Last night's 4-3 loss to the Detroit Red Wings was all about missed opportunities. After starting slow and falling behind 2-0, the Hurricanes managed to really back and tie the game in the second period. Near the end of the frame, they were given a five-on-three power play and had a chance to really tilt the ice in their favor. They ended up producing only one scoring chance during that sequence and entered the third period with the score tied. This is where most Caniacs watching said to themselves "that will probably cost us the game" or something of that manner. That sentiment was pretty much dead on.
After the Hurricanes failed on yet another power play in the third period, the Red Wings eventually got a two-man advantage of their own and they capitalized despite Carolina's best attempt to hang on. The Wings would then go onto salt away time and put the game away late in the third with a goal from Gustav Nyquist. Had Carolina scored on their earlier power play, perhaps this is a different game. We have seen many games like this over the years where one goal or one sequence can change the entire landscape of a game and the Hurricanes definitely had plenty of chances to escape Detroit with at least a point. Unfortunately, they came up empty-handed and this game is a good example of what separates good teams from bad teams.
Both clubs made a lot of mistakes, but the difference was that Detroit was capitalizing on Carolina's while the Hurricanes did were doing whatever they could to stay close enough and not let things get out of hand. A lot of the credit there should go to goaltender Justin Peters, who played one of his best games as an NHL-er and made 43 saves. This has been the story for the last three games or so, as Carolina was vastly out-played in all of them but managed to do just enough to stay close to their opponent and keep it a relatively competitive game. That just isn't going to get it done and it doesn't matter who you are going up against.
The odd thing about last night's game is that while the Hurricanes kept the score close, a look at the numbers shows that they were very lucky that they were not blown out.
Fenwick Timeline from Extra Skater
Yet another game where Carolina was heavily outshot and let their opponents dictate the play. Detroit jumped on them early, maintained a pretty big shot advantage throughout and didn't let Carolina sustain any sort of a forecheck. Going from my observations, I don't think the Canes were hemmed in that much but they couldn't do much of anything with their zone time while the Red Wings managed to at least fire one shot toward Justin Peters every time they entered Carolina's zone. That might be a little bit of an exaggeration but it sure felt like that was the case. The most deflating part of this graph is the third period, where Carolina was able to finally generate some pressure and force Detroit to play in their own zone…then the two minor penalties happened. The Wings dominated from that point on.
In my analysis of the Bruins game, I said that the Hurricanes are a bad team and top-tier possession clubs are going to take advantage of them. The Red Wings are the god-fathers of puck-possession and predictably outshot and outchanced Carolina by a wide margin. The sad part is that the Wings haven't been their usual selves this year, as they rank in the middle of the pack in terms of shot attempt percentage and have struggled in recent weeks. They were also without two top-six forwards in Daniel Alfredsson & Stephen Weiss and yet, they still slaughtered the Hurricanes in all three areas.
The Hurricanes may have finally broke the two-goal barrier for only the fourth time this season but their offensive output as a whole was pretty pathetic. I know that they've been struggling to create chances lately, but having only five at even strength for an entire game is just sad. It's not like they were focusing on playing defense either because Peters had to do a lot of work to keep this a close game.
Hurricanes Individual Scoring Chances
Hurricanes On-Ice Scoring Chances
"Best" EV Forwards: Nathan Gerbe & Chris Terry -1
Worst EV Forward: Jiri Tlusty -6
"Best" EV Defenseman: Ron Hainsey -2
Worst EV Defenseman: Ryan Murphy -6
It's hard to say that any Carolina player was good last night since the entire team was in the red in terms of scoring chances but if I had to pick one positive, it is probably Jordan Staal's line. They were the only unit that wasn't morbidly outshot at even strength and had a good game defensively compared to the rest of the team. Andrej Sekera obviously came up big as well with a pair of goals, but both him and Faulk had a lot of trouble containing Zetterberg's line all game.
Outside of that and Brett Bellemore scoring his first NHL goal, there isn't much good to say about Carolina's performance. Jeff Skinner didn't exactly make an impact on the first line, at least not at even strength, and Jiri Tlusty may have had the worst game of his NHL career. Muller moved him down to the third line after his turnover on Gustav Nyquist's first goal and made a poor read on his second goal, which effectively took the Hurricanes out of the game. Tlusty wasn't completely at fault for that goal because both Hainsey & Faulk pinched, but he was the high forward in that situation and could have done a much better job there. With that said, it's unfair to single out Tlusty here because he wasn't the only forward who had a terrible game and made a mistake which led to a goal.
Most of the forwards did a very poor job in their own zone and they continued to struggle when it came to producing offense. The only time Carolina created any chances were when they had a defenseman jumping into the play and it seemed like the coaching staff gave everyone the green light to pinch. Five of Carolina's nine scoring chances came from defensemen and so did all three of their goals. This worked out for Bellemore & Sekera but a bad pinch is what led to Nyquist's second goal so this strategy has its drawbacks.
Red Wings Individual Scoring Chances
Red Wings On-Ice Scoring Chances
Best EV Forwards: Gustav Nyquist & Johan Franzen +6
Worst EV Forwards: Pavel Datsyuk, Tomas Tatar & Todd Bertuzzi +1
Best EV Defenseman: Niklas Kronwall +6
Worst EV Defenseman: Jakub Kindl +2
Pavel Datsyuk had an off-night for his standards but it didn't matter because the rest of Detroit's lineup did plenty of damage. They had 12 different players record a scoring chance and Henrik Zetterberg's line had a monster game. He, Nyquist and Franzen recorded six of Detroit's scoring chances and combined for 14 shot attempts. Nyquist scoring on both of his shots didn't hurt either.
Head-to-Head at Five-on-Five
Jordan Staal's line, Sekera, Bellemore & Hainsey were the only Carolina players to win at least one of their matchups and Eric Staal's lien was eaten alive by Zetterberg's. Detroit's bottom-six also had a very good game and outplayed Carolina's depth by a significant margin.
5v5 Zone Entries
|# of entries||Shots generated||Carry-ins||Shots generated||Dump-ins||Shots generated||Failed Entries|
Carolina's defense combined for nine controlled zone entries, which is very high for them and they actually had some success the times they were able to gain the line with control. Someone has to make up for the role Alex Semin plays in the neutral zone and the defensemen seemed to be the ones doing that last night. Hopefully that changes once Jeff Skinner gets another couple games under his belt because he is capable of being a very impactful player in this area.
I'd also like to point out that dumping the puck in produced no results for the Hurricanes.
|Player||# of entries||Shots generated||Carry-ins||Shots generated||Dump-ins||Shots generated||Failed Entries|
Detroit's bottom-six had a whale of a game in the neutral zone, namely Tomas Tatar and Drew Miller. The latter managed to have four controlled zone entries despite playing fewer than 10 minutes and his linemates (Samuelsson & Andersson) also did a lot with not much ice time.
Overall, Detroit dumped the puck in more often than I expected them to, but they were able to win most of the races to the puck and create a decent amount of offense off uncontrolled entries. Their third line was especially good at this.
5v5 Zone Exits
Turnovers were a big reason why the Hurricanes gave up so many shots, as their forwards had a rough time exiting the zone and gave the puck back to the Red Wings often. Detroit's first two goals came as the result of the forwards turning the puck over and they could have easily had more with how much Carolina was coughing the puck up. Carolina's strategy for zone exits is usually to try a home run pass through the neutral zone or utilize a high forward to get the puck out and neither method worked well last night. The defensemen carrying the puck out like Sekera did on his goal could help this a lot.
Detroit played a much more fundamentally sound game than the Hurricanes, turning the puck over only four times and their defensemen were able to exit the zone at an efficient rate. Niklas Kronwall was the only one who had trouble with breakouts but his partner, Jonathan Ericsson, made up for that.