After last Saturday's loss to the St. Louis Blues, I said to myself that I would be okay with that game being the low-point of the season for Carolina. They were vastly outshot in that game and generated a total of five even strength scoring chances, which is pretty abysmal no matter who you are playing. Somehow, the Hurricanes have managed to outdo themselves and follow that game with two even worse performances against Boston & Detroit respectively and their re-match with the Bruins this afternoon was on-pace to be one of their worst games of the season.
Through two periods, the Hurricanes generated only 10 shots on goal and were being outchanced 12-3. This club has had a lot of trouble creating offense, but it takes a lot of effort (or lack thereof) to have that kind of output through 40 minutes of play. The Bruins simply looked like they were in a different league than the Hurricanes for most of the game and probably should have won this game in a blowout when taking that into consideration. The Hurricanes had trouble possessing the puck, sustaining a forecheck, creating chances, getting the puck out of their own zone and pretty much everything you need to do to win hockey games. Yet, Carolina managed to escape Boston with a point and most of that is due to the play of goaltender Cam Ward.
Ward made 35 saves and managed to keep the Hurricanes in the game, most of his shining moments coming in the second period where they were under siege and outshot 12-4. Every team has a game where their goaltender needs to steal a point or two for them and Ward was able to do that tonight with his performance. The team in front of him had to step up too, which they did in the third period, but this game was all about #30. This was the Cam Ward most were hoping to see this year and while it was nice to see him dialed in, the rest of the team has a ton of issues right now and they have about 20-some games to correct them.
Fenwick Timeline from Extra Skater
Carolina looked pretty good in the first 5-10 minutes of the game and got an early boost with a power play goal from Andrej Sekera. However, all of that momentum went down the drain after Boston got a four-minute power play which they scored on and they completely took over the game afterward. Carolina went about 15-20 minutes without a shot attempt and could barely do anything with the puck at all. Boston had all of the zone time during this period and when the Hurricanes eventually got possession, all they could do was dump the puck in because their forwards were worn out from playing too much in their own end. The only zone time they could create were off tip plays in the neutral zone and those didn't' result in anything because the Bruins were winning most of the races to the puck. It was a very ugly game to watch and the fact that the Hurricanes managed to get out of that stretch down 2-1 is sort of a miracle.
The third period was a much better frame for Carolina, as they finally started to show some life and managed to tie the game on a shorthanded goal from Patrick Dwyer. The Hurricanes had every reason to lie down and take the loss. They were getting vastly outplayed, took two penalties and had nothing going their way, but they did just the opposite of that and were able to earn one point in the standings. There's been a lot of discussion about the confidence issues of this team, but they seem to be trying to break that mold this year, as this is not the first time they've fought back after getting outplayed. Playing for a full-60 minutes is still a major problem, though.
The Hurricanes continue to be offensively challenged and the chance differential really could have been a lot worse had it not been for the defensive play of the Canes. They did a pretty good job of disrupting the Bruins passing lanes and covering up the slot and Boston ended up having a lot of "almost" chances that didn't get on net. The downside of this is that the Hurricanes barely had the puck and created basically no offense and this has been a reoccurring theme for awhile. Muller has talked about trying to improve the team's play away from the puck, but the Canes seem to have forgotten how to play well with the puck. Their passing has looked just awful these past few games and they have made a lot of bad turnovers in their own zone, as well. Boston could have easily gotten another two goals had it not been for the poor ice conditions at TD Garden.
Hurricanes Individual Scoring Chances
Hurricanes On-Ice Scoring Chances
Best EV Forwards: Jeff Skinner, KEvin Westgarth & Elias Lindholm EVEN
Worst EV Forward: Drayson Bowman -3
Best EV Defenseman: Ron Hainsey +1
Worst EV Defenseman: Tim Gleason -4
I really like Patrick Dwyer as a player and he came up huge with his shorthanded goal in the third period, but when he is responsible for 1/3 of the team's offense, that is a problem. His line with Jordan Staal & Nathan Gerbe has done great things this year, but there's only so much offense they can create even if they do a good job at driving the play. Although, they should be due to produce more if they continue to create chances, as the three of them combined for five tonight and had 11 shot attempts.
Still, the other lines need to start doing more and Eric Staal's line had a very rough game. Him, Ruutu & Tlusty spent most of the game trapped in their own end and they were too tired to do anything by the time they got the puck into the offensive zone. Tlusty & Ruutu obviously aren't possession drivers, but Staal hasn't shown that he can carry a line on his own this year and it's been discouraging to watch. Semin's return can't come soon enough.
Most of the defense corps had tough games, as they were forced to play in their own end for the majority of the game but the only one who had a noticeably bad performance was Tim Gleason. He was victimized on two of Boston's goals and looked especially bad on the over-time goal. Jarome Iginla was able to get the inside track on him and Ryan Murphy and Gleason looked completely lost while trying to react to he play, somehow ending up behind the net while David Krejci walked alone in front to score the game-winner. I know that we have to account for rink-rust, but he struggled last year too and I have my doubts that he can be a top-four defenseman at his age. He is drowning in third pairing minutes right now.
On special teams, the second penalty kill unit of Nathan Gerbe, Eric Staal, Justin Faulk & Andrej Sekera was torched. These four were on the ice for four of the Bruins six power play chances and Gerbe failed to clear the puck on Zdeno Chara's goal. Muller likes to use a lot of forwards on the PK, but having Malhotra in the box then really hurt. Dwyer, Jordan Staal, Hainsey & Bellemore did a nice job on the first unit, at least.
Bruins Individual Scoring Chances
Bruins On-Ice Scoring Chances
Best EV Forwards: Chris Kelly & Milan Lucic +3
Worst EV Forwards: Dan Paille & Shawn Thornton -1
Best EV Defenseman: Tory Krug +4
Worst EV Defenseman: Dougie Hamilton -1
This was pretty similar to Monday night's game where most of Boston's offense came from the Krejci & Kelly lines. Boston's third line was very impressive going by the eye-test, as they gave the Gleason/Murphy pairing a lot of trouble and creating some very good chances. They also dominated the shot clock and were able to pin the Hurricanes into their own end whenever they were on the ice. All in under 13 minutes of even strength ice time. Krejci's line also looked very good and dominated the Hurricanes in the first and second period.
Head-to-Head at Five-on-Five
Bergeron's line neutralized Eric Staal and Chara was able to dominate the Canes first line, as well. Jordan Staal's line didn't have much success against Krejci and the only depth matchup the Hurricanes won was 53-16-18 against Boston's Merlot line. The overall advantage goes to the Bruins here.