Riding a five-game losing streak while trying to hang onto their playoff lives, the Hurricanes were a team in desperate need of a win and they played up to this label last night against the San Jose Sharks. For the first 40 minutes, we saw the Hurricanes do a lot of things that have been absent for the last three games. Players were stepping up in the neutral zone to take space away from the Sharks forwards, defensemen were jumping into the play to create chances more frequently and most importantly, we saw almost every player finish their check and swarm on the Sharks whenever they had the puck. This kept the Hurricanes in the game through two periods, but after that things kind of unraveled.
Whether it was the Canes running out of gas or the Sharks finally waking up, San Jose really took it to the Hurricanes in the third period and had them playing in their own zone for basically the entire frame. It took a few big saves by Anton Khudobin (by few, I mean 16) and some key defensive plays to keep the score tied. This was the kind of performance we were all hoping to see out of the Canes on this Western Conference road swing and it's just a shame that they couldn't do this in the previous three games. The Canes had to weather a storm in the third period and were pretty lucky to get out of that unscathed, but they also did a lot of good things in the first two periods and were rewarded for it with a couple goals. That's essentially what you hope for when you're playing on the road against a superior team and Khudobin's performance in the third period helped them seal up a win in overtime.
At this point of the season, the Hurricanes need to go into every game with as much desperation as they did last night against San Jose if they want to keep their slim playoff hopes alive. It's a lost cause at this point, but a win like this can do wonders for a team's confidence, especially with most of the Canes remaining games being against the East. They'll need more of a full-60 minute effort if they actually want to pull off the miracle, though.
Fenwick Timeline From Extra Skater
The Canes had control of this game through two periods and then San Jose took it to them in the third, which they somehow managed to survive. Not that the Canes stopped trying in the third, San Jose just completely overpowered them and trapped them in their own zone for basically the entire period. I actually thought the Canes did a pretty good job of defending the front of the net and closing gaps on San Jose's forwards, they just couldn't move the puck up the ice or get any forecheck going. That usually doesn't lead to a lot of success no matter how good defensively your team is.They survived it, though and won in overtime after carrying the play for most of that period.
Not really a "complete" game by any stretch, but probably the Canes best game since the Olympic break. They haven't been able to dictate the play much this year and they did just that to the Sharks in the first period. Even after they fell down a goal, they got back to their game, stayed aggressive in the neutral zone and turned defense into offense with some solid work in the transition game. Unfortunately, this was absent for most of the previous three games and it's going to be an uphill battle from here on out.
Hurricanes Individual Chances
Hurricanes On-ice Scoring Chances
Best EV Forward: Riley Nash +1
Worst EV Forward: Jordan Staal -3
Best EV Defenseman: Andrej Sekera +2
Worst EV Defenseman: Ron Hainsey -4
The Hurricanes top two lines both produced a goal but their defensive performance left a lot to be desired, as all six forwards ended up in the red in scoring chances. Jordan Staal's line had an especially rough night, although I thought Tlusty had one of his best games in awhile. He and Semin connected for the Hurricanes first goal of the game and he was much more active offensively than he has been all season. He had a lot of trouble when it came to hitting the net, but he had some good looks and chances are coming easier for him now. Playing with Semin & Jordan will do that, though.
Elias Lindholm also had a good night with two points and the primary helper on the game-winning goal. He's been a nice fit on the first line and looks more at home in the NHL with every game. Earlier in the year, he was mainly used on the power play and the only thing that really stood out was his vision and passing. Now, we're seeing him shoot the puck more, finish his checks, track down opposing forwards in the defensive zone and create space for his linemates by driving the middle of the ice. Basically, doing all of the little things that scouts raved about during draft time. His play has been a real bright spot of this road trip and hopefully he can keep this up now that he's getting the ice time.
Carolina's leader in ice time, Andrej Sekera, had one of the best games I've seen from a Carolina defenseman in years and that's not just because he had two assists. He contributed in just about every area imaginable, whether it was making breakout passes, keeping plays alive in the offensive zone, helping disrupt the Sharks zone entries, blocking shots or clearing rebounds, Sekera did a little of everything last night. With Faulk out, his contributions were huge and he was one of the few players who seemed to get better as the game went on. His partner for the night, John-Michael Liles also had a very good game and didn't look too overwhelmed with top pairing minutes. Seeing him block shots and defend the front of the net as well as he did was a nice surprise.
Sharks Individual Scoring Chances
Sharks On-Ice Scoring Chances
Best EV Forward: Brent Burns +5
Worst EV Forward: Matt Nieto -2
Best EV Defensemen: Dan Boyle & Matt Irwin +2
Worst EV Defensemen: Jason Demers & Justin Braun -1
Brent Burns started the game on the third line but he eventually worked his way back to his normal home on Joe Thornton's wing and it's easy to see why. It's also not a surprise that the Sharks began to control the play at even strength once Burns was back on the top line, as he gave the Canes a lot of trouble in the third period. Also giving the Hurricanes a lot of trouble were Patrick Marleau & Logan Couture, who combined for sixteen shot attempts and five of San Jose's scoring chances. Marleau seemed to be everywhere in the third period and he came very close to sending the Canes home empty-handed a few times. Hard to believe that he'll turn 35 in September because he looks just as good as he always has.
Head-to-Head at Five-on-Five
Todd McLellan is a power-vs-power type of coach, so he rolled Joe Thornton's line out against Eric Staal for most of the game. Staal had the better of this matchup until McLellan replaced Nieto with Burns, who ran amok on the Canes for the third period. The Couture line also had a hell of a night, really getting the better of the Bellemore/Hainsey pairing for most of the game. San Jose actually won most of the 5v5 matchups last night, which is mostly due to the third period but their depth is very impressive to say the least.
5v5 Zone Entries
|# of entries||Shots generated||Carry-ins||Shots generated||Dump-ins||Shots generated||Failed Entries|
This looks more like the game Kirk Muller "wants" the Hurricanes to play. They dumped the puck in more times than not and were able to create a decent amount of offense from them. Their defense was responsible for most of the dump-ins and the forwards did a pretty good job of not letting them go to waste. The number of shots they created off carry-ins, however left a lot to be desired. Tlusty and Gerbe were the only players who created more than one shot off carry-ins and that's obviously not good enough.
|Player||# of entries||Shots generated||Carry-ins||Shots generated||Dump-ins||Shots generated||Failed Entries|
After allowing Dallas and Anaheim to carry the puck in at will, the Canes did a much better job of trying to shut the Sharks down in the neutral zone. The Marleau-Couture-Wingles had a big game here and the Sharks third line also produced a healthy amount of carry-ins, and a lot of shots along with it. Still, a much better showing here compared to the disaster in Anaheim.
5v5 Zone Exits
Sekera and Liles isn't an ideal top pairing by any stretch of imagination, but one thing they are good at is getting the puck out of their zone and leading breakouts. They did a fine job of this last night, as they were able to effectively get the play moving in the right direction once they got control of the puck. There's a reason why they ended up one of the few players on the team with a positive shot attempt differential. Too bad the rest of the defense corps had a very rough night in this area of the game. Forwards did a nice job of picking up the slack, though.
Dan Boyle's 16 touches isn't much compared to the rest of the defense corps, but he was able to advance the play on half of his zone exit attempts. In addition to that, he and Matt Irwin were the Sharks best defense pairing in terms of scoring chances. The Sharks also outshot Carolina 23-19 during 5v5 play with him on the ice. At 37, he's still got it.