The Hurricanes managed to put together one of their best defensive efforts of the season last night and they somehow did it with a depleted blue-line corps. They held the Maple Leafs to only seven scoring chances at even strength (six excluding empty net situations) and only 10 chances overall. Part of the reason for their success was having their top-nine be relentless on the forecheck for most of the game and trapping the Leafs in their own zone. The plan worked out quite well as Toronto's offensive chances were very limited and the Hurricanes dominated both the shot and chance count.
Carolina played a terrific game but the Leafs were also horrible in their own regard and that has to be taken into account. Sure, a reason why the Leafs played so poorly is because of how well Carolina was able to bottle them up at even strength but you'll struggle to find a team who played worse than Toronto did last night. On the bright side, the Hurricanes won a few games on the road trip despite not playing their best hockey and last night, they played went back to dominating their opponent at even strength and played one of their best games of the season.
Carolina ran over Toronto at even strength in every period but the first and I still thought they had the advantage in zone time during that frame. The Canes just weren't getting many good chances on net, which was a similar problem they had in the game against the Devils on Tuesday night. After the first period, Carolina held Toronto to only four even strength scoring chances while recording ten of their own. The only time Toronto had any sustained pressure going for them was on their powerplay opportunity in the second period where they scored their only goal of the game. The Hurricanes did a terrific job defensively outside of that and made sure that Toronto did not get much sustained zone time or quality shots on net. It was great to see this kind of shutdown performance from a team that has been leaking shots and chances against all season long.
Hurricanes Individual Scoring Chances
Best EV Forward: Jiri Tlusty +4
Worst EV Forwards: Kevin Westgarth & Andreas Nodl -1
Best EV Defenseman: Jay Harrison +5
Worst EV Defensemen: Michal Jordan & Bobby Sanguinetti EVEN
Whenever your team's "worst" players are a fourth line that was only a -1 in 7-8 minutes of ice-time, it's generally a sign that the entire team played well. That was the case for the Hurricanes last night as their entire top-nine were solid at even strength. The first line led the way by producing five even strength scoring chances as a unit and Tlusty found himself on-ice for seven chances. He nearly had his sixth goal of the week on a deflection that just missed the net in the third period. This line produced only one goal and neither Tlusty or Semin recorded any points, but they were a force offensively despite that.
Not to be outdone, the second line was also very good last night with Jeff Skinner and Jordan Staal producing a combined five scoring chances while not giving up much in their own end. They were matched up against the Kessel line for most of the game and a main reason why that unit did not generate many chances during five-on-five play. I had some doubts about how well this line will mesh but they've put together a string of solid games for the last week or so. Hopefully it continues.
The third line had a new look with Chad LaRose being a healthy scratched and hard-hitting Tim Wallace moving up from the fourth line to take his place. They didn't exactly produce a lot of offense but the third line was much better defensive than they have been in recent games. They probably could have had a few more chances if Wallace had a better offensive skill-set but I'll take this performance over what I've seen from the third line lately.
Harrison and Faulk probably spent the most time in their own zone out of any Carolina defense pairing but they did not give up a lot of chances, yielding only two to the Maple Leafs. Part of that was due to Harrison getting in the way of eight shots and the play of the J. Staal line. These two still put together a terrific game, though. Being on-ice for only two scoring chances against in over 20 minutes of ice-time is no easy feat.
McBain and Corvo were also very solid with Corvo taking home the first star honors. McBain was actually the better half of that pairing if you go by even strength scoring chances, though. He produced a lot of offense away from Corvo while being on-ice for one fewer chance against. As for Jordan and Sanguinetti, they were in-line with their expectations and didn't make any back-breaking mistakes.
Maple Leafs Individual Scoring Chances
|21||James Van Riemsdyk||21:06||5||5||1:50||2||1||0:18||0||0|
Best EV Forwards: Tyler Bozak, Colton Orr, James Van Riemsdyk, David Steckel & Phil Kessel EVEN
Worst EV Forwards: Leo Komarov, Mikhail Grabovski & Jay McClement -4
Best EV Defenseman: Mark Fraser +1
Worst EV Defenseman: Dion Phaneuf -5
Toronto's tough-minute players were carved up at even strength last night with Dion Phaneuf taking most of the damage. Their forwards were not much better though as none of them had a positive scoring chance differential and their two best defensive forwards were pretty awful. The only players who I thought played well were Kessel and Van Riemsdyk, who were creating a lot of chances but giving up just as many in their own end. The Leafs had been playing well prior to this so I don't think they have a need to panic but this was certainly an ugly performance.
Head-to-Head at Five-on-Five
Eric Staal's line destroyed Toront's top-six and the Phaneuf-Holzer pairing while Jordan Staal's line won their matchup with Grabovski at even strength. Faulk/Harrison also got the better end of Toronto's top-six and played very well against the Grabovski line. Whenever your top-six dominates the opponent's like this, it's usually a good thing.
Scoring Chance Report
|2||CAR||13:54||Corvo – GOAL||12||19||28||4||77||31||47||84||41||3||55||30||5v5|
|2||TOR||12:09||Kadri – GOAL||29||36||4||77||31||43||84||16||3||24||30||4v5|
|2||CAR||7:02||Jokinen – GOAL||11||53||36||4||77||31||47||41||3||55||30||5v4|
|2||CAR||4:51||J. Staal – GOAL||11||53||39||4||77||31||11||43||16||24||53||30||5v5|