The Hurricanes managed to close out their three-game homestand in style with a 6-3 win over the New Jersey Devils, even though the team and some fans probably have a bit of a sour taste in their mouth from how the third period was played. Don't get me wrong, the Hurricanes outplayed New Jersey and deserved this win, but they allowed the Devils to get back into the game by sitting back and playing conservative for the entire third period. This is expected from most teams who enter a third period leading by four goals, but giving up nine scoring chance in one frame isn't exactly what I would call "defending a lead." The final score may have ended up being even closer had it not been for Dan Ellis coming up big a few times in that third period.
That being said, one bad period fueled by score effects does not undo a terrific previous 40 minutes played by the Hurricanes. For the most part, the team was excellent last night and had control of this game when the score was close. I wouldn't expect them to score six times on 22 shots many times this year, but the team was probably due for a few bounces after the Montreal game where they scored only twice on 43 shots. The hockey gods giveth and the hockey gods taketh away, and it wouldn't surprise me if we see more occurrences like that for the remainder of the season, especially with how the Canes top line has been playing.
New Jersey Devils at Carolina Hurricanes 3/9/13
Score effects have a weird way of changing fans outlook of a game, which is what happened last night. The Hurricanes didn't need to press much because they were leading 5-1 heading into the third period, then the Devils scored two flukey goals and the final score ended up being much closer than it needed to be. The Canes tightened up a little after Patrik Elias' goal but the Devils still controlled play for the majority of that frame and this could have been an even closer game if it wasn't for Ellis. You can't erase what happened in this period, but Hurricanes fans should feel good about how this team played for the first 40 minutes, when this game was still competitive. They may have gotten a tad lucky by converting on a little under half of their scoring chances, but they were still creating more than they were giving up to the Devils during that time period, which is the most important thing.
I should also mention that the Canes got a tad lucky on special teams, as well. They created on chance on the powerplay and scored on it. The Devils forced the issue here by leaving Alexander Semin wide open in front of the net, but that's not going to happen very often. Their other powerplay was not very good, as they surrendered a shorthanded goal to Ilya Kovalchuk and gave up three powerplay chances to the Devils in the first period alone. Again, sometimes the bounces go your teams way and just about every bounce went in Carolina's favor for the first two periods.
Hurricanes Individual Scoring Chances
Best EV Forwards: Jordan Staal, Chris Terry & Jeff Skinner +2
Worst EV Forward: Drayson Bowman -5
Best EV Defenseman: Jamie McBain +2
Worst EV Defenseman: Justin Faulk -2
The three point nights by Jiri Tlusty and Alexander Semin say otherwise, but the Hurricanes top line had a bit of an off-night in terms of producing scoring chances. The Devils were actually able to pin this line into their own zone quite a few times last night and limit how much of an impact they would have offensively. The bad part of that for the Devils was that whenever the Canes first line saw a mismatch, they took full advantage of it. A perfect example being Dan Ellis catching New Jersey on a bad line change and setting up a two-on-one with Semin & Tlusty with Peter Harrold as the only defensemen back. Everyone watching the game knew that was going to end poorly for the Devils.
The first line may have struggled territorially, but the rest of the top-nine all played very well and the second line had one of their best games of the season. If you asked me, I actually think Jeff Skinner & Jordan Staal have been the Canes best players in terms of producing scoring chances on a nightly basis and they are finally getting rewarded for it in the last couple of games. Skinner's habit of creating scoring chances out of nothing is really a sight to watch and Jokinen did not look out of place at all on the wing last night. He is a pretty good fit on this line because he isn't being relied to be the driving force on it, which allows him some more freedom to play his style in all three zones.
Chris Terry had himself quite a solid debut. Not only did he score his first NHL goal, which was a great individual effort on his part, but he also played a solid territorial game and really gave the third line a boost. Dwyer also had a strong game and I thought his line with Terry & Nash was the only solid unit the Canes had in that rough third period. Dwyer's speed and puck-handling was really on display last night, as he helped this line keep the play moving north whenever he was out there.
My hope of Tim Brent giving the fourth line some stability didn't quite happen, as they were a liability at even strength for most of the game and Bowman had himself a very rough night defensively. Brent's presence on the powerplay was felt since he helped play a role in the opening goal of the game but he had some problems with driving the play at even strength. Wallace and Bowman each played a role in this line's struggles, too though.
Justin Faulk's had a rough last three games or so and his struggles continued last night. He hesitated a little after Ilya Kovalchuk blocked his shot, which allowed Kovy to leave him in the dust for a shorthanded goal, and Kovalchuk's second goal bounced off his skate. The second goal was more of just a bad bounce than anything, but Faulk did have issues with containing Kovalchuk and the Devils fourth line last night, which was a little concerning. You could say that he has hit a "wall" but we will need to see more than three bad games to determine that. Young defensemen are going to have their issues and Faulk is no different, which is why we're seeing some bumps in the road now.
A little fun fact about Gleason/Corvo's performance is that they were actually excellent…until the third period. Five of the seven scoring chances against they were on-ice for were in that frame and before then, they were doing a fantastic job of keeping Adam Henrique's line quiet. Corvo played more minutes than anyone else on the Hurricanes blue-line last night including 7:29 in the third period alone and he earned every bit of it. I'm sure everyone had doubts about how the Gleason/Corvo pairing would work out, but they did well in a tough minute role last night, until the third period that is.
McBain/Sanguientti are also developing into a nice third pairing for the Hurricanes to lean on after a couple of rough games last week. I really like how Sanguinetti has been playing lately, as he is jumping into the play more and showing signs of what made him a dangerous offensive defensemen in the AHL. At the same time, he has been making less of the mistakes that have plagued him for the first half of the year.
Devils Individual Scoring Chances
Best EV Forward: Tom Kostopoulos +7
Worst EV Forwards: Travis Zajac & Stefan Matteau -4
Best EV Defensemen: Adam Larsson & Anton Volchenkov +4
Worst EV Defensemen: Peter Harrold & Marek Zidlicky -4
The numbers above do a good job of showing who I thought played well and poorly by the eye-test. The Devils fourth line was creating most of their offense, especially in that third period and Kovalchuk also had a solid game. Meanwhile, the two defensemen who I pegged earlier were at the bottom of the chart as both Peter Harrold & Marek Zidlicky were destroyed. Carolina created only 13 scoring chances at even strength and these two were on-ice for over half of them. Maybe having Bryce Salvador back in the lineup would have helped because I doubt he could have played much worse than these two. They did a good job of dragging down what was a solid night for the rest of the Devils defense corps.
I also want everyone to take a look at the scoring chance numbers for the two goalies (Hedberg & Frazee). Carolina outchanced New Jersey 11-7 at even strength when Hedberg was in net and were outchanced 8-2 when Frazee came in. That's likely a product of score effects, but it does a good job of showing how well the Canes played for the first two periods.
Head-to-Head at Five-on-Five
The Devils fourth line may have crushed everything in their path, but some of their to players had very poor games, notably the Henrique line and Travis Zajac. The Elias-Henrique-Clarkson line has been very solid this year, so it was a surprise to see them get beaten down like this. Also take note of the play of Volchenkov/Larsson against Jordan Staal's line compared to Harrold/Zidlicky. Playing at home allows you take advantage of matchups like this sometimes.
|1||CAR||7:16||Harrison – GOAL||11||53||36||27||44||31||21||12||17||2||10||1||5v5|
|1||NJ||5:20||Kovalchuk – GOAL||11||53||36||27||44||31||14||17||5||28||1||5v4|
|2||CAR||15:18||Tlusty – GOAL||12||19||28||4||44||31||15||19||18||2||10||1||5v5|
|2||CAR||8:51||Terry – GOAL||12||39||58||4||24||31||19||20||11||5||28||1||5v5|
|2||CAR||2:45||Skinner – GOAL||11||53||36||6||77||31||14||23||26||2||10||1||5v5|
|3||NJ||14:26||Elias – GOAL||11||53||36||6||77||31||14||23||26||2||28||31||5v5|