Hurricanes Start West Coast Road Trip In Vancouver Against Desperate Canucks

Matthew GilmartinSenior Analyst IFebruary 3, 2009

The Carolina Hurricanes hope to keep their recent success going on the road against a Vancouver Canucks team that has lost eight games in a row, including an 0-4-1 stretch at home.

The 'Canes have won four of their last five games after suffering through a five-game losing streak. Their only loss was against the New York Rangers in their first game after the All-Star break.

The main reason for that success has been the recent defensive improvement and the excellent goaltending of starter Cam Ward.

With their newfound double-layered defense, the Hurricanes have allowed only six goals in their last six games (three of those goals were scored by the Rangers in that lone loss). Two of Carolina's last five opponents have not scored on them, and another tallied only one goal.

Second-line forward Matt Cullen has been doing more than his part for the 'Canes lately. He's scored five points in as many games. He's also played a major role in scoring the Hurricanes' first two short-handed goals of the season within the last week.

But while Cullen has been hot in the last few games, the Hurricanes have been getting scoring from anyone and everyone who has gotten ice time. Thirteen skaters, forwards and defensemen alike, have registered at least one point for the 'Canes in the last five games. Actually, most of them have scored more than one point.

A plethora of players has scored recently because everyone is being unselfish with the puck. If someone sees that a teammate has a better play, the teammate gets the puck. This creates better scoring chances and unpredictability among the other team—no one knows who will take a shot. As any football fan will tell you, being unpredictable is a surefire way to score.

The Hurricanes are playing great team hockey right now.

The Canucks, on the other hand, not so much.

Scoring isn't hard for the Canucks—they've tallied 22 goals in their past eight games. 

As was mentioned already, the Canucks are on an ugly eight-game losing streak. The skid started with an 0-4-1 group of five games at home. The Canucks have not won at home since Dec. 28 of last year, and are 11-11-4 at home on the year.

Scoring isn't hard for the Canucks—they've tallied 22 goals in their past eight games.

The main reason for the Canucks' recent struggles is goaltending. Roberto Luongo, Curtis Sanford, and Jason LaBarbera have combined to allow 35 goals. 

Luongo in particular is guilty of porous goaltending, as he allowed 20 of those goals. He must be having trouble seeing the puck lately or has been strangely sluggish in goal. He has had a save percentage above 90 percent in only one of the last contests. Those kinds of numbers are below a goaltender like Luongo.

Discipline is an area in which Vancouver can improve. The Canucks have been short-handed 32 times on their avalanche of a losing streak. The past three games have been especially bad, as Vancouver has surrendered 16 opposing power plays. 

The power play goals opponents have scored on the Canucks often made the difference between winning and losing in the last few weeks.

Fortunately for the Canucks, the Hurricanes' biggest weakness is the power play. Even on their ongoing 4-1 run, the 'Canes have capitalized on two of their 20 power plays.

But on the flip side, one of Carolina's greatest strengths is the penalty kill. They've allowed only one power play goal in 20 times short-handed in their past five. 

The Hurricanes are playing fluidly as a team right now. The Canucks are just trying to look for something—anything—positive to focus and build on. But that's kind of tough when you've lost eight straight games. Look for the Hurricanes to win this one.