If you’re looking to use the rest of the season to dig out some positives with the Hurricanes future, last night’s 2-1 shootout loss to the Ottawa Senators probably didn’t provide you with much. On the other hand, if you are just looking for entertaining hockey the rest of the way, then this was the game for you. Sure, the final score may not indicate it, but this was a very fun game to watch and had a lot of people on the edge of their seats.
This is generally the case when two teams with bad defenses get together and both Carolina & Ottawa fit the bill here, as both are among the bottom-10 in the league in shots allowed. It’s frustrating to watch on most nights, especially if your team is going through a goal-scoring drought, but it can make for some enjoyable games at times. It’s the type of game that drives coaches insane because there’s lots of end-to-end action, defensive breakdowns, scoring chances and little to no structure present. The Senators have specialized in this brand of hockey for a few years now and the Hurricanes have attempted to run this type of system plenty of times in the past but have broken away from this year.
However, with the Hurricanes being the reactive team that they are, they attempted to beat the Sens at their own game and tried to match their high-event, up-tempo system. This might excite some fans because on paper, the Canes are fit to run this kind of a system but it sure didn’t look like it last night. Ottawa didn’t dominate Carolina on the shot clock, but they sure looked a lot more comfortable in this type of game and had a slight edge in terms of scoring chances and possession as a result. Carolina had to rely on Cam Ward to keep this game tied and Ward himself got bailed out a few times by his defense making timely blocks and clears before Ottawa’s forwards could jump on some of the rebounds he was giving up.
It was just another one of those games where the Hurricanes were doing their best to keep up with their opponent rather than dictating the play themselves and it’s been a recipe for failure all season. Sure, the Hurricanes came close to stealing a win and got a point but I don’t think anyone would say that they were the “better” team after watching this game. Even with Bobby Ryan & Jason Spezza out of the lineup, the Senators didn’t have much of a problem carrying the play against the Hurricanes, which says a lot about where this team is right now.
Fenwick Timeline from Extra Skater
Ottawa didn’t exactly run away with this game, but they were a step ahead of the Canes and would have had a greater advantage in scoring chances if their shooters did a better job of hitting the net. They actually had a pretty easy time of generating offense off the rush and getting to the scoring area, they just missed the target too many times, some of them being hilariously wide. Kyle Turris’ fancy shootout attempt actually sums up this game well because the Sens danced around the Hurricanes defense all night but couldn’t capitalize because their skater’s radars were broken. They had a lot of trouble with this in the second period, where they controlled most of the territorial play (evidenced by Carolina’s flat line on the Fenwick Chart) but didn’t translate them into as many scoring chances as they could.
Carolina assistant coach Rod Brind’Amour mentioned during the second intermission that the team “wasn’t playing well at all” despite the score and I agree with his assessment. It took a coin-flip for the Hurricanes to take home the loss, but it wouldn’t have been a well-earned two-points even if the result was different.
Hurricanes Individual Scoring Chances
Hurricanes On-Ice Scoring Chances
Best EV Forward: Nathan Gerbe +8
Worst EV Forwards: Riley Nash & Jeff Skinner -8
Best EV Defensemen: Jay Harrison & John-Michael Liles +3
Worst EV Defenseman: Justin Faulk -6
It was a hot-and-cold night for the Hurricanes going down the lineup with the top-six finishing in the black in scoring chances while the third line got torn apart at even strength. It’s a little ironic that they produced the only goal of the game (which wasn’t recorded as a scoring chance) because I thought they had a pretty awful game. Their one goal was a fluke bank-shot and they were constantly getting hemmed in by Ottawa’s second line. I was a little surprised that Muller try to play away from that matchup because Ottawa feasted on this line all night long and it nearly resulted in them getting a couple goals. I was also surprised that he didn’t try to get Skinner or Lindholm on a different line after both Jiri Tlusty & Andrei Loktionov were knocked out of the game because this unit clearly wasn’t working. At the very least it would have mixed up Paul Maclean’s matchups, which Muller did little to play away from.
The top-six had an okay night, producing most of Carolina’s scoring chances while struggling to stay afloat in terms of territorial play. The lines got jumbled up a little thanks to the injuries and Semin was reunited with Eric Staal in the third period. Semin got blanked on the socresheet again, but he looked a lot more engaged than he did on Saturday night. He’s at his best when he’s creating chances off the rush and drawing in defenders in the offensive zone and he did a pretty decent job at that for most of the game, although he struggled to get the puck on net. Nathan Gerbe also spent some time with Staal & Semin early in the game and you can tell that he enjoyed his time on that line.
Justin Faulk’s play since the Olympics has caused a lot of concern among Carolina fans and last night just added another chapter to that book. There were some parts to his game that I liked, but it’s clouded by the fact that he was on the ice for 10 Ottawa scoring chances during 5v5 play alone. Sometimes this will happen to a player purely by coincidence or bad luck, but that wasn’t the case with Faulk tonight, as he had a lot of trouble containing Ales Hemsky & Mika Zibanejad. That said, he took most of this damage early in the game and seemed to improve and look more poised as time went on. It was also really nice to see him jump into the play more and carry the puck through the neutral zone, as that is something he hasn’t done much of in the last couple of years.
With Faulk & Sekera having a tough night, the rest of the defense had to pick up the slack and I think they did a pretty good job at that. Ron Hainsey & John-Michael Liles bailed the Hurricanes out of a lot of tough situations in the first period and were very effective at halting the Senators offense when the play got moved into their end. Jay Harrison was also quietly effective as he appears to be ending the season on a decent note.
Senators Individual Scoring Chances
Senators On-Ice Scoring Chances
Best EV Forward: Mika Zibanejad +9
Worst EV Forwards: Kyle Turris, Chris Neil, Mark Stone & Clark Macarthur-3
Best EV Defenseman: Patrick Wiercioch +11
Worst EV Defenseman: Eric Gryba -5
Ottawa’s scoring chances are also very top-heavy with the Zibanejad line producing all but five of them. That line tore up the Hurricanes at even strength and could have easily had more than one goal by the end of the night. It’s funny that the one goal they did score came off a deflection, because they were creating many more dangerous chances throughout the game. Kyle Turris’ line also had a solid night in terms of possession, but most of their best looks ended up missing the net or blocked by the Hurricanes defense. Thus, they ended up with a poor game in terms of scoring chances but I thought they played better than what the numbers indicate here.
Usually, Erik Karlsson is the standout on the Ottawa defense, but the Hurricanes did a fairly decent job of keeping him under-wraps. They got their only goal by forcing him to turn the puck over on a breakout and he wasn’t as dynamic offensively as he usually is. Instead, the Wiercioch/Ceci pairing got to the Canes. They had as dominant of a night as you will see from a fifth & Sixth defenseman, as the puck never left the Carolina zone when they were on the ice. Amazing how depth can make up for your top players not having their best night, isn’t it?
Head-to-Head at Five-on-Five
Carolina was actually in decent shape shape with matchups, except against Zibanejad’s line. That trio wrecked Nash’s line and the Sekera/Faulk defense pairing and Maclean made a point to keep this matchup going all night long. Everything else was either a win, a draw or a marginal loss, but the Hurricanes third line got beaten so badly that it pretty much negated all of that.
5v5 Zone Entries
There was plenty of open space on the ice and the Hurricanes used it well by carrying the puck in on 51% of their entries, a good majority of them coming from the top-six. Eric Staal and Alex Semin were the only ones producing a substantial amount of offense on their entries, though. It was nice to see Faulk join the action here, though as he’s been pretty quiet with joining the play for most of the season. Unfortunately, the rest of the defense and the bottom-six had trouble doing much off entries and the third line barely created any offense even when they were able to carry the puck in. You’d think a line with that much skill would do more but it wasn’t a good night for them.
Ottawa also used the open ice to their advantage and they created a territorial edge by entering the zone more often than the Hurricanes, carrying the puck in nine more times overall. With the exception of Chris Neil, everyone on their top-nine was able to carry the puck in at least once and the Michalek-Zibanejad-Hemsky line produced a whopping 11 carry-ins. Turris, Macarthur & Stone also had a very good night with 13 carry-ins and so did both Zack Smith & Mike Hoffman on the third line. I’m surprised that Ottawa’s possession numbers are as bad as they are because the have the forward depth and the skill to be a pretty good territorial team that can own the neutral zone, but their defensive play has kind of put a damper on this.
5v5 Zone Exits
The Hurricanes were guilty of some sloppy defensive play, as their high turnover rate clouds the solid zone exit rates by their defense corps. They didn’t get burned for them, as six turnovers came from Bellemore & Liles, but it’s still not every encouraging to see. The forwards also coughed the puck up way too much, especially the centers.
Ottawa’s defense didn’t have a great game overall, but their forwards were able to cleanly exit the zone at a high rate and this helped make up for it. They actually saved their defense a few times by retrieving the puck after a bad pass or a turnover and getting the puck out of the zone. This is where Hemsky impressed me the most last night. He did a fantastic job of contributing to Ottawa’s transition game by breaking up plays in his own end and starting rushes the other way. Clarke Macarthur also did a solid job with this, but Hemsky stood out the most. It definitely frustrated the Hurricanes and helped take some burden off Ottawa’s defense corps.