The Hurricanes win over the San Jose Sharks on Friday night installed a lot of confidence in this team, they showed what they are capable of doing when everyone is playing to their ability. Despite underperforming for most of the season, the Hurricanes showed that they can be a team capable of hanging with some of the best clubs in the league and contending for a playoff spot. We've been down this road before, though because even in their worst seasons, the Canes had games where they were able to outplay some of the NHL's elite, but they never played at that level every night. This is what makes the rest of this road trip so important and more importantly, Monday night's game against the Vancouver Canucks.
While their record doesn't show it, the Canucks are one of the better teams in the Western Conference and how the Hurricanes played them would be a good indicator of where this club is and if they can build on what they did on Friday night. They already played one game against Vancouver and managed to win the five-on-five battle but were brought down by terrible special teams. Did Monday's game have a better ending?
Unfortunately, no. Once again, the Hurricanes outshot and outchanced the Canucks at even strength but were shutout by rookie goaltender Eddie Lack. The Hurricanes didn't play as poorly as the final score indicates, but their offensive struggles reared their ugly head again and they had a difficult time getting through Vancouver's defense. Carolina played well enough to earn a point on Monday night, but a rocky first period and a goal that came off a bit of a fluky play had them going home empty-handed. There are worse losses, but this one was pretty frustrating to watch, much like the last game against Vancouver.
Fenwick Timeline from Extra Skater
A relatively even game overall with both teams trading punches at even strength, but the Hurricanes took over the territorial play about mid-way through the second period. Although, this mostly relates to the system the Canucks play more than the Hurricanes dominating them territorially. The Canucks had a 1-0 lead for the majority of this game and their primary concern was limiting Carolina's chances and creating their own only when Carolina made a mistake or two. The result? A lot of neutral zone play and Carolina spending most of the time trying to knife their way through Vancouver's defense. The Canucks contained them well, but Carolina had a few opportunities to tie the game and make Eddie Lack earn his shutout. I always thought Tortorella's uber-conservative approach was overblown by fans, but this was a stereotypical Torts game.
Another bad first period for the Canes, the highlight being when they gave up four shorthanded chances in one sequence during their first power play. It didn't hurt them, as Justin Peters came up big, but that was still an awful sequence and the Canucks had the edge in both shots and chances during that frame. Carolina was much better the rest of the game but their offensive output was still pretty low overall. Vancouver's a good defensive team and all but it seemed like the Canes were spending most of the game playing right into their hands and not doing a whole lot to get through their defense, save for a few good rushes. Carolina's had a chase a lot of games this year and this one falls into that category, despite them winning the Corsi war.
Hurricanes Individual Scoring Chances
Hurricanes On-Ice Scoring Chances
Best EV Forward: Jiri Tlusty +4
Worst EV Forward: Tuomo Ruutu -3
Best EV Defensemen: Tim Gleason & Jay Harrison +3
Worst EV Defensemen: Ron Hainsey & Ryan Murphy -1
Whatever magic the first line created last week wore off on Monday night because they didn't do a whole lot at even strength. Jeff Skinner's willingness to get the puck on net every chance he gets allowed them to create a few chances, but the trio weren't that effective as a unit, at least compared to last week. Jordan Staal's line also had a quiet game and the line that was creating most of Carolina's offense was Riley Nash, Patrick Dwyer & Jiri Tlusty. As weird of a combo as this is, the trio showed some good chemistry and were able to create a few chances in transition. All three are good skaters who play pretty simple games, so I could see them meshing well if they stay together. Tlusty's at least getting back to what he did so well last year, which is getting to scoring areas and creating chances.
Defensively, Carolina was a mess in the first period and most of their blunders came on the early power play where they gave up four shorthanded chances to the Canucks. The pairing on the ice for that? Ryan Murphy & Ron Hainsey. Separtely, these two have played well this year but they did not work well as a unit in this game. Hainsey has done a pretty good job when forced to play with different partners, but Murphy's game is tougher to adjust to and there might be a learning curve here.
Canucks Individual Scoring Chances
Canucks On-Ice Scoring Chances
Best EV Forwards: Jeremy Welsh & Dale Weise +1
Worst EV Forwards: Daniel & Henrik Sedin -3
Best EV Defenseman: Chris Tanev +2
Worst EV Defenseman: Kevin Bieksa -5
Carolina managed to keep the Sedin twins quiet for most of the game, their only 5v5 chance coming on the tail end of a Carolina power play with Henrik coming out of the box. They had an odd-man rush that was broken up by Andrej Sekera but other than that, they didn't do much for most of the game and Vancouver had to rely on their second and third lines for offense. This wasn't too bad of a situation for them, though since they got an early lead and Kesler's line played an excellent two-way game.
Head-to-Head at Five-on-Five
Tortorella kept Hamhuis & Tanev stapled to Eric Staal's line at even strength and Vancouver's defense pairing came out on the winning end of that matchup. With Andrew Alberts playing only six minutes, the Canes first line was able to create some offense against Vancouver's jumbled defense combos, but the Canucks won the main matchup. Kesler also neutralized Eric and it's pretty clear to see why Tortorella kept that matchup the same. The most surprising thing here is Nash's line winning the battle against the Sedin twins.
5v5 Zone Entries
|# of entries||Shots generated||Carry-ins||Shots generated||Dump-ins||Shots generated|
Continuing the trend over the last few games, Carolina carried the puck in on more than half of their entries and they had someone on each of their top-three lines carry the puck in at least four times. This where Nash, Tlusty & Dwyer can be so valuable when they are on their game. Nash & Tlusty produced eight shots on seven controlled entries and they could see some reward for it on the scoresheet if they continue this. Eric Staal & Tuomo Ruutu also had very good performances in the neutral zone, albeit producing much less offense. Still, it's good to see more forwards contributing here.
|Player||# of entries||Shots generated||Carry-ins||Shots generated||Dump-ins||Shots generated|
Vancouver has been a dump-and-chase team for most of the season and you'd think they would continue that this game, but that wasn't the case. It's a little surprising because they were playing with a lead and focused more on defending their lead, but they actually had a lot more carry-ins than I expected. Part of this is because they didn't have a lot of zone entries overall and mainly just elevated the puck out of the defensive zone & went for a line change whenever they got possession. If they saw a break, though, they took advantage of it.
5v5 Zone Exits
Vancouver's an opportunistic team and the Hurricanes gave them plenty of chances to break this game open by turning the puck over 12 times in their own zone. The Canes forwards have shown more of a commitment to playing defense this year, but their puck control has left a lot to be desired.
Also, Ryan Murphy's play away from the puck is still developing but he is pretty excellent when it comes to leading breakouts.
Vancouver's zone exit numbers are pretty ugly because, as I said earlier, they were content with just getting the puck out of their own end and making Carolina start over. This has its strengths and its flaws. It can be effective because Carolina had a tough time creating chances against Vancouver's defense but the Canucks are kind of lucky that his strategy didn't come back to haunt them with how often they iced the puck. They also had a few ugly turnovers as the result of soft clears that the Hurricanes didn't capitalize on.