With it being the second night of a back-to-back and no Eric Staal in the lineup, it was going to take an ugly win for the Hurricanes to get their fourth win in a row and that's exactly what last night's game was. The Hurricanes and Predators combined for only 18 total scoring chances and both teams looked like they were going through the emotions. This is what is expected when you have two tired clubs playing each other and it's especially the case when they are both clubs that have struggled to drive possession like Carolina and Nashville. Regardless, the Hurricanes ended up coming out on top and it took a solid performance from all four lines to get it done.
The makeshift first line of Tuomo Ruutu, Jeff Skinner & Alexander Semin produced both of the Hurricanes goals, the latter of which coming with less than four minutes remaining in the third period. The other three lines were quiet on the scoresheet, but all of them did a good job of keeping the Predators offense in check and not allowing them to create much. Nashville actually owned the majority of this game at even strength and you could say that they "outplayed" Carolina from a possession standpoint, but they didn't test Anton Khudobin that much and most of that was due to the great defensive play from the Canes. Much like the Islanders game, there were moments where the Preds were able to work the puck down low and get in the scoring areas, but the defense did a good job of getting their sticks in the lanes or making good plays at the last minute to deny chances.
Ugly game, but a win and about the performance you'd expect from a team that is missing their first line center.
Fenwick Timeline from Extra Skater
Carolina got a bit of a lucky bounce on their first goal with Semin banking a shot off Nashville goaltender Carter Hutton, but the Preds actually played a very good first period despite the score. They controlled most of the play in the second half of that frame and continued to pound the Hurricanes territorially for most of the game. Carolina had some moments where they were in control, mostly in the second period, but I felt that Nashville had the edge for most of the game. Unfortunately for the Preds, they struggled to get to the scoring areas and had to settle for a lot of low-percentage shots or try to beat Khudobin from a bad angle, which is why this game looks a little better for Carolina in the scoring chance department.
Khudobin had a busy night on Long Island and I didn't like the idea of him playing the back-to-back. Fortunately, he didn't have to do a lot of work, as the Canes limited Nashville to only 10 total scoring chances. Most of the shots he faced were from a distance and he was able to control or track down most of his rebounds. There were a few times where he had to sprawl or dive to make saves, but the Canes were able to contain the Preds overall and help their goaltender get his fifth win of the season.
This game reminded me a lot of how the Canes played in mid-November when they had a brief winning streak. They played a very conservative style and were more focused on cycling the puck down low and keeping the puck away from Nashville instead of creating chances. Nashville also forced the issue by performing a road block in the neutral zone in the second and third periods, but the Canes still looked like they were trying to grind this one out instead of blowing away Nashville. The fact that they got an early lead probably helped them, too.
Hurricanes Individual Scoring Chances
Hurricanes On-Ice Scoring Chances
Best EV Forward: Brett Sutter +2
Worst EV Forwards: Radek Dvorak, Manny Malhotra & Drayson Bowman -1
Best EV Defenseman: John-Michael Liles +2
Worst EV Defenseman: Ron Hainsey -2
Not much variance between all four lines, as there wasn't much fofense in this game and the first line was really the only one producing offense. They led the way for the Hurricanes in terms of possession and produced half of Carolina's eight scoring chances. A pretty quiet night for their standards, but it was enough to get the win here with how well the Hurricanes played defensively. On that note, Jeff Skinner played a terrific game. He doesn't have a great track record as a center in the NHL, but he played the position well last night and did a great job in all three zones. His goal was nice too but him scoring is becoming a regular occurence nowadays.
The other three lines had a fairly uneventful night. Jordan's line ended up getting crushed in the territorial game but were on the ice for only one Nashville scoring chance despite that. I was expecting them to have a better game, but I can't complain with their defensive work and I thought Jordan made a couple of key plays to preserve a victory when the Preds had the extra skater. Malhotra's line also ended up in the black in scoring chances and played a lot more minutes than they are used to. They did a fairly good job considering the circumstances. Malhotra winning 13/19 draws with 11 of them coming in the defensive zone counts for a lot, as well.
As for the rest of the forwards (or the Charlotte gang as I call them), they had a pretty solid night. Brett Sutter, Aaron Palushaj & Zach Boychuk didn't make much of an impact, but they did have one terrific shift where they pinned Matt Cullen's line into their own end for about 90 seconds. It didn't result in much, but getting that out of your fourth line consistently can go a long way.
John-Michael Liles has yet to score in three games with the Hurricanes, but he has made a decent impact during his brief time here. He was on the ice for both goals yesterday and made a good keep-in which resulted in Skinner's goal. Liles won't get an assist for that, but the goal probably doesn't happen without him.
Faulk & Sekera had to take on some extra mileage last night with Murphy getting benched in the third period after taking a penalty and they both did a wonderful job. Being on the ice for only two scoring chances in over 23 minutes of ice time is no easy feat. They, along with Liles, were also the Canes only defensemen to win the possession battle at even strength.
Predators Individual Scoring Chances
Predators On-Ice Scoring Chances
Best EV Forwards: Eric Nystrom & Viktor Stalberg +1
Worst EV Forwards: Gabriel Bourque, Matt Hendricks, Craig Smith, Mike Fisher & Nick Spaling -1
Best EV Defenseman: Shea Weber +1
Worst EV Defenseman: Ryan Ellis -2
Nashville had a good game in terms of possession and were firing at the net plenty of times, but they struggled to create chances. Hornqvist & Nystrom were the only players to have multiple chances and the former had the only goal of the game. I said earlier that they took a lot of low percentage shots and this was true, as Khudobin saw most of them all the way. That said, they were trying to create rebounds and had guys crashing the net, but those players were either getting boxed out or Khudobin was able to beat them to the rebounds. Hornqvist & Spaling tried to get in Khudobin's grill a few times and it caused a few disturbances between the whistles.
All in all, not a terrible performance for Nashville but they could have done a lot more, especially with how much zone time they had.
Head-to-Head at Five-on-Five
Jordan Staal's line was supposed to be matched up against Mike Fisher but with no Eric Staal and the ice time being jumbled up, matchups kind of went out the window. Fisher's line saw time against all of Carolina's top line and they had a lot of success against Malhotra. Part of this is probably due to Manny taking all but two of his 5v5 draws in the defensive zone, but that's still a favorable matchup for the Preds. The good news is that the Canes were able to win most of the matchups here. Skinner's line got the better of Weber/Josi and Faulk/Sekera did a good job against Nashville's top-six. Bellemore/Hainsey were the only ones who struggled, as they lost both of their matchups.
5v5 Zone Entries
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Not a high offensive output for the Canes off zone entries despite them carrying it in over 55% of the time. Part of this has to do with their game plan because they were mostly just killing time and wearing down the Predators defense instead of creating chances. Jordan's line with Dwyer & Gerbe seemed to do that a lot and so did Malhotra's line. Skinner, Semin & Ruutu were really the only ones pushing for offense and that makes sense because they were the de facto scoring line last night.
|Player||# of entries||Shots generated||Carry-ins||Shots generated||Dump-ins||Shots generated||Failed Entries|
The Preds also had a lot of success when they carried the puck in and they relied heavily on Stalberg, Smith & Hornqvist in the neutral zone. All three of them produced a high number of shots off their entries and it helped Stalberg's line have a great game territorially. Nashville is a good skating team, so I'm not too surprised to see them have a lot of carry-ins, especially with the Hurricanes being focused on playing defense for most of the game.
5v5 Zone Exits
My biggest concern with Skinner at center is that his challenge in the defensive zone has always been his inability to clear the puck. With him moving to the middle, his responsibilities in his own end increased and he did a fine job last night. He was very hard on the puck and made a few good extra efforts to carry the puck out instead of making soft clears. Skinner wasn't granted that much of a workload here, but he still did a good job when it came to making plays out of his own end.
Nashville had a solid game when it came to exiting the zone and their defense didn't turn the puck over, but Shea Weber's numbers might be glaring to some. He advanced the puck only twice on 24 attempts and a lot of that is because he deferred to Roman Josi to exit the zone instead. It makes sense when you think about it, because Josi is a very good skater and puck-mover which makes him a good option for breakouts. I didn't expect for Weber to rely on him this much, but it could be just a one-game thing.