As sports fans, it’s easy to get wrapped up in the emotion of a game and get jazzed up over a win even when the season is basically over. Nobody likes to lose, but all winning does at this point is worsen the Hurricanes draft position, so it’s important to keep your eyes focused on the process more than the results. If the Canes are just squeaking out wins while relying on goaltending like they did against Columbus a couple weeks ago, then it might cause some false optimism heading into the off-season. On the other hand, if the team wins while legitimately playing well and showing signs of growth, then there’s something to be somewhat excited about. Last night’s 4-1 win over the Dallas Stars provided a little of both.
A recurring trend we’ve seen with the Canes lately is that they generally don’t play well in the first period. The opposition usually has control for the first 10-15 minutes of the game before the Hurricanes make adjustments and start to dictate the play. This has worked for them a few times (see Tuesday night in Pittsburgh), but on the whole, it’s one of the reasons why the Canes are in the position they are now. If we want to find something to give confidence in the team going forward, breaking this trend would be a nice start because if they don’t get stellar goaltending, they find themselves down 2-3 goals after 20 minutes and it’s already too late. Unfortunately, this trend continued last night against the Stars.
Dallas carried the play and peppered Anton Khudobin with 13 shots on goal in the first period, many of them being legit scoring chances. Khudobin was able to fend off this attack, though and the Hurricanes miraculously went into the intermission with the score tied. After that, they started to carry the play, got a goal off one of the weirdest deflections you’ll ever see and had a decided edge in the second period in terms of territorial play. To add to that, they also got the benefit of a couple of power plays, scoring twice with the man advantage in the second period alone and that gave them a big enough cushion to lean on for the rest of the game.
The final score might indicate that this was a blowout and that the Hurricanes played to their potential against a desperate team, but it was actually pretty even in both shots & scoring chances. The Stars could have easily had a big lead after the first period but ran into Khudobin and the Hurricanes took advantage of a lucky bounce & a couple of power plays to make things more comfortable. So, the final score is a little deceiving, but there are things to be happy about for the Hurricanes outside of Khudobin. The biggest of which being the performance of their younger depth players in the wake of numerous forward injuries.
Fenwick Timeline from Extra Skater
Dallas is a fast team that thrives off creating turnovers in their own zone and quickly going the other way to create scoring chances. The Hurricanes fell into this trap plenty of times in their first meeting and they almost got burned again in the first period. They weren’t dominated territoriality, but Dallas had a big edge in scoring chances and most of them were created in transition. That’s why Khudobin was probably the first star of this game because without him, there’s a good chance the Canes are chasing yet another game. Instead, they got bailed out and were able to hit the reset button heading into the second period.
After that, Carolina began to take over the play. Getting two power plays (and two goals to boot) helped them establish a territorial edge, but their play at even strength wasn’t bad either. They followed a similar formula as to what they did against Pittsburgh, which was keying in on Dallas’ weakness (their defense) and establishing a forecheck so they couldn’t burn them on the rush. This worked well at times, but it wasn’t a full-proof strategy. The Stars still broke free a few times and their first line produced a goal after a massive slip-up in the neutral zone from the Hurricanes. Dallas also had a pretty big push at the start of the third period and Khudobin had to come up big a couple more times to prevent the Stars from making it interesting.
Thankfully, Carolina was already up by three goals when Seguin scored and they got an insurance tally in the third period to put things out of reach. It’s also worth mentioning that the Canes didn’t sit back for the entire third period despite having a 2-3 goal lead, which was nice to see because that has been another bad trend going on in recent game.s
Hurricanes Individual Scoring Chances
Hurricanes On-Ice Scoring Chances
Best EV Forward: Jeff Skinner +3
Worst EV Forwards: Radek Dvorak, Zach Boychuk & Manny Malhotra -2
Best EV Defensemen: Jay Harrison & Brett Bellemore +2
Worst EV Defenseman: Justin Faulk -4
The Hurricanes had to deal with a very shorthanded roster, missing both Jiri Tlusty and Alexander Semin up front. To make matters worse, defenseman Andrej Sekera was also a late scratch, which caused Kirk Muller to jumble up the defense pairings as the game went on. As expected, this roster got off to a very tough start, getting outchanced 9-4 in the first period and the only four scoring chances were two from Jordan Staal & Riley Nash’s lines respectively. After that, things seemed to settle down and some of the Hurricanes depth began to step forward.
Nash’s line produced yet another goal and they were easily the Hurricanes most dangerous line at evens for the second game in a row. This trio was the Hurricanes best line in terms of possession and they were creating some very good looks in the offensive zone, producing seven total scoring chances and 12 shots. The most impressive thing about the play of this line is how well they played below the goal line and along the boards. They won a lot of battles to create chances and were following up on the play so that they could keep the puck in the offensive zone. These last two games have been night-and-day better from their disastrous showing in Ottawa earlier this week.
Chris Terry got a lot of love on the broadcast for his play, despite having a so-so night by the numbers. He definitely did a lot of the “little things” to make himself stand out, though. Things like tracking down Dallas’ forwards on the rush to prevent chances and coming away with the puck along the boards, the former being very important against a team like the Stars. He also made a nice cross-ice pass to earn a primary helper on John-Michael Liles’ power play goal. The coaches are throwing him a bone by using him on Eric Staal’s line for his “emergency call-up” and he definitely did what he could to make the most of it last night.
Another player who made an impact on the power play was the aforementioned, John-Michael Liles. He had a pretty pedestrian night at evens, despite picking up three points but some will tell you that this was arguably his best game since coming to Carolina. The reason being that he did what he was “supposed” to do, which was help the power play. He did just that by scoring Carolina’s third goal of the game and displaying some great puck-movement on both of the Hurricanes power plays in the second period. Dallas’ passive penalty kill made it somewhat easy for the Canes to move the puck around, though. Both Liles & Faulk had a ton of space to work with at the point and the Canes had someone screening the goalie on both goals they scored. Still, it’s nice to see life in this power play, especially with the roster dealing with so many missing players.
Speaking of missing players, not having Sekera could have been a disaster for this game and it almost was after that first period. Muller started the game by reuniting the Bellemore/Hainsey pairing while putting Liles with Faulk and Harrison with Komisarek. This didn’t work out too well, as Dallas nearly took advantage of a couple of bad pinches by Liles & Hainsey as well as a few slip-ups by Bellemore. After that, Muller jumbled up the top-four, placing Faulk with Hainsey and Bellemore with Liles. On paper, this shouldn’t work but the defense played noticeably better than they did in the first period. Bellemore seemed to benefit from this the most, as he was on the ice for only one scoring chance for the final 40 minutes. Hainsey & Faulk had some trouble in their own end, though.
Stars Individual Scoring Chances
Stars On-Ice Scoring Chances
Best EV Forwards: Alex Chiasson & Dustin Jeffrey +5
Worst EV Forwards: Jamie Benn & Ryan Garbutt -2
Best EV Forward: Brenden Dillon +2
Worst EV Defenseman: Alex Goligoski -3
Dallas probably had no sympathy for Carolina’s injury woes because they are going through a bit of a rough patch themselves and had only 11 forwards after Ray Whitney left the game. The top of the roster didn’t play that bad offensively, they just couldn’t solve Khudobin and gave back just as much in their own end. Their fourth line helped make up for this by producing six chances (a good majority of them coming off the rush), but they didn’t create much sustained pressure and couldn’t find their way on the scoresheet either. Unfortunate for them, but games like this tend to happen.
On defense, Lindy ruff leaned on the pairing of Alex Goligoski & Trevor Daley, using them in virtually every situation. They did some good things offensively, but Carolina seemed to target them a few times by forcing them into turnovers. Goligoski & Seguin nearly gift-wrapped a goal for Nathan Gerbe after a poor exchange in front of the net. I was a little surprised that Brenden Dillon didn’t play more minutes, because I thought he and Jordie Benn played a solid game (despite getting tagged for a minus) and Daley/Goligoski were taking on a pretty big workload.
Head-to-Head at Five-on-Five
The matchup game worked for Carolina, as Nash’s line took advantage of playing against Dallas’ third line for most of their even strength minutes. Jordan Staal’s line also did a very good job against Benn & Seguin, who destroyed the Hurricanes a couple months ago. The defense was the only major concern, as Faulk had a lot of trouble against Dallas’ top players, but he played much better once Hainsey moved up to the top pair. Harrison & Komisarek also surprisingly acquitted themselves well against Dallas’ top-six.
5v5 Zone Entries
Carolina didn’t have many 5v5 entries overall and most of their carry-ins came from the “third line,” over half of them in fact. They also created a pretty decent number of shots the times Skinner carried the puck into the zone, which is to be expected with his skillset. Terry also had a nice game but the majority of the forwards had a pretty quiet game when it came to zone entries. It’s not that they weren’t carrying the puck in, but rather that they weren’t getting it into the zone frequently at all, which is a little concerning despite the final score.
The Stars crated basically all of their offense off the rush and they were able to carry the puck in almost 70% of the time, so just about everyone got in on the action. Chiasson, Roussel, Benn, Seguin and Nichushkin being the main standouts. It’s kind of surprising that Carolina wasn’t outshot or outchanced that badly when you take this into consideration because they got owned in the neutral zone.
5v5 Zone Exits
Zone exits are easily where Sekera is missed the most and Faulk having an off-game didn’t help matters. Carolina didn’t commit too many turnovers, so that saved them from getting burned in their own end, but they did have a tough time coming up the ice. This combined with their zone entry numbers illustrates that well.
This is where Daley & Goligoski struggled. They were given a big workload and struggled to exit the zone on their own power. Although, some of that relates to Dallas’ system because they like having their forwards carry the puck out and get up the ice with speed rather than their defensemen hitting them with a long breakout pass in the neutral zone. Carolina was able to catch Dallas scrambling a couple of times, though (see Staal & Nash’s goals).