Hurricanes head coach Kirk Muller opted to shake things up a bit after the team's bad loss to Tampa Bay on Saturday night by jumbling the lines a little bit. He took Jeff Skinner off the second line with Jordan Staal and placed him with Riley Nash & Jussi Jokinen while Patrick Dwyer and Drayson Bowman were moved up to the second line with J. Staal. The Canes got barely anything out of their third and fourth lines during the Tampa Bay game, so moving an offensive stalwart like Skinner to a lower line could help them expose some bad matchups for the Rangers. Meanwhile, Staal and Dwyer have played well together in the past and could possibly carry the water against one of their top lines.
The plan did not completely backfire but it sure as hell did not work out in the Hurricanes favor. Once again, their first line was forced to carry the bulk of their offense while the rest of the lineup did very little to contribute at even strength. All this did was reduce Skinner's ice-time and limit how much of an impact Jordan Staal could have by placing him with weaker linemates. People might be satisfied with the Hurricanes getting a point out of last night, but they were very lucky to get to overtime with how badly the Rangers swarmed them after the first period.
I"m not going to place the blame on Muller for switching up the lines but to say that I don't understand the moves would be an understatement.
Carolina Hurricanes at New York Rangers 3/18/13
I was ready to eat my words about the lines after the first period because the Hurricanes looked fantastic during that frame. They controlled possession, were creating a ton of offense and didn't allow the Rangers to do much of anything at all. A lot of it relates to how strong they were on the fore-check and frustrating New York while they were trying to exit the zone. After that, everything changed and the Rangers completely took over the game. The Hurricanes failed to match their scoring chance total from the entire first period while the Rangers basically just ran them over at even strength. The only time I thought the Hurricanes showed any life was towards the end of the third period and that was all coming from the first line which had previously been doing the bulk of the work for most of the game.
What changed after the first period, though? The new lines looked fine then but the Rangers were able to adjust and seemed to have an answer for just about everything Carolina threw at them. It's not like Carolina wasn't trying or failing to win board battles because they were for durations of this game. The Rangers were just better in every area after that first period.
Hurricanes Individual Scoring Chances
Best EV Forward: Alexander Semin +2
Worst EV Forwards: Riley Nash & Jussi Jokinen -5
Best EV Defenseman: Joni Pitkanen EVEN
Worst EV Defenseman: Jamie McBain -3
Muller stuck with the same lines throughout most of the game but he did tweak things a bit and not many of them had a positive impact. Sure, Adam Hall did some good things when he was bumped up to Jordan Staal's line but otherwise? Not much good came from these line changes. The new "third line" was especially bad and it seemed to get worse when Jussi Jokinen began taking some shifts as a center. We've been down this road many times and it has either led to a dead end or a ditch so I'm not sure why the Hurricanes keep traveling down it.
It's only one game and I'm willing to let the coaches experiment but Skinner & J. Staal were at least creating chances & driving possession at even strength when they were on the same line. Separate them and what do you get? Two borderline top-six lines that aren't able to drive the play forward. The first line stayed for for the course with their offensive production but the rest of the lineup did not do much, which was the same problem they had against Tampa Bay.
I made note of how active the defense was in jumping into the play with Joe Corvo out of the lineup but the only player who was creating a lot of chances out of it was Joni Pitkanen, who was on-ice for over half of the even strength chances the Hurricanes created. He also had four controlled zone entries during 5v5 play and a beautiful pass to set up Eric Staal's goal. I still don't think his game is completely at 100% coming back from his injury but offensively, he was almost as good as one could ask for.
Rangers Individual Scoring Chances
|4||Michael Del Zotto||21:20||9||4||2:59||1||0||0:58||0||0|
Best EV Forward: Carl Hagelin +6
Worst EV Forwards: Brian Boyle, Taylor Pyatt & JT Miller -3
Best EV Defenseman: Michael Del Zotto +5
Worst EV Defenseman: Roman Hamrlik -2
The Rangers forward depth issues were on display last night but their top-six showed up to the party and Tortorella was able to get them out against Carolina's bottom-six plenty of times. This led to a big night for the Hagelin-Stepan-Callahan line, who were the Rangers main catalyst offensively. Michael Del Zotto was also gave the Canes a lot of trouble with how often he was jumping into the play and creating offense. The Rangers first line also had quite a few good chances off the rush, but the Hurricanes didn't get beaten too badly by this trio compared to Stepan's line.
Head-to-Head at Five-on-Five
To sum things up here, the first line did their job for the most part. They won their battle against the Brad Richards line along with Girardi/McDonagh and exposed some of the Rangers other lines. The rest of the forwards did not play that well at all and the Skinner-Nash-Jokinen line were destroyed by the Rangers second line. Would things have been different if Skinner was on the second line instead? Maybe, maybe not but I have a hard time believing that line could be as disjointed as it looked last night. In their defense, everyone on the Hurricanes had trouble containing the Stepan line but they took the bulk of the damage. The Hurricanes are too good to be a one-line team but that's what they were limited to last night.
|1||CAR||0:50||E. Staal – GOAL||12||19||28||4||25||31||19||24||61||5||27||30||5v5|
|2||NYR||8:54||Stepan – GOAL||20||53||36||4||25||31||21||24||62||4||6||30||5v5|
|2||NYR||5:43||Stepan – GOAL||19||20||36||4||25||31||21||24||62||4||44||30||5v5|