The Hurricanes have another game in about 14 hours and I'm sure many fans want to forget about last night's 5-2 loss to the Lightning as quickly as possible, so let's get the statistical analysis over with now. This game will be remembered as a complete stinker for most Carolina followers, but that mostly applies to the third period. Let's not forget that the Hurricanes were reasonably in this game for the first 40 minutes. They played terrible in the third period and that is what everyone will remember because that's why they ended up losing the way they did. There is no excuse for how the team played during that frame and it was s terrible way to end this brief homestand, but saying that the season is over because they had a bad 20 minutes is just ridiculous.
Tampa Bay Lightning at Carolina Hurricanes 2/24/13
The chances were even at 12-12 heading into the third period and Carolina actually had the advantage during even strength play at the time. Carolina was only down 1-0 and could have easily taken over the game at that point. Instead, they came out flat and created only one scoring chance in the first 10 minutes of the third period while Tampa Bay added on three goals. The Hurricanes managed to create some offense during the late stages of the game but it was too little too late then. I know it's tough to get by with five regulars missing from the lineup, but this is basically roster that put together a strong performance against Winnipeg on Thursday night. They didn't have much of a problem getting by and controlling play with this group of players then, why should last night be any different?
It's not just that they lost that's frustrating, it's that the team let Tampa Bay just walk all over them when the game was on the line. I should also mention that of the five scoring chances they created in the third period, none of them came from the top-six, most of which is healthy so the injuries didn't have a huge effect there.
Hurricanes Individual Scoring Chances
Best EV Forward: Chad LaRose +4
Worst EV Forward: Jordan Staal -3
Best EV Defensemen: Bobby Sanguinetti & Justin Faulk +4
Worst EV Defenseman: Ryan Murphy -7
The one thing that stands out here is how bad the Murphy/Harrison pairing was defensively, as these two were on-ice for over half of Tampa Bay's scoring chances. I didn't notice Murphy make any glaring mistakes but when the team is getting outchanced that badly when one player is on the ice, it's usually a sign that he didn't have a good game. Harrison wasn't exactly great either and I actually noticed more mistakes on his part than Murphy's, like his bad pinch that led to Eric Brewer getting a scoring chance in the first period for example. Either way, Murphy kind of fell back down to Earth here after playing so well in his NHL debut and that was to be expected seeing how he's only 19 years old and spent most of his ice-time being matched up against the likes of Steven Stamkos, Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis.
It's interesting that Harrison/Murphy saw so much ice-time tonight when you look at how the rest of the defense corps played compared to them. The Hurricanes were giving up a boat-load of shots and scoring chances whenever these two were on the ice while Faulk/Corvo had a much stronger night. Yet Faulk was held to under 15 minutes of even strength ice-time despite being on-ice for a Carolina chance almost every two minutes he played. My suspicion is that Muller wanted to rest his top players the night before a back-to-back game because it makes little sense to limit Faulk while giving more ice-time to a rookie, especially with how good Faulk has been this season.
I've seen Eric Staal take a lot of criticism for his effort tonight and while there is no question he was bad in the third period (as was the rest of the top-six), Staal played really well in the first two periods and had created four scoring chances during that time. It's easy to blame the captain for the rest of the team not showing up, Eric Staal was far from the Canes worst player tonight. His brother actually had a much worse game, as Jordan was on-ice for six of the Lightning's scoring chances in the third period including three goals. Nights have been rare for Jordan this year, though but I don't think the constant linemate shuffling is helping him at all.
Some of the more lambasted players on the Hurricanes managed to put together solid effort tonight. One of them being Chad LaRose, who scored his second goal of the season and had his best game of the year. LaRose has been battling to earn more ice-time this year and this was a good way to get him back into good spirits with the coach. Bobby Sanguinetti also played his best game of the year and finally got his first point of the season with the primary helper on LaRose's goal. Almost all of Sanguientti's mistakes this year have ended up resulting in goals against for the Hurricanes so it was nice to see him have a solid game and get rewarded for it.
Carolina actually got some decent contributions from some of their depth players, namely LaRose, Bowman, Nash and Sanguinetti, it was their top guys who struggled. The first line had no problem with creating offense, but they were not good defensively and gave up a lot of chances to the Lightning. Meanwhile, the second line was heavily outchanced and this is where Carolina's forward depth issues showed.
Lightning Individual Scoring Chances
|26||Martin St. Louis||14:33||5||8||2:04||1||0||0:00||0||0|
Best EV Forwards: Richard Panik & Steven Stamkos +3
Worst EV Forward: Vincent Lecavalier -5
Best EV Defenseman: Eric Brewer +2
Worst EV Defensemen: Matt Carle, Brian Lee, Marc-Andre Bergeron& Stami Salo -1
Lecavalier & St. Louis were actually outchanced at evens tonight and most of the damage they took came in the second period against Eric Staal's line. Stamkos was his usual self throughout the entire game and was on-ice for half of the Lightning's even strength scoring chances. Also of note is that three of the scoring chances Panik was on-ice for came in the same sequence so that boosted him and Adam Hall's numbers a bit.
Head-to-Head at Five-on-Five
Most people are putting the blame on the players for their effort tonight and that's completely understandable after the third period, but I think the coaching staff have some questions to answer too. Not only did Harrison/Murphy log a ton of minutes, but they also spent a considerable amount of time against Tampa Bay's top-six. They were clearly outmatched there. Compare that to how Faulk/Corvo did against Stamkos' and Lecavalier's lines and you really have to question some of Muller's matchups last night. Did it ever occur to him that putting a 19-year-old kid up against the best goal scorers in the league may have not been the best idea? I know that Murphy played well in his debut and you want to get the most out of him while he is here, but there wasn't a need to keep them in a tough-minute role. They weren't getting the job done in those minutes and the Canes have a terrific shutdown option available in Faulk, so why not give those minutes to him instead? I agree with most of Muller's decisions but his matchups tonight left me scratching my head.