Weekend Takeaways: ‘Canes go closed-door; ugly plays and injuries mar games

Carolina Hurricanes' Sebastian Aho lies on the ice during the third period after a Canucks goal in Vancouver, on Saturday, December 9, 2023. (Darryl Dyck/CP)

The nature of a closed-door meeting is we, on the outside, really have no clear idea of what is said or done.

All we can say for sure is, if a team is holding them on even a semi-regular basis, things have not being going great.

Following their 4-3 loss in Vancouver on Saturday, the Carolina Hurricanes players — now losers of four straight — barred the door and tried to hash a few things out. When captain Sebastian Aho emerged from behind the curtain, he acknowledged this was not the first time the ‘Canes have felt it necessary to have this type of players-only session.

That means, as we roll along into mid-December, Carolina has had more players-only meetings than Andrei Svechnikov has goals.

Ugh.

Svechnikov, of course, is a reminder that some stuff that goes bad is out of your control. Last season he had 23 goals in March when a knee injury scuttled his season and damaged hopes this typically ferocious and smothering Carolina squad could go all the way. The Russian sniper didn’t debut until the end of October this year, didn’t get his first tally until the final days of November, and is now once again watching games — just as he was starting to hit his stride — due to an upper-body ailment.

Along those same lines, goaltender Frederik Andersen’s blood clot is another unfortunate issue that is beyond the control of both player and club.

But no team coached by Rod “We’re on our way to losing 50-0 right now” Brind’Amour is in the business of sugar-coating sh…stuff.

Without Andersen, Carolina’s five-on-five save percentage is the second-worst mark (.896) in the NHL. The defence corps, usually the backbone of this team, has under performed and must take its share of responsibility for that, as well as the team’s overall minus-2 goal-differential. Up front, the ‘Canes rank 22nd in goals-per-game (3.0) since Nov. 1 and working backwards on this four-game losing streak Carolina has netted three, two, one and one goals.

These past four defeats have all come on the road and the ‘Canes are now 6-10-0 away from Raleigh.

Again, we don’t know exactly what gets said in these players-only meeting, but the Canes definitely have no shortage of topics to kick around right now.

Other Takeaways

• There’s no other way to put it, it was an awful weekend for ugly plays and potentially devastating injuries.

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On Friday night, Edmonton’s Evander Kane drilled Wild defenceman Jonas Brodin from behind on a play that somehow went unpunished, both by the referees that night and, subsequently, the league. Brodin is expected to be out of the Wild’s lineup for a while.

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The most severe incident, though, occurred Saturday in Detroit when David Perron cross-checked Ottawa’s Artem Zub in the head in the aftermath of seeing teammate Dylan Larkin laying face-down at the feet of Zub. Larkin had actually been roughed up by the Sens’ Parker Kelly and Mathieu Joseph on the lip of the Ottawa crease, but Perron’s first bad decision was assigning blame to Zub — who actually appeared to be calling for help on Dylan’s behalf — based on proximity, prompting an absolutely vicious cross-check that should (but might not) earn Perron a lengthy suspension. Larkin had to be helped off the ice.

Also Saturday, Montreal’s Justin Barron was crushed from behind by Buffalo’s Eric Robinson on a play that earned the latter a trip to the shower. Thankfully, Barron was able to return to the action.

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On Sunday, Blue Jackets defenceman Erik Gudbranson tore after Nick Cousins, basically jumping the Panthers forward as he carried the puck into the Columbus zone. Gudbranson was upset that Cousins had been whistled for a boarding minor (that could easily have been a major) on the former just minutes before Gudbranson opted for vigilante justice.

Then, in one of the final games of the weekend, Anaheim’s Ryan Strome caught Jets scoring star Kyle Connor with a hit that knocked Connor out of the game and earned Strome a five-minute kneeing major. Connor’s teammate Mark Scheifele immediately dropped the gloves with Strome as retribution for the Ducks player’s action.

• Stick tap to five-foot-nine Michael Carcone, who had six career goals in 30 NHL games before busting out with 13 in 25 this season with Arizona, including one in the Coyotes’ 5-3 loss to Boston on Saturday. The 27-year-old is a very unlikely leader for one NHL goal-scoring category.

• What a year Rangers goalie Jonathan Quick is having. With his 38th birthday on the horizon in January, Quick has eight wins in nine starts this year and, surely, none of them were sweeter than the ‘W’ he posted against his old team from Los Angeles on Sunday by stopping 25 of 26 shots at Madison Square Garden. Among goalies with 10 appearances this year, only four have a better save percentage than the American’s .922.

Weekend Warrior

Congrats on an amazing career to Patric Hornqvist, one hell of a “Mr. Irrelevant.” Taken with the final pick by the Predators in the 2005 NHL Draft, Hornqvist won two Cups with the Pens (alongside the player taken before everybody in that 2005 draft) and earned most of his 246 career goals by battling hard in front of the net. The Swede posted 20-plus goals in a season eight times and scored at a 20-goal pace in both the pandemic-shortened seasons of 2019-20 and 2020-21. Concussions marked his final years in Florida, but the Panthers honoured the career-long warrior prior to Friday’s game versus Pittsburgh.

Red and White Power Rankings

1. Toronto Maple Leafs (14-6-4) This should be the week John Tavares hits 1,000 career NHL points. After picking up an assist in Toronto’s 4-0 win against Nashville on Saturday, the Leafs captain is just two points away from the big mark — and his next game is Monday against, yep, the Islanders. (That game is on Monday Night Hockey on Sportsnet and Sportsnet+ at 7 p.m. ET / 4 p.m. PT.)

2. Winnipeg Jets (16-8-2) The Jets won their fourth consecutive outing on Sunday night, but the real headline was Kyle Connor being injured by Ryan Strome. Presumably, we’ll learn more about Connor’s long-term status this week, but he had to be helped off the ice.

3. Vancouver Canucks (18-9-1) Ilya Mikheyev picked up his ninth tally of the season on Saturday in the win over Carolina and is scoring at a 30-goal pace. That’s basically the same rate he was burying at two years ago with Toronto during an injury-shortened campaign that earned him his four-year deal in Vancouver. It would be great to see the Russian — who’s never played more than 54 games in an NHL season — suit up 75 times this year.

4. Edmonton Oilers (12-12-1) Edmonton is even-steven again after winning its seventh straight contest versus the Wild on Saturday. The Oilers are averaging 4.8 goals-per-game on the run and surrendering just 1.7 per night.

5. Ottawa Senators (11-11-0) After going 13 games without a goal, Vladimir Tarasenko now has three in his past three outings after burying a PPG on Saturday in Ottawa’s big 5-1 triumph in Detroit.

6. Montreal Canadiens (12-13-3) After more than a month on the sidelines, rugged D-man David Savard returned to the Canadiens blueline on Sunday night during a 2-1 setback versus the Predators.

7. Calgary Flames (11-13-3) 112 players in the NHL have at least eight goals this year. A league-high seven of them play for Vancouver and 30 other clubs have at least one guy who’s lit the lamp eight times. The only squad without one is the Calgary Flames.

The Week Ahead

• Canada’s 2024 World Junior Championship selection camp is already underway in Oakville, Ont., while Team USA’s hopefuls hit the ice in Plymouth, Mich., beginning Thursday ahead of the big tournament in Sweden.

• Edmonton goes for its eighth straight win on Tuesday when the Connors — McDavid and Bedard — meet for the first time with Chicago in Northern Alberta. (That game is on Sportsnet and Sportsnet+ at 8 p.m. MT.)

• After spending 13 years wearing the uniform of the Colorado Avalanche, Erik Johnson returns to Denver on Wednesday as a member of the Buffalo Sabres.

• Thursday has all kinds of things to watch out for. Senators winger Vladimir Tarasenko returns to St. Louis for the first time since the Blues dealt him to the New York Rangers at last year’s trade deadline. Meanwhile, the Canadian and American women will play the first game of this season’s Rivalry Series in Kitchener, Ont., with the next tilt on Saturday in Sarnia, Ont.

The big story Thursday, though, is Roberto Luongo being inducted into the Canucks Ring of Honour ahead of the clash with Luongo’s current employer, the Florida Panthers.

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