If last night was supposed to be a new "chapter" in Carolina's season, then it got off to a lousy start. The story about this game will likely be focused around Cam Ward's struggles and the team's third period collapse, but they were on life support even before allowing four goals in that frame. New Jersey significantly outplayed them for 2/3 of the game and eventually got rewarded for it in the third when the Hurricanes were on their heels and could not handle anything the Devils brought at them. The Hurricanes had extreme difficulty getting the puck out of their zone and the times they did, they were either clogged up in the middle of the ice or had to play dump-and-chase to get through the Devils defense. Their play away from the puck in the defensive zone was also atrocious, as they were losing puck battles left and right and leaving New Jersey forwards open in the process. They had some stretches of good play, but the Hurricanes were mostly a comedy of errors last night and the third period was the icing on the leftover Thanksgiving pumpkin pie.
It's easy to pin this one on Ward because he let in a couple of soft goals and was far from being in form, but the team in front of him was twice as bad and it's hard to put 100% of the blame on him when you look at how poorly the Hurricanes were outplayed.
Fenwick Timeline from Extra Skater
Carolina attempted only five shots during even strength play in that third period.Think about that. In a little under 20 minutes of hockey, the Hurricanes only attempted to get a shot on goal five times. They were playing with a lead for a portion of that frame but that still speaks to how badly they were outplayed in this game. It's not like they don't match up well with the Devils either because they played a solid game against them on Wednesday night. This was just a bad effort all around, save for the second period. The Devils dressed a better lineup by having Damien Brunner & Anton Volchenkov fill-in for Cam Janssen and Peter Harrold respectively, but that still doesn't excuse the terrible third period from the Hurricanes. You aren't going to win many games while producing such little offense.
This is one of those games where the scoring chances line up with the shot report, only it's a little harder on the Canes first period play, and rightfully so. They were very lucky to exit that frame down only one goal and Ward had to come up big a few times early in the period to prevent the Devils from taking control of the game early. Carolina did play well in the second period and seemed to have an answer to the Devils defensive strategy, but they couldn't sustain it through the third period and were bulldozed in that frame. Ward letting in a few soft goals didn't help, but the team in front of him really didn't give him any help whatsoever. They were doubled up in chances and outshot by 20 at even strength. That is awful.
Hurricanes Individual Scoring Chances
Hurricanes On-Ice Scoring Chances
Best EV Forward: Riley Nash +1
Worst EV Forwards: Jordan Staal, Drayson Bowman & Manny Malhotra -5
Best EV Defensemen: Jay Harrison & Brett Bellemore -1
Worst EV Defensemen: Ron Hainsey & Justin Faulk -4
Not having Andrej Sekera in the lineup was a huge loss for Carolina, as the Hainsey/Faulk pairing was torn up at even strength. Hainsey has been the team's best defenseman this year and has played well enough to earn top pairing minutes, but he did not look comfortable at all last night. He was scrambling around in his own zone and had to resort to desperation plays to keep up with forwards. He also made a lot more mistakes and turned the puck over way more times than we are used to seeing. I don't know what was up with him, but some might point to this as evidence of Hainsey not being a top-pairing defenseman. I'll buy that, but he was facing the same forwards he saw on Wednesday night and playing with a superior defense partner, so him struggling this much was perplexing to say the very least.
Hainsey's normal partner, Brett Bellemore, had a commendable effort last night because he had to play with Mike Komisarek and managed to not be destroyed at even strength. Bellemore had to bail his partner out a few times with some key blocks and defensive plays to deny potential chances for the Devils. He was easily the better half of this defense pairing but I'm sure most could have predicted that. The bad news is that Bellemore was the bright spot on defense and the rest of the blue-liners struggled mightily. Hainsey/Faulk were at the top of the list and Murphy/Harrison also had their problems. Komisarek was also torched on Jaromir Jagr's goal, as he was caught flat-footed in the neutral zone against one of New Jersey's best forwards.
The entire defense had a rough night and the forwards weren't much better, although the fact that they generated only seven even strength scoring chances should tell you that. Eric Staal & Riley Nash's lines were the only ones producing any offense and Nash had some key mistakes. He was benched after taking a hooking penalty in the third period and lost a board battle which led to Mark Fayne's goal. Of course, that goal could have been easily avoided had Jeff Skinner not fleed the defensive zone early while NJ still had possession of the puck. That poor decision really put the Hurricanes in a hole early, but Skinner did his part to make up for it by scoring the game-tying goal early in the second.
The errors by Skinner & Nash were costly, but these two were actually some of Carolina's "better" forwards in this game. At least in comparison to everyone else, because Jordan's line had a terrible night and so did Malhotra's. Jordan scored a huge breakaway goal during four-on-four play but he didn't do anything at five-on-five play and his linemates were held without a shot on goal all game. Dwyer is normally so effective on this line but he was invisible against New Jersey and so was Tlusty. This line was also outshot against New Jersey on Wednesday night and I'm starting to wonder if Tlusty being moved here has anything to do with it. I don't know what he could do to be a possession anchor, but Eric's line was getting pummeled at evens while he was playing on it and the same has happened with Jordan. It's kind of strange, and worrisome.
Devils Individual Scoring Chances
Devils On-Ice Scoring Chances
Best EV Forwards: Steve Bernier & Andrei Loktionov +3
Worst EV Forwards: Mattias Tedenby & Adam Henrique +1
Best EV Defenseman: Marek Zidlicky +5
Worst EV Defensemen: Jon Merrill & Eric Gelinas +1
New Jersey had a pretty balanced attack with the Zajac & Loktionov lines leading the way. Their depth forwards also performed well, producing a handful of chances and not giving anything up in their own end. That's more than you can so for a lot of other team's fourth lines. Their defense also had a solid game all-around, although Gelinas & Zidlicky had a couple of hiccups on both Carolina goals.
Head-to-Head at Five-on-Five
The two big matchups Carolina lost were Jordan's line & Faulk/Hainsey against New Jersey's top-six. The fourth line was also crushed by Loktionov and the only matchup Carolina won was when their first line was out against Volchenkov & Merrill. Carolina's foruth line is normally a lot better against weaker matchups, so this was a disappointing performance on their part. Although, the fact that they saw a lto fo New Jersey's third line while Nash was benched probably didn't help.
5v5 Zone Entries
|# of entries||Shots generated||Carry-ins||Shots generated||Dump-ins||Shots generated||Failed Entries|
Carolina could not get anything going through the neutral zone in this game and it really didn't matter how they tried to get through the Devils defense. Dumping the puck in was a lot less effective, but the Canes didn't exactly make the most of their controlled entries either. The only time they could produce offense were when Jordan, Skinner & Gerbe carried the puck into the zone and these three combined for only nine zone entries, so that kind of tells you why Carolina was held to only seven five-on-five chances. It is kind of interesting that the first line was Carolina's best territorial unit despite Tuomo Ruutu & Eric Staal having no controlled entries, though.
|Player||# of entries||Shots generated||Carry-ins||Shots generated||Dump-ins||Shots generated||Failed Entries|
New Jersey dominated the neutral zone, carrying the puck in 52% of the time and producing two goals through transitional play. They had someone who could regularly carry the puck in on all four lines and the Devils were able to generate at least one or two shot attempts off those rushes. Jagr is knownf or being one of the best players in the league at neutral zone play, but two players who stick out to me here are Ryan Carter & Michael Ryder. These two led the Devils in total and controlled entries while playing bottom-six minutes and New Jersey was able to produce a decent amount of offense on their rushes. The Devils don't have a lot of star power in their lineup, but their forward depth is pretty impressive on paper and Carolina saw it in action in this game.
5v5 Zone Exits
How much did Carolina miss Andrej Sekera? A lot. The Hurricanes defense corps isn't blessed with many puck-movers as it is and the unit they dressed last night advanced the play on only 18% of their zone exit attempts. Not that Sekera is Keith Yandle, but when you replace him with someone like Mike Komisarek, the defense is going to have a very tough time moving the puck forward. Although, it didn't help that Ron Hainsey, normally above-average in this category, had his worst game as a Hurricane. He deferred to Faulk on most of his zone exit attempts and turned the puck over on nearly half of his breakouts. Better days are ahead for him, hopefully. Murphy also had a down game for his standards.
With the exception of the Zidlicky/Gelinas pairing, the Devils defense corps was very good at exciting the zone. Greene/Fayne were easily their best pairing, as they were trusted to handle the puck a lot and advanced the play on nearly 30% of their attempts. Merrill & Volchenkov also had a solid game with limited puck touches. I wasn't sure if Volchenkov was an upgrade over Peter Harrold, but Volchenkov did a solid job of not getting trapped in his own zone and, unlike Harrold, he didn't commit any turnovers.