Carolina's game against the Ottawa Senators had all the makings of a disappointment for the home team. We've seen the Hurricanes get shut down by opposing goalie a few times this year and it looked like it was going to happen again tonight as Senators goalie Craig Anderson played about as good of a game as you can ask for. Carolina played their best first period of the season, outchancing Ottawa 7-2 at one point, but Anderson turned down just about everything that was thrown his way. It took a deflection by Eric Staal to finally beat him with less than five minutes remaining in the first period and after that, Carolina played a very smart game in all three zones to take home 1-0 win.
The biggest complaint i had with the Hurricanes performance against the Bruins on Monday was that they were playing "not to lose" in the third period rather than trying to win. This wasn't the case tonight. There were some moments where Ottawa controlled the pace of play, but Carolina did continue to press and create chances for themselves in the second and third periods. They just couldn't get anything past Anderson, something that many other teams have struggled with this season. The defense also did a nice job of keeping most of Ottawa's shots to the outside and when they did let them slip through, Dan Ellis was there to backstop them. Ellis definitely played a good game and made more than a few great saves, but the team in front of him also did a great job of keeping Ottawa's top players in check. This was just the kind of game the Hurricanes needed before their two-week road trip which begins tomorrow night in Philadelphia
Corey's 10 Thoughts
– Kirk Muller tweaked the bottom-two lines a little bit by switching Patrick Dwyer and Chad LaRose on the third and fourth line respectively. This move ended up paying off as Dwyer gave the third line a huge boost tonight. This line was unable to create much offense in prior weeks but they were getting into the offensively zone with relative ease tonight and produced at least five scoring chances, four of them coming from Dwyer alone. His speed gives this line another dimension that it didn't have before this year and I think we could see them chip in with some secondary scoring very soon if they keep it up.
– Eric Staal's goal doesn't happen if Alex Semin doesn't a) enter the zone cleanly and b) if Semin doesn't decide to dangle to the middle of the ice and fire a shot on net, which Staal ended up tipping in. Semin also made a couple of nice plays on the backcheck and broke up a possible two-on-one opportunity for the Senators in the first period. Add in his team leading five shots on goal and seven shots attempted, and he earns a prime candidate for my player of the game. I know people will look at his one goal in six games and say that he isn't worth his contract but Semin has played well in all areas and has been a fantastic addition to this lineup.
– Ottawa ended up outshooting Carolina 27-25 at even strength (Canes had the edge overall at 35-33) but like I said in the intro, the Canes did a great job of keeping most of Ottawa's opportunities to the outside of the prime scoring areas. Carolina actually outchanced Ottawa 23-16 in this game, which does a better job of showing how well this defense played. Faulk and Gleason in particular did a fine job of not allowing Ottawa's top line or Erik Karlsson do much tonight. Although, their task was a little easier than it could have been with Jason Spezza out of the lineup.
– A big part of Carolina's strong defensive effort was their play on the penalty kill, which was terrific. They were thrown into the fire less than 30 seconds into the game after a ticky-tack boarding call on Drayson Bowman but the penalty killers responded well by not allowing a single Ottawa shot on goal during that sequence. Their best moment, however, came in the second period where they had to kill off a double minor penalty whie protecting a 1-0 lead and they did it fantastically by allowing only two scoring chances against. It was a great effort by everyone on the PK tonight but the work done by Dwyer, Brent, Nodl, Faulk and Gleason really stood out to me.
– The powerplay, unfortunately, went 0/4 on the night and looked pretty listless on all opportunities. They created three scoring chances in eight minutes by my count, but they could have done a lot better than that. Ottawa is a good penalty killing team and plays a very aggressive style but the Hurricanes need to adapt to this better.
– Faceoffs were part of the reason why the penalty kill was so good and why the powerplay struggled. Carolina won four of their six draws on the penalty kill while winning only three of seven on the powerplay. I think faceoffs as a whole are kind of overrated because the events that occur after the draw are often more important, but they do matter a lot on special teams and the Canes numbers tonight reflect that.
– Dwyer gave the third line a huge boost and LaRose and Andreas Nodl did the same for the fourth line. They were trusted with playing about 8 minutes tonight and did a very solid job tonight given their role. I thought Nodl in particular really stood out and Brent probably had this best game of the season. Those two were more noticeable on the penalty kill than anything else, but I think they were pretty effective when used at even strength, too. Also, I noticed that Jordan Staal was centering LaRose and Nodl for a few shifts. I'm not sure if he was being double shifted or if this was an attempt to get Nodl and LaRose going.
– Justin Faulk's return has restored some balance in the Hurricanes defense corps. Faulk, Gleason and Pitkanen each logged over 20 minutes tonight with Faulk leading the way with over 25 minutes played. Obviously there are certain defensemen being trusted to do more than others, but the minutes weren't as top heavy as they were on Monday night when Faulk was absent. Muller especially has to keep an eye on this on back-to-back games.
– Speaking of ice-time, Zac Dalpe played under 10 minutes tonight but played a regular amount of shifts in the third period. I thought he may have been limited after taking an elbow to the head late in the second period but it appears that Muller just wasn't using him much. I guess that sort of explains why Jordan Staal was centering fourth line wingers for the third period.
– A 1-0 score might be underwhelming for those who were expecting more offense out of this team, but I will gladly take an effort like this plus a win any day of the week.
It was nice to see the Hurricanes treat their home fans to a win before they head on this long road trip. Let's hope they can keep the ball rolling tomorrow night when they take on the Flyers.