This Western road trip hasn't exactly gone in the direction that Carolina had wanted, as they have now dropped three in a row in a row after losing last night's game to the Calgary Flames. It hasn't been a complete waste, they have earned a point in each of the last two losses, but the games against Edmonton & Calgary were Carolina's best chance at putting some wins together and gaining some ground in the Eastern Conference. With so many teams in the East struggling to find their form right now, the Canes needed to take advantage of playing against some of the West's bottom-feeders and so far, they haven't been able to do that. Earning two loser points on the road might be acceptable in some parts of the year, but the Hurricanes really needed to come out of Calgary with a win and they were three seconds away from having an opportunity to do so.
Missed opportunities have been a reoccurring theme for the Canes this year and there were plenty of those last night. Carolina outchanced the Flames at even strength, dominated the third period and had a lot of chances to put this game away late. Unfortunately, most of their best chances were stopped by goaltender Karri Ramo, had a very solid night in goal and kept the Flames alive. The Hurricanes inability to solve him allowed the Flames to stay in the game and they eventually got their reward in OT with Chris Butler scoring on a seeing-eye shot with three seconds left.
Despite the bad result, there were a lot of positives for the Canes in this game but this is a league driven by results and not escaping Alberta with at least one win could come back to haunt them later in the year.
Fenwick Timeline from Extra Skater
If you want an idea of how much of a struggle possession has been for the Canes, last night's game was the 12th time they won the Corsi war this season and only the third time they lost when this happened. The Flames had a lot of jump in the second period but Carolina controlled the puck for a good portion of this game of this game and owned the third period, oushooting Calgary 16-8. Unfortunately, they didn't see much of a reward for it thanks to Karri Ramo & the goal posts, so their good performance ultimately went to waste. Carolina has been such a weak possession team this year so unless they improve, they can't afford to not win the games when they do outshoot the opponent and own the territorial battle. A couple of mistakes is usually all it takes for you to lose close games like this, though.
There have been a few times this year where the Hurricanes failed to produce nine even strength chances in an entire game, so not being able to capitalize on that third period really hurt. The one goal they got from Jeff Skinner was enough to tie the game, but there were moments where they had a chance to build on this lead and they either couldn't beat Ramo or were slightly out of sync. With how much they controlled the play in that frame, they could have easily done more damage to the Flames but they didn't and that ended up hurting them in the end. The Hurricanes were also playing from behind for half of that period and were getting outchanced by Calgary 11-7 at the time. I thought Carolina played a good first period and had more jump to their game, but it's a little worrisome that they didn't take over until they fell behind.
Hurricanes Individual Scoring Chances
Hurricanes On-Ice Scoring Chances
Best EV Forward: Eric Staal +4
Worst EV Forward: Alex Semin -4
Best EV Defenseman: Tim Gleason +2
Worst EV Defensemen: Ryan Murphy & Jay Harrison -1
It's a good thing the Hurricanes kept Jeff Skinner on the top line because he was a thrill to watch last night and looked like a player capable of taking over the game. He was all over the ice and giving the Flames defense fits by creating offense out of nothing. His goal came as the result of him finding a soft spot in the defense and receiving a great pass by Tuomo Ruutu, but Skinner did some nice work to create chances on his own. He was showing a lot more patience with the puck and waiting until he got to a scoring area to take a shot instead of firing blanks from the top of the faceoff circle and hoping for a rebound. After an off-night in Edmonton, this line had all of their wheels clicking last night and will probably stay together for at least another night.
This line's usual right winger, Alex Semin, had a so-so night in his first game back from a concussion. His offensive performance was about on par with what he had done for most of the year, firing a lot of shots at the net but having trouble locating the target. Him taking more shots is a good sign, so I'm not too worried about that. What I am worried about is that his play away from the puck was pretty brutal for his standards, as Semin was on the ice for half of Calgary's 5v5 scoring chances. Some of that can be blamed on him being double-shifted but he looked a little lost in coverage at times and unsure of what his assignment was. I'm hoping that's just rink rust, though.
Another concern is the minmal production from the bottom-six last night. With Elias LIndholm going down in the first period, the team's depth was going to have to pick up the slack and with only three chances coming from the bottom-six, it's pretty clear that didn't happen. Skinner's big night somewhat made up for the loss, but it would be really nice to have more than one line going for a change.
The news of Jim Rutherford looking for a puck-moving defenseman must have sparked Andrej Sekera & Ryan Murphy a little because both had their wheels going last night. Sekera was all over the place in overtime and jumped into the play frequently. This helped Carolina create a number of chances but they also gave up a lot, as well. Murphy was guilty of this in the second period, as he tried to pinch at the offensive blue-line, misplayed the puck and the Flames got an odd-man rush the other way. They didn't score, but this is something Murphy has had trouble with this year. Sekera also had a couple of scary moments, the biggest coming when he turned the puck over while trying to exit the zone in the third period. Fortunately, he was able to bail himself out and make a nice recovery play. He has done a lot of this during his tenure as a Hurricane and doesn't get enough credit for it.
Flames Individual Scoring Chances
Flames On-Ice Scoring Chances
Best EV Forwards: TJ Galiardi & David Jones +2
Worst EV Forward: Jiri Hudler -2
Best EV Defenseman: Mark Giordano +5
Worst EV Defensemen: Kris Russell & TJ Brodie -5
Almost every Flame player was underwater in terms of even strength Corsi because they blocked 22 shots, so their scoring chance numbers are much more favorable. The two who got the biggest boost were Ladislav Smid & Mark Giordano, who blocked six shots and were on the ice for over half of Calgary's even strength chances. The Canes kept these two in their own end a lot but struggled to do much against them. It was a completely different story against Brodie & Russell, who were destroyed at even strength. Brodie made a key defensive play in over-time to save the game for Calgary but outside of that, he had a rough night.
Head-to-Head at Five-on-Five
Carolina won the scoring chance battle because of their top line. They were responsible for most of the team's offensive production and beat Calgary's top unit cleanly in their head-to-head matchup. Them getting a decent amount of ice time against Russell & Brodie also helped because they had much more success against them than Giordano & Smid. It's rare for Carolina to get a point in a game where Semin & Jordan Staal are this bad at even strength, but the top line (and Hainsey, Murphy, Faulk & Sekera to a lesser extent) made that happen last night.
5v5 Zone Entries
|# of entries||Shots generated||Carry-ins||Shots generated||Dump-ins||Shots generated||Failed Entries|
The Flames play a more open style than some people give them credit for so Carolina had a lot of room to operate in the neutral zone and had nearly 40 carry-ins last night. Almost everyone in their top-six carried the puck in on the majority of their offense and Dwyer did a nice job to give the third line an offensive spark. The oddest thing here is how often Skinner dumped the puck in. I thought he was the team's most dynamic player by the eye-test and while the Canes created a lot of shots off his carry-ins, it appears that he could have done more in the neutral zone.
|Player||# of entries||Shots generated||Carry-ins||Shots generated||Dump-ins||Shots generated||Failed Entries|
Either Bob Hartley hates dump-and-chase play or the Flames have a lot of underrated puck-carriers because they had control on over 60% of their zone entries last night, which is an absurd amount. There were some players who did nothing with their entries (Hudler, Glencross, Galiardi) and they ended up losing the possession battle, but the fact that they were able to gain the line with the control this much shows that perhaps they aren't as bad as their record indicates.
5v5 Zone Exits
Carolina was much better at exiting the zone last night than they were in the Vancouver & Edmonton games, turning the puck over less and getting more contributions from their centers. With Gleason & Harrison playing on the same pairing, they are going to need some help from their forwards and it's good to see Nash & Malhotra chipping in here. The only problem is that they are also coughing the puck up quite a bit, which is odd for two solid defensive players. Also, Andrej Sekera has been a treat to watch for the last month or so.
The Flames were solid once they got the puck out to the neutral zone, but getting it there was a challenge, especially for their defense. Their best defenseman in this regard was Kris Russell and he was kind of a mess in his own zone, turning the puck over four times. Giordano & Butler also had decent games but their partners (Smid & O'Brien) both struggled when they had to advance the play. Calgary's strong neutral zone play and willingness to block shots mitigated this problem, but their defense lacks mobility with Dennis Wideman injured.