I don't think any Hurricanes player or fan cares about the numbers from their 3-1 win over the Winnipeg Jets and I can't blame them for it either. When you haven't gotten into the win column for seven straight games (spanning a little over two weeks), you take any victory you can get. It doesn't matter if the team plays flawlessly or just barely eeks out an ugly win because each one is very important at this stage of the year. The Hurricanes certainly pulled out an ugly win today over Winnipeg but they got the job done in the end, which is all that matters right now.
The team's confidence was beginning to reach a new low during this losing streak so if anything, the Hurricanes being able to get a win could help give the team a bit of a spark going down the stretch and get back to the brand of hockey they were playing for the majority of the season. With only 15 games remaining, every bounce you get is going to have a much bigger impact than it would in a full-year, so the Canes being able to win despite not playing their best game is pretty huge.
With that being said, the Hurricanes certainly played better than they have in a couple of weeks and at least showed signs of progress. That's not exactly saying much since the bar was set low coming into today, but it's still a step forward and hopefully the Canes can build off it for the rest of the season. Now that we got that out of the way, let's take a closer look at the Hurricanes first win in over two weeks.
Carolina Hurricanes at Winnipeg Jets 3/30/13
The Hurricanes got the benefit of a couple of early goals but even with score effects, they weren't outplayed too badly by the Jets. I thought Winnipeg had an edge in territorial play, which is true if you look at the stat-sheet, but they weren't getting mauled at even strength and played much better than they have in recent weeks. Judging from the eye-test, the Jets had a lot more zone time than the Canes and were creating a lot of dangerous odd-man rushes but what helped Carolina even things out was their ability to get to rebounds and create multiple chances in the same sequence. That's how they got their first goal of the game and the third line also generated some chances this way. I'd like to see more sustained pressure but I think this team will take what they can get at this point.
There are a lot of teams who can find ways to win while getting outchanced by two at even strength, so this isn't that big of a deal. However, something that probably should have come back to haunt Carolina was their tendency to give up chances while they were on the powerplay. They had over 11 minutes of powerplay time, including four opportunities in the second period, and generated five good chances but also allowed the Jets to get four of their own. I don't have much of an issue with the Hurricanes going 0/6 on the powerplay since they had a few good ones and Jussi Jokinen's goal came about a millisecond after time expired on their first PP of the game. What I do have a problem with is that they allowed the Jets to get a lot of shorthanded breakaways that nearly could have made this a much different game. Thankfully, Justin Peters came up big on those opportunities and kept the Hurricanes in front. Carolina probably should have had a much bigger lead in the scoring chance margin when you consider how many powerplays they got, but the Jets aggressive PK made things much more difficult.
Hurricanes Individual Scoring Chances
Best EV Forward: Riley Nash +5
Worst EV Forward: Jiri Tlusty -4
Best EV Defenseman: Jay Harrison +3
Worst EV Defenseman: Jamie McBain -4
The Canes unveiled some new lines today with Jussi Jokinen being inserted back into the lineup and joining the new "third line" with Riley Nash and Jeff Skinner. I'm not sure if this was to "send a message" to Skinner or expose some favorable matchups on the road, but this line was pretty solid no matter which way you slice it. They, along with the Jordan Staal line, were the Canes best territorial unit and the team was getting the edge in scoring chances with both Nash & Jokinen on the ice. Add in that this line managed to that while taking the majority of their faceoffs in the defensive zone and you come away with them having a very strong game. It was great to see Jokinen play such a good game after clearing waivers earlier in the week and I think he deserves a spot on this team. The Hurricanes needed life from their bottom-six and were able to get that today.
Another reason for the line jumbling was the desire to put Tuomo Ruutu in the top-six with Jordan Staal & Patrick Dwyer. Ruutu had to leave the game with a lower-body injury after only four shifts but he certainly did a lot of damage in a short amount of time. Hopefully he can make a speedy recovery because his presence is needed. Bowman and Dwyer did an okay job filling in for him even if the team did get outchanced when both of them were on the ice. At the very least, they did an okay job in controlling possession at even strength and keeping the puck in the offensive zone. I was actually surprised that Skinner wasn't bumped up to this line after the Ruutu injury since he and Jordan Staal have been a good combination for the Hurricanes this season in terms of producing scoring chances.
While the second and third lines did a lot of the grunt work, the first line cashed in by producing two of Carolina's three goals tonight. The Canes inability to score at even strength vanished today with Eric Staal an Alexander Semin scoring on two of the three chances they were on-ice for. The first goal they earned by winning a board battle in the Winnipeg zone and crashing the net, but the second goal was more of the result of good luck with Staal's shot taking a bounce off a skate in front. That's generally how the bounces have gone for them this season, though even if they've had a few rough defensive games lately.
The defense corps took their share of lumps tonight and most of the top-four got beaten pretty badly during even strength play. Muller still hasn't made any adjustments to the defense pairings, which means that Pitkanen & McBain remained together and they ended up being on-ice for over half of Winnipeg's even strength scoring chances. They were better offensively, which was a part of their game that's been missing lately, but these two together are a bit of a liability when they are playing against other team's top forwards. I actually feel kind of bad for them because they are clearly playing a role they aren't suited for but keep being asked to do it anyway. Corvo & Gleason also got roughed up a bit and were on-ice for Bryan Little's breakaway chance that Peters turned away while the third pairing of Bellemore & Harrison had themselves a solid game in sheltered minutes.
Jets Individual Scoring Chances
Best EV Forward: Olli Jokinen +4
Worst EV Forward: Bryan Little -2
Best EV Defenseman: Ron Hainsey & Zach Bogosian +5
Worst EV Defenseman: Tobias Enstrom -3
Claude Noel rode his top-six hard in this game and the results were a mixed bag overall. The Jets first line provided the team with most of their offense but they were giving up just as much in their own end. Blake Wheeler and Bryan Little were the most guilty of this along with Andrew Ladd, who was also on-ice for over half of Carolina's even strength scoring chances. Olli Jokinen and Antti Miettinen were the team's best forwards in terms of two-way play, as they seemed to tilt the ice in WInnipeg's favor without giving up that much in their own end.
Winnipeg's defense also had a similar result. The Hainsey/Bogosian pairing effectively shut down Carolina's first line for most of the game, but the Canes were able to expose Byfuglien & Enstrom numerous times. Those two were primarily sent out against Skinner & Jordan Staal's lines so it's easy to see where things went wrong.
Head-to-Head at Five-on-Five
Matchups didn't play that much of a role in this game because the bottom-half of Winnipeg's roster was barely used during even strength play. Skinner's line ended up seeing significant minutes against Andrew Ladd and they ended up winning that matchups. Both Nash & Jokinen also did a great job against Byfuglien & Enstrom.
Speaking of defense pairings, Corvo & Gleason handled the Ladd line pretty well and spent most of their minutes against them. Harrison & Bellemore also got stuck out against Winnipeg's top-six for a few shifts and managed to play pretty well against them. This is in limited minutes so we have to keep our expectations in line, but given how much McBain & Pitkanen have struggled, I wouldn't be against these two seeing their roles increased a little. It's worth a try at this point.
|1||CAR||18:54||Semin – GOAL||12||15||28||6||77||35||18||26||16||33||39||31||5v5|
|1||CAR||10:20||Jokinen – GOAL||20||15||36||25||44||35||80||9||16||6||44||31||5v5|
|2||WPG||18:35||Jokinen – GOAL||11||39||21||4||25||35||12||20||9||6||44||31||5v5|
|3||CAR||19:33||E. Staal – GOAL||12||19||28||6||77||35||18||26||16||6||44||31||5v5|