Canes special teams leads the way in 4-3 win over Buffalo

In my game preview, I said that the Canes needed to stay out of the box because there’s a good chance that special teams would play a huge factor in this game. I was about the last part of this because special teams did play a factor in this game as the Canes struck twice shorthanded and once on the powerplay, the latter goal gave Carolina the lead with less than two minutes to go. The problem was the Canes were unable to stay out of the box as they were shorthanded seven times in this game but killed off all of their penalties and managed to produce some offense out of it thanks to an over-aggressive Sabres powerplay and some great awareness from their penalty killers. You could argue that the Canes were outplayed in this game (which they were for a good portion) but you live and die by special teams in the NHL at times and Carolina managed to win that battle in this game.

Ten thoughts

  • Carolina was outshot 26-18 at even strength tonight and it could have been a lot worse had it not been for the 31 others that were blocked or missed the net. Like I said, the Sabres controlled most of this game but the special teams were the reason Carolina came on top….that and the next bullet point.
  • Aside from some rebound issues, Ward was at his best tonight. 39 saves on 42 shots and he made quite a few key stops when the Canes were shorthanded. Definitely built off a strong performance against Boston with an even better one tonight.
  • Being over-aggressive on the powerplay will cost you at times and it burned the Sabres tonight. The first shorthanded goal was due to a Sabres defenseman pinching in and leaving Thomas Vanek to defend the point. He lost control of the puck and Brandon Sutter hustled to the neutral zone to get it and snipe a goal past Ryan Miller. The second started with a turnover behind the Carolina net which went right onto the stick of Jiri Tlusty. With Marc-Andre Grangani pinching, Tlusty and Tim Brent had a two-on-one against Christian Ehrhoff and were able to easily get around him and score on a rebound chance.
  • Spreaking of being aggressive, Jay Harrison’s offensive skills are getting slightly better as he recorded his first goal of the season tonight on nice little wrister. Unfortunately, his offensive mentality hasn’t quite blossumed yet as a bad pinch led to the Sabres second goal.
  • When looking at the corsi numbers for tonight, it’s no surprise to see a lot of Canes in the negative column with how badly they were outshot at even strength. However, it’s interesting to see that Robin Regher and Tyler Myers were the only Buffalo defensemen with a negative rating. Those two were assigned to Staal and/or Skinner line for most of this game. Staal had five shots on goal and six total attempts, Skinner had three on goal and five attempts. These two along with Jokinen were very strong at creating offense.
  • Bryan Allen and Tim Gleason were getting hammered by Thomas Vanek’s line for most of this game but these two did some serious heavy lifting on the penalty kill and were a big reason why Carolina won this game. I have really liked what I’ve seen out of this pairing when it comes to defensive play. 
  • Of course, I have to say something about Allen’s hit on Jason Pominville, which looked pretty bad at first glance. I thought the hit was pretty late (you could argue that Allen had time to let up) but it shouldn’t be anything more than an interference call. A scrum like the Gleason/Gaustad fight was bound to happen after that.
  • Carolina may have been outplayed for most of that game but they kept the Sabres on lockdown for most of the third period. They only allowed three scoring chances that entire period and the only reason the game was tied was due to a bad bounce. Although, the Sabres were possessing the puck a lot more that period, most of their shots came from the outside and weren’t of good quality. Canes did a solid job of finishing this one off…until the bad bounce occurred.
  • I know we escaped with the win here but the team simply can not keep taking this many penalties every night, especially ones like the too many men on the ice call late in the game. Chad LaRose has been around long enough to know not to play the puck when he is supposed to be going off for a line change. Huge mental lapse. 
  • If Maurice is going to split up Skinner and Staal, then I would love to see Jokinen and Skinner back on the same line. Those two had some great chemistry last year and the pass Jokinen made to Skinner tonight to set up the game winner was so nasty. Although, I’m sure part of the reason Maurice split up those two was to get one of them away from Myers and Regher.