After Thursday night's game where the Hurricanes outplayed the Capitals only to end up taking a 3-1 loss, many got the feeling that this team was due for a few bounces. That's probably fair to say because they had lost 14 of their last 15 heading into this game, but the Hurricanes were also playing to well to continue this losing streak. They had a lot of games where they put forth a good effort and had it derailed by terrible goaltending, mental mistakes or not being able to score no matter how many chances they produced. No one has questioned their efforts from the past week, but the team's execution and mental toughness has been put to the test plenty of times and they didn't respond well.
This all changed last night, as the Canes were able to get their first win at home in over a month. Their performance wasn't much better or worse from what it has been over the last week, but what changed for them was that they had a few more bounces go their way. That isn't to say the Hurricanes won based on luck alone because they outplayed Boston for a good portion of this game, but sometimes you need a few bounces to go your way even when your team plays well and the Canes finally got that. They got a great performance in goal from Justin Peters, a bit of a fluky goal from Jeff Skinner to tie the game in the first period and a couple of well-timed misses on what would have been scoring chances for the Bruins.
After how far the Hurricanes PDO had fallen in recent weeks, the Hockey Gods were eventually going to reward them for their strong play, so it was nice to see that happen last night. We have seen plenty of times this year how big of a role good goaltending and special teams can play in winning and losing. The Canes have normally been on the wrong end of this battle, but last night was a different story and quite frankily, it was nice to see.
Boston Bruins at Carolina Hurricanes 4/13/13
The luck and goaltending narrative in the intro might be a tad misleading because for the majority of the first period, this looked like another typical 2013 Hurricanes game. They peppered Boston goaltender Tuukka Rask with 17 shots and 9 scoring chances but risked trailing 1-0 heading into the intermission because Boston managed to score on only their second shot on goal of the game. If there was a time for the Canes to put an end to the whole "fragile" tag they've been given lately, this was the time and they managed to do that by cashing in on a late powerplay opportunity on a bit of a fluke goal by Jeff Skinner. The Canes were overdue for a goal with how many chances they were creating, but this was a bit of an odd goal that Skinner banked off Rask from behind the goal line.
This goal was one that the Canes needed, though because sometimes the only way to get your confidence up is to get a couple of bounces, so Skinner's goal gave this team a huge boost. Unfortunately, this didn't exactly carry over into the next period since the Hurricanes were dominated by the Bruins for most of the second frame. Things could have gotten very ugly here but thankfully, the play of Justin Peters kept them in the game. Peters built off his strong game against the Caps by saving the Hurricanes bacon multiple times in the second period, especially during a sequence when the Bruins had a 5-on-3. The Canes would then seize the opportunity and take the lead late in the second period, a goal which was quickly answered by Boston less than two minutes later after the Hurricanes were guilty of a brutal line change.
The Hurricanes had to battle adversity again and managed to fend off an early attack by the Bruins in the third period before reclaiming control of the game. Carolina was able to sustain a strong forecheck for most of the third period and force Boston to turn the puck over multiple times. They didn't get rewarded for it until they received a powerplay and Joe Corvo made it count by scoring a quick goal. From then on, all Carolina had to do was defend well and continue working hard to preserve a win and they did just that.
The stat sheet might not indicate that Peters "stole" this game for the Hurricanes, but remember that it was only 1-1 after that first period where Carolina dominated. From that point on, the play was mostly even and Boston had a slight upper-hand thanks to five powerplay chances. Peters had to work hard to keep the score tied and the Canes were finally able to give him some goal support. This is the type of game where goaltending and special teams can make a difference. The Hurricanes went 2/3 on the powerplay while Peters was the only reason why the Bruins were blanked on all three of their opportunities. There's your difference maker.
Hurricanes Individual Scoring Chances
Best EV Forward: Jeff Skinner +5
Worst EV Forward: Kevin Westgarth -3
Best EV Defensemen: Tim Gleason & Justin Faulk +2
Worst EV Defenseman: Bobby Sanguinetti -1
This was one of the best games the first line has played all season even though the scoring chances tell a different story. Eric Staal, Alexander Semin and Jiri Tlusty were as dominant as you can get on the forecheck and were able to create a few of their chances by forcing turnovers by the Bruins defense. They were consistently able to win board battles, keep the puck in the Boston end and it led to a great night in terms of possession. Jiri Tlusty was the one who reaped the benefits with two goals, one coming off a beautiful pass by Staal and the other coming with the net empty but all three did a terrific job last night. The best part of it was that they didn't give up much in their own end, either which has been a problem in recent games.
While the first line was great, the Canes best player may have been eiher Jeff Skinner or Jordan Staal. These two were responsible for roughly half of the team's even strength chances and looked like they were on a mission to score in the first period. Skinner eventually cashed in on the powerplay and Staal ended up with two assists, so it was good to see them get some results for a change. Skinner's best moment, however, came in the dying minutes of the third period where he was able to control the puck along the boards and melt away at least 30 seconds of time while the Bruins were trying to mount a comeback. Things like that will always win you over with the fans and the coaching staff. It's also worth noting is that Chad LaRose played a very good game on their wing, producing a couple of scoring chances in the third period.
The bottom-six was relatively inactive, although Nicolas Blanchard did some things to make himself stand out. What I've liked about Blanchard's game is that he has been able to be more than just a "tough guy" and contribute on the ice. He's made some key defensive plays, helped drive possession by leading zone entries and is never a liability when he is out there. This is only two games but he has made a good impression with me thus far.
The third line was the only "weak" spot since they didn't provide much offense, got outworked on the Lucic goal and Nash ended up getting benched after playing only two shifts in the third period. Patrick Dwyer eventually took his place as the center here and he seemed to help get this line going a little bit.
Justin Faulk and Tim Gleason led the way on defense and they had the luxury of playing behind the Eric Staal line for most of the game, which helped them have a fantastic night territorially. That being said, these two still had their moments and Faulk had a fantastic game defensively. Faulk also played a key role in Skinner's powerplay goal since the entire sequence would have never happened if he didn't make a great keep-in at the line.
Going by scoring chances, none of the defense pairings had "bad games." Sanguinetti ended up getting out-chanced but he wasn't on-ice for many events to begin with. Puck-possession, however, is a different story. Harrison & Corvo spent a ton of time trapped in their own zone as the Canes were outshot 11-23 during 5v5 play when they were on the ice. The one saving grace for them is that they didn't give up many chances. Why? Because they blocked a combined eight shots, Harrison recording six of them. Blocking shots is something that I've always felt is overrated because a player who blocks a ton of shots is usually spending too much time in their own zone and not doing enough to drive the play forward. The opposing team can also generate chances off rebounds on shots that are blocked. Thankfully for the Hurricanes that didn't happen often with Harrison but it could change if the team continues to get oushot as badly as they did tonight when these two were on the ice.
Bruins Individual Scoring Chances
Best EV Forwards: Tyler Seguin, Chris Kelly & Shawn Thornton +1
Worst EV Forwards: Rich Peverley, Nathan Hornton, Milan Lucic & David Krejci -2
Best EV Defenseman: Dennis Seidenberg +3
Worst EV Defenseman: Zdeno Chara -5
This was an off-night for most of the Bruins at even strength. I actually thought their best player was Jaromir Jagr since he seemed give the Hurricanes the most trouble and he did a lot of his damage on the powerplay. Jagr had 13 shot attempts, five of which got on goal and could have easily given the Bruins a 2-1 lead during the 5-on-3 sequence in the second period but Peters was able to rob him. While Jagr was very good, the Brins best player by scoring chances was actually Tyler Seguin, who started the game on the third line but was quickly promoted and ended up scoring a huge goal in the second period. The Bruins seemed to be able to produce more offense once he was promoted, which shouldn't surprise anyone when you consider the player he replaced was Daniel Paille.
Some might call Jay Harrison a fool for picking a fight with Zdeno Chara, but he really did the Hurricanes a huge favor by getting the Bruins best player off the ice for five minutes. I'm not sure how much of an impact this would have made because Chara had an off-game to say the very least. I actually didn't notice him that much for whatever reason and the Canes didn't have much of an issue creating offense when he was on the ice. The rest of the B's defense had a similar problem, though with the exception of Dennis Seidenberg.
Head-to-Head at Five-on-Five
We've seen Muller begin to use more of a power-vs.-power approach with the Eric Staal line in many games and he did that last night by sending them out against David Krejci's line while Jordan Staal primarily faced off against Gregory Campbell. The Bruins are obviously at a disadvantage since they are missing Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, so I'm not sure how much weigh to put in the matchups for this game. Jordan Staal's line took a ton of draws in their own zone during 5v5 play, so they were still playing a tough-minute role even if they weren't lined up gainst the Bruins first line. Plus, they had to play against Jagr for most of their minutes and he is one of the toughest players in the league to defend. Muller also did his best to match Gleason & Faulk up against the Krejci line while Harrison/Corvo got Campbell's line and McBain/Sanguinetti had the Kelly line. How did these matchups work out for Muller? Pretty well for a change.
Just about every Carolina player won their key matchup with Jordan Staal's line getting a huge victory over the Bruins' second line. Harrison/Corvo also did a great job of not letting that line create a lot of scoring chances. The biggest victory for the Canes was easily their top-six being able to out-chance Zdeno Chara whenever he was on the ice. Claude Julien normally relies on Chara to do pretty much everything for the Bruins on defense and as he goes, so does Boston's defense. Carolina caught him on a bad night and took advantage of it. Dennis Seidenberg was the only Boston player to win all of his matchups and yet, he played less than 18 minutes while Andrew Ference got over 20. You figure that one out.
Once again, the Hurricanes were dumping the puck in a lot and they were doing it a ton in the first period. Muller seems to be placing more emphasis on building a strong forecheck and forcing turnovers to create offense instead of having everyone carry it into the zone like they were doing for most of the year. This strategy actually worked out fairly well last night since the Canes were able to get 20 of their shots off uncontrolled entries and they actually generated quite a few shots off the times when Blanchard got it into the zone.
I don't hate this strategy but if you compare it to how many shots per controlled entry the Hurricanes got, you could say that they had a few missed opportunities to create even more offense. Skinner, Semin and Jordan Staal carried the puck in on more of their entries and the Canes generated more shots off them. Tlusty also generated a lot of offense off the four times he carried the puck in, but had only one shot on the six times he simply got the puck deep. Again, I'm not saying Muller's "dump and chase" strategy is bad, but there's potential to do a lot more.
The Bruins were able to enter the zone with control more often than Carolina, but they also had 10 fewer total zone entries, which shows that Carolina had the territorial advantage during 5v5 play. Still, Krejci and Lucic were able to gain Carolina's blue-line with relative ease but the former couldn't generate much offense off his entries for whatever reason.
|1||BOS||13:53||Lucic – GOAL||20||15||39||6||27||35||11||68||17||43||44||40||5v5|
|2||CAR||5:56||Tlusty – GOAL||12||19||28||6||27||35||19||46||18||33||55||40||5v5|
|2||BOS||2:03||Seguin – GOAL||11||53||28||44||77||35||19||46||22||21||44||40||5v5|
|3||CAR||10:24||Corvo – GOAL||11||53||59||47||77||35||49||20||21||44||40||5v4|