putting everything at the net all the time, which is a good idea, except there are times to control the puck, move your feet and wait for something to open up,” said Maurice. “That’s the patience that we’d like to see come into our game
“If you’ve got three guys lying down in front of you, you can’t drive it in to somebody’s pads. You’ve got to move and other people have to move around you.”
Still, identifying the right times to throw it on net and the right times to make a play has proved to be difficult.
“It’s easier said than done,” said Ruutu.
With most top players struggling to score, the Canes are hoping to find a spark from less likely sources. Chad LaRose and Brandon Sutter, a pairing at both even strength and on a new power-play unit, have combined for each of the team’s last two goals. LaRose’s first-period tally against Toronto ended a lengthy power-play drought, with Maurice saying that the group of LaRose, Sutter and Drayson Bowman will continue to get chances on the man advantage.
“They came out with some emotion and free of the tension that big players feel when the power play goes the way ours has,” said Maurice. “When we show video tomorrow … we’re going to show what their unit did and have the other units try to do the same thing. Pretty simple.”
In the meantime, the rest of the team will keep playing the game they’ve played in the last week, which, other than the inability to finish their chances, they feel has been good enough.
“In terms of quality of play, in our last four or five games we’ve played as well as maybe we have all year,” said Maurice. “We really have.”