Thanks to a plethora of injuries, the Hurricanes went into last night's game short on talent and forward depth and came away with their worst offensive performance of the season. Carolina's injury depleted lineup created only nine even strength scoring chances, four of which coming in the final two minutes of the second period, and eleven overall. Both are season lows for this team and about what you would expect from a squad that's missing their best scorer and top offensive defenseman. If there was ever a game for Montreal to start Peter Budaj, last night was ideal, as the Hurricanes could not generate much of a sustained attack on the veteran back-up. All of which resulted in the team's first shutout loss of the season.
I mentioned in my recap that Carolina had a good gameplan going in, as they were able to get the puck deep and had a few great shifts where they were able to keep the puck in the Canadiens zone but couldn't generate many shots. The scoring chance report reflects this well as the Canes did not have many quality chances but they didn't allow many to the Canadiens either, allowing only 10 at even strength on the game. Carolina's depth forward did not do much and they are partially to blame for the low offensive output, but the Canes top line was still in-tact last night and they did not do much either. Some credit goes to Montreal's defensive play but Carolina's first line definitely had an off-night for their standards.
We'll take a closer look at how they and the rest of the team played last night after the jump.
Carolina Hurricanes at Montreal Canadiens 2/19/13
Carolina had a strong push towards the end of the second period where they created four good scoring chances in the final two minutes of that frame. Take away that and the team would have ended up with only five at even strength and seven total on the night. This is why Cam Ward shouldn't be blamed for the loss even if he did let in two soft goals. That ruined Carolina's chances of mounting a comeback but it didn't look like they were going to tie things up regardless. It's hard to win when your offense plays this poorly. I'm willing to cut the team some slack here because Carolina wasn't at 100% for this game but I was expecting a little more out of some of the team's top players, namely the first line.
Hurricanes Individual Scoring Chances
Best EV Forward: Jordan Staal +3
Worst EV Forward: Tim Wallace -3
Best EV Defenseman: Justin Faulk +3
Worst EV Defenseman: Bobby Sanguinetti -4
I thought Jordan Staal's line looked strong last night by the eye-test and the underlying numbers confirm that. They were able to keep the puck in the Montreal zone for long durations and it eventually led to them creating a few scoring chances. They weren't generating much offense overall but as a puck-possession line, they played very well last night. Getting Jeff Skinner back will help this line be more effective offensively, so let's hope his return comes soon. That being said, Jokinen didn't look too out of place on this line and was a good compliment to Staal.
While Jordan Staal's line played well, Eric's line did not generate much offense at all and came away in the red at even strength. I felt like this line had a few good opportunities at creating scoring chances but they either couldn't get any of their shots through or tried to be too fancy instead of just trying to get a shot on net. Semin had the same problem while he was on this line as two of the chances he was on-ice for came when he was with Riley Nash and Drayson Bowman at the end of his shift.
When the first line is struggling it puts a lot of pressure on the rest of the lineup and Carolina' depth didn't really do much of anything with the exception of Bowman, With the exception of him, Carolina's bottom-six accounted for maybe two or three scoring chances on their original lines. Montreal's depth lines were able to expose this and Nash's line ended up taking most of the damage while he fourth line didn't play much of a factor at all.
Justin Faulk was able to stand out in a forgettable night for the entire defense corps. He logged a ton of ice-time and did a fantastic job of disrupting what Montreal wanted to do in the offensive zone. He was able to deny a lot of Montreal's scoring chances last night by making smart plays in his own zone and keeping them out of the areas in front of Ward.
While the top pairing played well, the team's third pairing of Michal Jordan and Bobby Sanguinetti had a very rough night. These two were on-ice for the Prust goal where Jordan made an aggressive play in front of the net that resulted in a goal against and weren't creating much offense either. Sanguinetti and Jordan are essentially AHL-ers given their experience and it showed last night as the Habs were able to expose them a few times.
Montreal Individual Scoring Chances
Best EV Forward: Tomas Plekanec +4
Worst EV Forward: Lars Eller -3
Best EV Defenseman: Raphael Diaz +3
Worst EV Defensemen: Andrei Markov & Alexei Emelin -3
Plekanec spent most of his time matched up against the Eric Staal line and he ended up winning that matchup big-time, limiting Carolina's big line while creating plenty of chances of his own. Brandon Prust and Alex Galchenyuk also had strong games and were able to take advantage of Carolina's depth lines.
Head-to-Head at Five-on-Five
This shows how well Plekanec's line played last night, as he won all of his matchups and even Justin Faulk had issues containing him. The Galchenyuk line along with Subban/Bouillon also had strong games and they were able to feast on Carolina's third line multiple times. Carolina could only seem to generate offense when the Eller-Desharnais-Pacioretty line and Markov/Emelin defense pairing were out there. Jordan Staal's line had plenty of success against that unit but ended up taking a minus against them on the scoresheet because Ward let in Pacioretty's dribbler from center ice. Further evidence that using plus/minus to judge players is flawed.
Scoring Chances by Period/Game State
|3||MTL||17:54||Prust – GOAL||20||29||21||24||47||30||27||81||8||55||76||30|