It's almost February and most fans are still trying to figure out what this Hurricanes team's "identity" is. This is something that even I have a tough time answering because the Canes have been more of a reactive team and often let their opponents decide the type of game being played. However, if there's one word that I would use to describe this club, it's resilient. The Canes reactive nature has led to them playing from behind in a lot of games and while that has gotten them into trouble, they have managed to claw their way out of it and earned some much-needed points in the standings. Last night's 3-2 over the Columbus Blue Jackets is a fine example of this.
Historically, the Canes have a terrible record against the Blue Jackets and this started off looking like another one fo those nights after Columbus scored twice in the first three minutes of the game. Teams with speed often give Carolina fits and the Jackets used this to their advantage for most of the first period. Carolina didn't have their skating legs and were caught standings still numerous times early in the game, resulting in them falling behind early after a couple of bad turnovers in their own zone. From then on, Carolina was forced to play catch-up and the Jackets took their foot on the gas pedal a little bit.
For most of the night, Carolina seemed frustrated by the Jackets, struggling to get any breakouts going and getting stalled at the blue-line when they were able to force the puck up the ice. To make matters worse, Sergei Bobrovsky was on top of his game for the first two period and looked like he could bail the Jackets out of any defensive shortcomings they may have had. He did just that until the third period when Carolina dented him three times to steal a win.
Carolina did not play their best hockey and it took them falling behind early to get some offense going, so this team still has a ways to go. With that in mind, this was a pretty big win and the Canes resilience is a welcomed change from last season's team. We've seen them rally back and pull out a few unlikely wins this year and last night's comeback was powered by the Staal Brothers stepping up when it mattered the most.
Fenwick Timeline from Extra Skater
The Fenwick timeline illustrates this game better than the scoring chances because Columbus had total control of this game in the first period. They jumped on Carolina early, forced them to make some bad decisions in their own zone and had a 2-0 lead to show for it. I said earlier that good skating teams give the Hurricanes fits and this was evident with how quick the Jackets were and how they consistently beat the Canes to loose pucks in the first and second period. Even when the Jackets eased off the pressure, Carolina still couldn't create much offense because Columbus' defense had a road block going in the neutral zone.
Carolina managed to get through that in the second period and ended up with a healthy advantage in shots thanks to a late power play, but they didn't really create a lot of offense until the third period. Yes, the three goals might be skewing my perception a little, but they also doubled up their total chances at even strength and had a pretty big territorial advantage for most of the third. This was not the case for the first 40 minutes.
The only gripe I had with the Canes third period is that I didn't think they finished the game on a strong note. The Jackets came on hard after Jordan's goal and created five of their six scoring chances within the last three minutes. Anton Khudobin had to come up big a few times to prevent this one from going to overtime, which is pretty big considering it was a divisional game. They basically flipped the script from their loss to the Jackets last month.
Hurricanes Individual Scoring Chances
Hurricanes On-Ice Scoring Chances
Best EV Forwards: Jordan Staal, Elias LIndholm, Eric Staal & Alexander Semin +3
Worst EV Forwards: Nathan Gerbe, Manny Malhotra & Drayson Bowman -5
Best EV Defensemen: Mike Komisarek & Jay Harrison +3
Worst EV Defensemen: Ron Hainsey & John-Michael Liles -4
Your best players need to rise to the occasion in a game like this and Carolina's top-six did just that with Eric Staal scoring two goals and Jordan tacking on the game winner. Through two periods, Riley Nash's line was the only forward unit to have a positive shot attempt differential for Carolina, so this shows how big of a role the top-six played in the comeback win. The Staal brothers will probably get all the love, and deservedly so, but the contributions from Alex Semin & Jiri Tlusty shouldnt' be overlooked.
Prior to the first Staal goal, Semin made a nice cut to the middle of the ice to fake out Columbus forward Ryan Johansen, which gave Eric a lane to the front of the net where he beat Bobrovsky five-hole. Jiri Tlusty made the key play on the second goal, forcing a turnover by Fedor Tyutin below the goal line after the Canes lost an offensive zone faceoff. This allowed him to find Staal parked in front of the net for the game-tying goal. It's really great to see this line firing on all cylinders again and their offensive contributions have been a big part of the Canes recent win streak.
One line that struggled was the newly formed third line of Gerbe, Malhotra & Bowman, who were demolished in terms of possession and scoring chances. They drew the Johansen line for most of their ice time and didn't really have much of an answer for them. Gerbe is normally so active offensively, but he was very quiet last night. However, he did make a key defensive play late in the game to preserve a victory, using his stick to break up a centering pass by Columbus while they had an extra attacker on.
With the Jackets being such a fast team, the third pairing was a huge concern for this game but both Komisarek & Harrison actually played very well. The rest of the defense, however, got lit up and the Hainsey/Liles pairing is not really working out. They've been on the losing end of the scoring chance battle since being united and that's been rare for Hainsey this year.
Blue Jackets Individual Scoring Chances
Blue Jackets On-Ice Scoring Chances
Best EV Forwards: Nick Foligno & RJ Umberger +4
Worst EV Forward: Nathan Horton -3
Best EV Defenseman: James Wisniewski +4
Worst EV Defenseman: Nikita Nikitin -2
The Umberger-Johansen-Foligno line was responsible for a lot of the Jackets offense and Johansen led the way with three scoring chances and eight shot attempts. I thought all three members of this line did a good job of working together, though. Johansen has the hands and creativity to be the offensive catalyst here, but Foligno also did some great work along the boards and constantly going the front of the net to create chances. Umberger did a good job of this as well, producing one of the Jackets two goals.
Also responsible for most of the Jackets offense was James Wisniewski, who was on the ice for ten even strength scoring chances.
Head-to-Head at Five-on-Five
Most of the Columbus' matchup wins came against Malhotra's line and the Liles/Hainsey pairing. Wisniewski/Murray and the Jackets top-six feasted on this matchup and scored the first goal against them. Carolina was able to counter with Eric Staal's line winning most of the battles at even strength and getting a favorable matchup on the second goal against Columbus' fourth line. Jordan also had a lot of success against the Jackets depth forwards.
5v5 Zone Entries
|# of entries||Shots generated||Carry-ins||Shots generated||Dump-ins||Shots generated||Failed Entries|
Carolina wasn't winning many races to the puck, so dump-and-chase was fruitless here and carrying the puck in was the only way they were creating offense off the rush. Still, the Jackets managed to limit the Hurricanes chances even when they allowed them to gain the line with control, although the first line hit them pretty hard thanks to Alex Semin having a monster game in the neutral zone.
|Player||# of entries||Shots generated||Carry-ins||Shots generated||Dump-ins||Shots generated||Failed Entries|
Columbus was playing from ahead for over 2/3 of the game, so they were playing dump-and-chase for most of the second & third periods. Their offense suffered, as they created only nine unblocked shots off uncontrolled entries. They had decent success when they did carry the puck in, though and the aforementioned line of Johansen, Umberger & Foligno had a very good game.
5v5 Zone Exits
Sloppy game for Carolina with their zone exits. Their overall conversion rate wasn't bad, but the 19 turnovers were a problem. Columbus scored both of their goals off defensive zone turnovers by the Hurricanes and it could have been a lot worse with how often Carolina gave the puck away. Faulk having four in a game is uncharacteristic of him.
Wisniewski's numbers here are kind of strange, seeing how he's normally a high-event player and was responsible for a lot of the Jackets offense last night. He wasn't relied on much for zone exits, though and that's odd considering he is the best puck-mover on the team. That said, the Jackets had a decent game overall when it came to getting the puck out of their zone. Some of their forwards conversion rates are brutal, but their overall percentage wasn't bad.