The Hurricanes came up short in a game which they absolutely needed to win and it wasn't for a lack of trying, compete, heart, grit or any other cliche fans want to throw out there. Carolina is simply not deep enough to be a playoff team and it was painfully obvious in yesterday's 3-1 loss to the Los Angeles Kings. They were up against one of the Western Conference's elite teams without arguably their best forward and basically did what they could to hang around & keep the score close. Unfortunately, they also got into penalty trouble and despite killing off the first five Kings power plays, Los Angeles eventually made them pay in the third period and that was all they needed to lock up a win.
We can go on and on about how much these players make, how much potential guys like Elias Lindholm, Riley Nash & Drayson Bowman have and how much heart Nathan Gerbe & Manny Malhotra play with but at the end of the day, the Hurricanes are a team with three forward corps producing at a top-six rate, three top-four defensemen and a volatile lineup that's devoid of any sense of chemistry. Put this squad up against a team like the Kings and they are likely going to do their best to not get outplayed and try to stay in the game. This is exactly what happened and while they kept the score close, there weren't any moments where I thought they controlled the game.
Getting into early penalty trouble will make you a little more cautious, but the Canes kept things way too conservative for most of the game. They opted to get pucks deep and give Kings possession when there were other options available, they rarely activated their defense to join the rush or jump into the play and they kept some of their best players on the bench in key situations in favor of "safer" options. It was almost like they were too afraid to make that one mistake that might cost them the game. How else would you explain players like Riley Nash & Jiri Tlusty being on the first power play unit late in the game while the team's leading goal-scorer sat on the bench? Same goes for John-Michael Liles constantly dumping the puck at the red line on the power play when there is open ice available.
Everything about this team has been too conservative this year and while I understand the reasoning, it's become counter-productive with the way this team is constructed. They go into almost every game trying to limit their opponents chances and either end up spending too much time in their own end or get caught in a run-and-gun style game that they usually end up losing. Last night's game against the Kings was more of the former and while the Canes weren't completely overwhelmed, it was another case of them playing right into their opponent's hand.
Fenwick Timeline From Extra Skater
This is a typical Kings game where Los Angeles dominated both the territorial game and the shot clock but chances were very hard to come by. Going by this, the Canes actually did a fairly good job of keeping even with the Kings but this is part of the problem. The Hurricanes spent most of the game trying to fend off the Kings forecheck and had major trouble moving the puck up ice. They made most of their shots count by testing Jonathan Quick, but they weren't creating many shots to begin with so the Kings goaltender ended up having a relatively easy night. Meanwhile, the Kings were able to hem the Hurricanes into their own end and had the aid of six power plays to wear down Carolina's defense.
Hurricanes Individual Scoring Chances
Hurricanes On-Ice Scoring Chances
Best EV Forward: Elias Lindholm +4
Worst EV Forwards: Riley Nash, Jeff Skinner, Patrick Dwyer, Manny Malhotra, Nathan Gerbe, Tuomo Ruutu & Radek Dvorak -1
Best EV Defenseman: Brett Bellemore +3
Worst EV Defensemen: Mike Komisarek & John-Michael Liles -1
Elias Lindholm is enjoying his stay on the top line because he is playing some damn good hockey right now and hopefully he starts to see some results from it. I've really liked his game over the last week or so, as he is much more involved in the play than he has been for most of the year. His passing is also a real thrill to watch and he was able to connect with both Staal & Tlusty for a couple of good chances. His line had a pretty decent game overall, but the Canes need their first line to be better than that at this time of the year.
The second line also had a solid night that went unrewarded with Jordan Staal doing a fine job of creating offense at even strength. He was winning battles, crashing the net and creating space for linemate Jeff Skinner, which resulted in a couple of good chances but no goals. That's been the story of the season and I'm not sure what more Jordan has to do to see some results for his hard work. His linemates have never been great, but hopefully this trio of him, Ruutu & Skinner sticks together for more than one game, despite them coming away empty-handed here.
Outside of these players, no one really had a noteworthy performance for the Hurricanes. Andrej Sekera scored his 10th goal of the season on a soft shot from the point that deflected off LA defenseman Robyn Regehr, but he & Justin Faulk didn't do much to stand out otherwise. I suppose that's a good thing after their performance against the Stars on Thursday night.
One player who did stand out was Mike Komisarek, albeit not in a good way. The Hurricanes were outshot 10-2 with him on the ice and he also took three penalties. To add salt to the wound, he also turned the puck over at the blue-line which resulted in Eric Staal taking a tripping penalty to negate a breakaway chance by Mike Richards. I guess we'll be seeing Jay Harrison in the lineup at the Pond tonight.
Los Angeles Kings Individual Scoring Chances
Los Angeles Kings On-Ice Scoring Chances
Best EV Forward: Dusitn Brown +3
Worst EV Forward: Mike Richards -3
Best EV Defenseman: Willie Mitchell +4
Worst EV Defensemen: Drew Doughty & Jake Muzzin -5
The Kings chances are a little odd because I thought Drew Doughty had a great game. Was solid in his own end and made a couple of key desperation plays to deny scoring chances for the Hurricanes. However, I did thing the Hurricanes did a good job of keeping most of the Kings big guns in check. Anze Kopitar's line was pretty quiet and while Mike Richards' line produced a goal, that was one of only two even strength chances they had all game. Unfortunately with the way the Kings play, sometimes that's all they need. Their depth also ran over the Hurricanes bottom-six.
Head-to-Head at Five-on-FIve
Carolina's top-six actually wasn't terrible against the Kopitar & Richards lines of the Kings. Jarrett Stoll's line is the one that gave them a lot of trouble and so did the Martinez/Mitchell pairing. That duo also destroyed Carolina's third & fourth lines, which made up for Doughty/Muzzin having a sub-par game by scoring chances.
5v5 Zone Entries
|# of entries||Shots generated||Carry-ins||Shots generated||Dump-ins||Shots generated||Failed Entries|
When you get into a dump-and-chase game against the Kings, you're gonna have a bad time. This is exactly what they want you to do because they play a similar way and have enough defensemen who can quickly move the puck out of the zone if they get possession of it. They also have plenty of size on their defense and are known for outworking teams along the boards and the Hurricanes found this out the hard way. The Kings aren't a very fast team and can struggle when forced to defend in transition, so it's not a surprise to see the Canes produce more shots off carry-ins than uncontrolled entries. The first line & Jordan Staal did a decent job at this, but almost everyone else was way too conservative.
|Player||# of entries||Shots generated||Carry-ins||Shots generated||Dump-ins||Shots generated||Failed Entries|
The Kings had more skill in their top-six with Tanner Pearson & Tyler Toffoli on their top-two lines and played a quicker game than I anticipated. They are normally a dump-and-chase team and are content with getting the puck deep, establishing a forecheck and working the play back to the point. This wasn't the case last night, as they carried the puck more than 50% of the time and used that to set up their forecheck instead of just getting it deep. The Hurricanes actually made an effort to take away the blue-line, so this was a pretty impressive performance in the neutral zone by the Kings.
5v5 Zone Exits
Carolina played a safe game, so they didn't have many turnovers and settled for bank plays off the glass to exit the zone quite a few times. Their breakouts weren't bad, but they couldn't do much after that because the Kings had the neutral zone well guarded. This meant tip plays and dump-ins were their go-to options and it predictably didn't result in much offense.
The Hurricanes did a decent job of creating shots & chances off turnovers and the Kings gave them a quite a few opportunities to do so. That said, their defense (outside of Regehr & Mitchell) did a very good job of leading breakouts so they ended up having a net positive overall. Doughty, Martinez & Voynov's ability to get the puck out of the zone quickly and effectively was one of the reasons why dump-ins were so ineffective for Carolina in this game.