Sometimes a great first period, solid defensive play and bad goaltending by the opposing team is enough to win you a few games and that was the case for the Hurricanes tonight in their 3-0 shutout over the Maple Leafs. The Hurricanes played terrific for the first 20 minutes in outchancing the Leafs 5-1 and gaining a 2-0 lead and then finished things off by sitting back and letting their defense and Cam Ward do the rest of the work. They gave up 31 shots, but only 12 were registered as scoring chances by my count and Ward didn’t exactly need to stand on his head for the Canes to win this game.
Taking advantage of a cold goalie also helped as all three goals that Jonas Gustavsson let in were very soft and he was given the hook less than a minute into the second period. Toronto’s offense really could not generate much the rest of the way as the Canes managed to bottle them up in the neutral zone and keep most of their shots from outside of the scoring chance range. After getting hammered by Detroit on Saturday night, it was good to see Carolina’s defense respond with a strong performance against Toronto. Albeit, it was against a much weaker team with one of their top scorers out of the lineup.
Carolina is likely going to get a high spot in the draft so I don’t really care about “tanking” at this point of the season so I’m happy with the team winning.
Scoring chances & more after the jump
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Carolina’s chances are in red, Toronto’s are in white
This more or less summarizes what I said in the intro. Canes got off to a great start, scored a couple of early goals (which was the result of some bad goaltending on Gustavsson’s part) and their defense helped Ward earn one of the easier 30+ save shutouts I’ve seen in recent history. Carolina did get a few more chances after taking a 3-0 lead but Toronto had a big advantage when it came to shots and possession after that point. However, Toronto did not manufacture much despite spending a lot of the 2nd & 3rd periods with the puck. Most of their shots were from the outside and the best scoring chance they had was Jake Gardiner getting to a rebound with less than two minutes to go in the third period.
After blowing a 4-1 lead against Detroit, Carolina did a great job of tightening things up defensively and preventing Toronto’s top-six from getting a lot of chances. They also played a very disciplined game in taking only two penalties and not letting either hurt them at all. In the end, it was a solid win for the Canes with no much to complain about. They were hit pretty hard in corsi, but that’s just how score effects usually work.
Here’s a fun fact about this game: The Leafs did not generate one even strength scoring chance while Gustavsson was in net. I would feel bad for him but all three goals he let in were pretty brutal.
Individual Scoring Chances
Best EV Forwards: Jussi Jokinen & Jeff Skinner +4
Worst EV Forwards: Jiri Tlusty, Anthony Stewart & Tim Brent -3
Best EV Defenseman: Justin Faulk +3
Worst EV Defenseman: Tim Gleason & Bryan Allen -2
It sure was nice to see Tuomo Ruutu have a great game after being benched the last game. His line with Jeff Skinner & Jussi Jokinen was easily Carolina’s most effective unit at even strength as they created a lot more scoring chances than the rest of the forwards. They managed to do this despite not getting their usual territorial cushion but they played most of their minutes against Jake Gardiner & Cody Franson, who aren’t an ideal defense pairing by any stretch. Still, I can’t fault them for taking advantage of a favorable situation and they also produced two (soft) goals.
While the “Skinns & Finns” line was producing, the Staal line did not. They were invisible at even strength and neither him, Tlusty or LaRose did much on the powerplay. Staal was the only player on this line to produce any scoring chances and they only had a total of three shots on goal. It’s a good thing that the second line picked up the slack and Toronto did next to nothing offensively.
Justin Faulk was the team’s best rated defenseman but I think Jay Harrison had a stronger night, overall. He kept both Phil Kessel & Mikhail Grabovski’s lines quiet when he was matched up against them and had eight shot attempts. Faulk also played a great game but Harrison was very effective tonight in his own end. These two were on ice for all three Carolina goals, as well.
While the Gleason/Allen pairing was outchanced at even strength, it was mostly because they started 7-9 shifts in their own zone and did nothing offensively. Limiting the opponent to three even strength scoring chances when you’re starting that much in the shadow of your own goaltender is a good night by my standards. The only thing I hold against them is that most of the chances they were on ice for were against the likes of Joey Crabb, David Steckel & Matt Lombardi. They also played about 8 mins. against the Steckel line at even strength, which is very, very odd.
Meanwhile, McBain & Pitkanen got most of the protected ice-time and didn’t produce a lot of chances and McBain nearly gift-wrapped a goal for Toronto by whiffing on a puck at the blue-line which led to a breakaway. These two can scare the crap out of me at times.
Tim Brent scored his 12th goal of the season, but he sure gave a lot back in the defensive zone tonight. He did play about a 1/3 of his minutes in the third period, though and that was when the Canes strategy was to sit back and defend. Still, Brandon Sutter’s line played roughly the same amount of minutes in the third and look how they did in comparison.
Although, when going over the head-to-head data, I noticed that Brent’s line with Joslin & Stewart were matched up against Phil Kessel, Tyler Bozak & Carter Ashton for most of the third period. Usually they are sent out against third & fourth lines so this was something new. I guess Muller wanted to see how these three could handle themselves against some stronger opponents. They gave up four combined scoring chances in the third period so that should answer that question for you.
Head-to-head at five-on-five
- The second line was solid agaisnt everyone but they really did some damage against Gardiner & Franson. Like I said, they aren’t the best defense pairing but it’s good to see them take advantage of that matchup while Phaneuf & Gunnarssonn played against the Staal line.
- David Steckel’s line certainly did their job against Eric Staal, Jiri Tlusty & Chad LaRose. I was a little surprised that Randy Carlyle didn’t change things up and put these three against the Skinner line because Grabovski’s line clearly wasn’t getting the job done. Then again, Carolina’s offense didn’t have much going after they took a 3-0 lead so it probably doesn’t matter much>
- Excellent job by Bowman, Sutter & Dwyer against Kessel & Bozak. Although, I wonder how effective they would be if Joffrey Lupul was in the lineup and playing on that line instead of Ashton.
- Phil Kessel’s line could only generate offense against our fourth line and the Pitkanen/McBain defense pairing, who ended up playing some big minutes at even strength tonight.
- Liek I said in the recap, Gleason & Allen were actually outchanced by Toronto’s third line…and they played the majority of their minutes against them.
- Faulk/Harrison did a great job against everyone and really seemed to shut down some of Toronto’s better forwards.
Toronto Maple Leafs Scoring Chances
Best EV Forward: Joey Crabb +2
Worst EV Forward: Phil Kessel -3
Best EV Defensemen: Luke Schenn & Carl Gunnarsson +1
Worst EV Defenseman: Jake Gardiner -5
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