Carolina's 4-0 shutout over Washington Capitals tonight was eerily similar to the game these two teams played two weeks ago at the Verizon Center. You had one team coming in on a relatively high note and rolling through the game without much trouble while their injury-depleted opponents barely put up much of a fight. The Hurricanes may have been on the wrong side of that duel a week ago but tonight, they were the dominant team and played one of their strongest games of the season. The quality of their opponent should be taken into account here because the Capitals are a team that is currently down in the dumps and were dressing basically an AHL defense tonight, but it's still a win and two points in the books in the end. Add in the fact that this was a divisional win on the road and it's hard to find much to complain about tonight's performance.
Even though the score was close for most of the game, the Hurricanes had control of this contest for a good 80% of the time. Washington had a chance to get things going in their favor early in the first period when their first line created a transition scoring chance, but Marcus Johansson ended up fanning on an open net and the Hurricanes responded by getting a lucky goal a few minutes later. From then on, the Hurricanes dominated play at even strength, took the crowd out of the game and basically just coasted the rest of the way through. This was about as good of a road game as you can expect a team to play and let's hope that Carolina can continue to keep the ball rolling in the rematch this Thursday.
Corey's Ten Thoughts
– In terms of shot attempts and time of possession, Carolina had a huge advantage over the Caps tonight. They outshot the Captials 27-23 at even strength and led 53-43 in even strength shot attempts. However, I think the scoring chances might end up looking different because of how often the Capitals were able to create offense off the rush. Their transition game was working pretty well in the first period and it took Justin Peters and a little luck for the Hurricanes to keep the score knotted at zero during then. The Hurricanes probably had the overall edge in chances but something tells me the Caps didn't get dominated as much in this department in the first period because of how well their transition game was working.
– In addition to Joe Corvo's bank-shot goal, one thing that helped take the crowd out of this game was the play of the Jordan Staal line in the first period. Staal, Skinner and Jokinen were absolutely relentless on the forecheck and were able to consistently pin the Caps into their own end. They weren't on the scoresheet, but they were creating plenty of offense like they have been all season and were a huge factor in Carolina having such a large territorial advantage tonight. Skinner's ability to create scoring chances out of nothing is quite a sight to see, as well.
– The Hurricanes defense helped out Peters a lot tonight, but the Carolina goaltender did need to come up big quite a few times. His shining moment was easily his glove save on Tomas Kundratek in the third period which helped preserve his second career shutout. Peters did not need to steal this game but he made plenty of great saves to help keep the Caps off the scoresheet and the crowd at Verizon Center quiet for most of the night. Oddly enough, Peters' only other career shutout was also against Washington.
– Riley Nash had himself a big night with two goals, a +3 rating and going 8/15 on faceoffs. Both of his goals were the result of him being in the right place at the right time, but he has been doing a lot more to help the Canes in addition to that. He and Patrick Dwyer were forced to do some heavy-lifting in the defensive zone and they ended up positive shot differentials despite the tough assignments. In the preview, I talked about how the Hurricanes needed to get quality performances out of their depth players tonight and they got just that from Nash and the third line.
– Patrick Dwyer ended up with a two-point night and his fifth goal of the season on the empty netter but he played a critical role in three of the four Carolina goals tonight. Take Nash's first goal for instance. Dwyer forced a turnover behind the net earlier in the sequence to set up the entire play and the goal likely wouldn't have happened if it wasn't for his hard work. The same goes for Nash's second goal, which was made entirely possible because Dwyer hustled down the ice to beat out an icing call and set up Riley Nash from behind the net to give the Canes a 3-0 goal lead heading into the third period. It's that kind of play and effort that puts you in the good spirites of the coaching staff.
– Remember how I said to keep an eye on Justin Faulk to see if he was hitting a wall? Well, he and Jay Harrison were assigned Alex Ovechkin's line tonight and held the trio to a grand total of three shots on goal. They also ended up being a +14 in even strength shot differential. He also had five shots on goal and seven shot attempts, tying him for the team high. In other words, Faulk will be just fine.
– Eric Staal and Alexander Semin both received an assist on Joe Corvo's fluke goal in the first period. I didn't think either were that great offensively tonight and yet, they still somehow found a way to get on the scoresheet. They are basically taking shooting regression and burying it under a rock right now.
– Another area the Hurricanes dominated for most of this game was the faceoff circle, winning 56% of their draws. The Staal brothers went a combined 10/15 on draws in the defensive zone. The most important draw that Eric won, however, came in the offensive zone during the first period, as his faceoff win is what led to Corvo scoring on that bank shot from a bad angle. It was a fluke goal and he definitely caught Holtby leaning, but they say it's never a bad play to throw the puck at the net and that strategy paid off there.
– Drayson Bowman decided to drop the gloves with Steve Oleksy in the third period for whatever reason. Oleksy is an experienced fighter at the lower levels and I can't remember Bowman ever being in a fight, so I don't need to tell you how poorly that ended for him. I'm just glad that the Capitals continued to struggle after the fight so there won't be any talk about how this "changed the momentum of the game." All it did was give the crowd something to cheer about for a few seconds.
– One negative about this game? The Hurricanes powerplay which somehow generated eight shots despite looking anemic and lifeless in all three of their opportunities. Carolina was already playing with a lead when they received their powerplays, but they still don't appear to have any sence of unity there without Joni Pitkanen. This was against a pretty bad Caps PK with a depleted defense corps, on top of that. The good news is that it didn't play a factor in the outcome of the game as the Hurricanes even strength play is what won it for them.
All in all, this was a terrific road game for Carolina and a nice way to start a week of divisional play.