Last night, we saw the Hurricanes go back to their 2013 form for a little bit. They recorded over 36 shots on goal, were showing more creativity with the puck and had long stretches of time where they were the team dictating the play. However, they were also playing a much more open style defensively and gave up a lot of shots to the Senators, especially in transition. In other words, this game wasn't too different from what we saw from last season's team in terms of playing style. The main difference was that the Hurricanes had a few more bounces go in their favor. Carolina was rewarded for their hard work with three goals in the second period and most of their defensive slip-ups didn't hurt the team thanks to some marvelous goaltending from Cam Ward.
This may have been only one game, but it was refreshing to see the Hurricanes offense show what they are capable of after going nearly a month averaging less than two goals per game. Not having to play an elite possession team certainly helped them, as it was easier for Carolina to establish a forecheck and work their way through the neutral zone, but a change in strategy was another big reason why their offense came to life against Ottawa.
Fenwick Timeline from Extra Skater
Ottawa dominated the first 10 minutes of the game and took an early 1-0 lead, outshooting Carolina 14-6 at one point. The Canes didn't wake up until around the 10 minute mark and they seemed to take control of things after that. They owned the majority of the second period and were rewarded for it with three goals. Both teams were playing the second night of a back-to-back and Ottawa was down a defenseman with Mark Borowiecki leaving the game in the first period, so their big-minute players definitely got tired as the game went on, especially since Carolina was rolling all four lines. There were some stretches where the Canes sat back while defending a two-goal lead, but they still maintained an advantage in territorial play for 5/6 of the game. It was nice to see after how they were dominated in this area for the last four games.
The second period looked more like the Hurricanes I expected to see this year. It was very fast-paced and the Hurricanes were letting their more skilled players work instead of playing a more conservative game. I was worried that they would go into a defensive shell after Ottawa dominated the first 10 minutes, but the Canes did the exact opposite and opened things up instead. They generated more even strength chances in that period alone than they did in the last two games and their overall chance count was their third highest of the season. Their play in the third period was also very encouraging because that was when the Canes buckled down defensively without letting Ottawa carry the play too much. They spent a decent amount of time in their own end, but didn't allow Ottawa to test Ward too much and they were able to create transition chances off mistakes by the Senators. When Muller talked about improving the team's play away from the puck, that is what I was hoping to see, rather than the Hurricanes constantly being plugged into their own zone.
Hurricanes Individual Scoring Chances
Hurricanes On-Ice Scoring Chances
Best EV Forward: Tuomo Ruutu +3
Worst EV Forwards: Manny Malhotra, Radek Dvorak, Kevin Westgarth & Drayson Bowman -1
Best EV Defensemen: Brett Bellemore & Ron Hainsey +4
Worst EV Defenseman: Ryan Murphy -4
The Hurricanes playing a more open style combined with Muller rolling all four lines resulted in Carolina having a pretty balanced attack. However, they also gave up a lot and 1/3 of the chances they surrendered came when the fourth line was on the ice. They were on the ice for Jason Spezza's goal after Jay Harrison iced the puck and Muller left them out there against that line a couple other times. They had some good shifts and Westgarth did create two chances, but they prone to get lit up in their own end more times than not.
I was pretty concerned about Eric Staal's ability to carry the first line without Alex Semin on his wing, but he was able to do just that last night, as this unit had a very good night. Not only did they crush the Sens on the shot clock, but they produced four scoring chances and 22 shot attempts. Most of them coming off the stick of Tuomo Ruutu, who looked more like his usual self. Muller made some changes to the lines by putting Nathan Gerbe on this unit and it worked out pretty well. Gerbe plays a simple game and was able to keep a lot of plays alive by winning battles and getting pucks on net.
The other change Muller made was placing Tlusty on the second line with Jordan Staal and he looked pretty good there. He doesn't have to be the play-driver on that line and that makes it easier for him to find gaps in coverage and create chances. He struggled to get anything on net, but he definitely had his opportunities and could see his luck change if he continues to keep it up. This line didn't go unrewarded, though as Patrick Dwyer scored the opening goal for the Hurricanes after some great work down low by Justin Faulk & Jordan Staal. The latter had one of his best games of the season, although his boxcar line may not indicate it.
Carolina's top-four was excellent last night, surrendering only five even strength chances to the Senators and keeping play out of their own end whenever they were on the ice. Faulk and Sekera did a great job of limiting Spezza's line and Bellemore & Hainsey were just as good against Turris' line, who had a very quiet game. Unfortunately, the third pairing got lit up and Harrison didn't look good at all.
Senators Individual Scoring Chances
Senators On-Ice Scoring Chances
Best EV Forwards: Erik Condra, Colin Greening & Jason Spezza +2
Worst EV Forward: Zack Smith -5
Best EV Defenseman: Erik Karlsson +2
Worst EV Defenseman: Jared Cowen -5
Paul Maclean also tried to roll all four lines and got somewhat of a balanced offensive attack. Spezza, Turris & Grant's lines were all able to create chances but their third line was destroyed. That said, Spezza's line still had a pretty good night overall and their third line played very well early in the game. Greening nearly put the Sens on top 2-0 in the first period but was denied by Ward making a diving stick save. That ended up coming back to haunt Ottawa, but this line still did some damage at even strength. I also thought the Ryan-Turris-Macarthur line was very quiet last night considering what they are capable of. Carolina was able to keep them in check and prevent them from doing much at even strength.
Ottawa was also playing down a defenseman tonight after Westgarth hit Mark Borowiecki from behind in the first period and as a result, Karlsson played over a half hour and both Marc Methot & Patrick Wiercicoh also logged some big minutes. Karlsson normally plays a lot, but I don't think Maclean wanted him to play this much on the second night of a back-to-back. That said, Karlsson still had a very good game compared to the rest of the defense, although he & Methot did not look good on the Ruutu goal. Ottawa's defensive problems all stemmed from the Cowen/Wiercioch pairing, who were on the ice for most of Carolina's scoring chances.
Head-to-Head at Five-on-Five
Despite the Hurricanes having the better end of the scoring chance battle, the Senators actually had more big wins in the head-to-head matchups and most of them were against Carolina's fourth line & third defense pairing. I know it's hard to control matchups when you have players on the opposing team logging 30+ minutes of ice-time, but it's kind of scary that Harrison & Murphy were on the ice long enough for the Sens to produce four scoring chances, especially since the Canes were playing at home. Carolina's top players won most of their matchups, though and that is what help decide the game. That and Ottawa's third line being a complete liability.
5v5 Zone Entries
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The Hurricanes had control on over 60% of their zone entries and while I don't expect this to sustain over a long period of time, I am hoping to see more games like this for the rest of the year. Carolina has enough forwards that can thrive in an up-tempo, transitional game and they showed that last night by winning the shot & chance battle while entering the zone with control the majority of the time. It also helped that Staal & Ruutu took on more of a role in the neutral zone with 10 combined controlled entries. Dwyer also had a ncie game and is starting to contribute a lot more on the second line. This might be a good thing with Tlusty playing on there now.
|Player||# of entries||Shots generated||Carry-ins||Shots generated||Dump-ins||Shots generated||Failed Entries|
Carolina forced Ottawa's top players to dump the puck in more times than they would hav liked, but the Sens were still able to gain the zone with control on more than half of their entries. Bobby Ryan and Jason Spezza being the ones leading the way on their respective lines. Both Condra & Greening also made a pretty significant impact with limited ice-time. Their third line, however, was chasing the puck most of the time, dumping it in more times than their entire top-six did.
5v5 Zone Exits
Carolina made quick work of their zone exits and as a result, they didn't have many player with a high number of touches. It helped that their defensemen were able to swiftly move the puck out of the zone and get it to a forward in the middle of the ice. Both Faulk & Hainsey had strong games in this regard and it was part of the reason why the Hurricanes were able to dictate the play so well in the second & third periods.
Unsurprisingly, Erik Karlsson was relied on heavily for the Senators breakouts and while he made a lot of good plays out of his own end, he also turned the puck over more times than the entire Hurricanes defense corps did. This probably comes with the territory when you handle the puck this often, but it's still a pretty interesting observation. With the exception of Cowen, Ottawa's defense didn't have much trouble getting play out of their own end and they made good use of their forwards to advance the puck if the breakout pass wasn't available. They didn't turn it into many chances, but the Sens did create a lot of shots and their breakouts were a big reason for that.