This year's Hurricanes team usually needs a few things to happen in order for them to win. They're usually in good shape if they can get good production out of both of their top-two lines, whether that comes in form of goals & points or territorial domination depends on the night. If that doesn't happen, they might be able to squeak by if they get a lucky goal or two from their depth players and/or their defense. Should neither of these occur, then it's basically up to their goaltending to steal them a game and they've had to resort to this quite a few times this year. One of those games being last night's 4-2 loss to the New York Rangers.
Despite having the lead for about 2/3 of the game, the Hurricanes were grossly outplayed by the Rangers and the only thing keeping them ahead was a valiant performance by goaltender Anton Khudobin. The newly signed goaltender carried the Hurricanes through the first two periods before finally breaking down in the third and allowing three goals. It's hard to put all the blame on him, though because the team in front of him didn't play a good game at all and he was the only thing keeping this from being a blowout. It would have been nice for Khudobin to steal this one and keep the Hurricanes slim playoff hopes alive, but it just wasn't going to happen and it was a stark reminder of how bad this team's depth is.
The Rangers might be struggling to score goals, but they boast some very good forward depth and it only got better with the addition of Martin St. Louis. All three players on their "third line" of Mats Zuccarello, Deick Brassard and Benoit Pouliot have higher scoring rates than most of the Hurricanes top-six forwards and their entire team is capable of driving the play at even strength. Compare that to the Hurricanes, who have basically one scoring line and two lines capable of driving play and it's easy to see why one of these teams is in a good position to make the playoffs while another is likely heading for another long summer.
Fans are going to blame this one on work ethic and intangibles, but the reality is that the Rangers are a much better team than the Hurricanes and played up to that level on Friday night. Yes, the Sharks are a better team than the Hurricanes, too but the difference in that game was Khudobin in the third period. That and the Canes first line performed much worse than they did on Tuesday in San Jose. This along with more terrible special teams factored into another loss and one of the final nails in the coffin of the Hurricanes season.
Fenwick Timeline from Extra Skater
As much as the Hurricanes were outplayed and out-possessed at 5v5, they managed to stay close with the Rangers in terms of scoring chances. They actually played a pretty good second period and were in a decent position to finish the game on a high note after two. The wheels came off, though and you can point the finger at terrible special teams play as the main reason why they lost. They gave up four goals and were outchanced 5-0 during non-5v5 play, which kind of sums up the night as a whole. Don't get me wrong, the Rangers were the better team but if Carolina may have been able to squeak out a point or even a win if their special teams weren't the dumpster fire they currently are. Ryan McDonagh's shorthanded goal got the Rangers back into the game and their game-winner came during a 5-on-3 situation where the Hurricanes looked like a mess positionally.
I'm not one to point fingers but tonight's terrible power play stems from some questionable decisions by head coach Kirk Muller. I understand that not having John-Michael Liles or Justin Faulk in the lineup leaves you with limited options, but using Jay Harrision on the power play instead of Ron Hainsey had me scratching my head. I also don't understand why dump-and-chase is the primary method for power play entries. Teams like to keep it simple whent they're going through a rough patch, but all this was doing was killing time off the clock and the Rangers got a shorthanded goal after the Canes lost a puck battle off a dump-in. There's other things you can pick at like using Alex Semin on the point instead of in slot, which might be the better option with his wrist shot. Either way, the power play has been embarrassing this year and it has probably cost this team a few points in the standings. Might be a hyperbole, but it really has been that bad.
Hurricanes Individual Scoring Chances
Hurricanes On-Ice Scoring Chances
Best EV Forward: Jordan Staal +2
Worst EV Forwards: Eric Staal & Elias Lindholm -4
Best EV Defensemen: Ron Hainsey & Brett Bellemore +6
Worst EV Defenseman: Ryan Murphy -9
Where do I even begin? I usually begin with the forwards and the first line had a truly awful game. Eric Staal's line is usually the one trio that keeps the Canes in most of their games but they were outplayed by the Rangers first line last night by a pretty wide margin. They were outchanced by four and their possession numbers are even worse. Skinner's penalty shot goal was the only marker they produced (I'm giving the line credit because Eric helped set up the breakaway) but outside of that, they did more harm than good and were woeful on the power play. It's rare for a team's second unit to outplay their first unit, but that's been the case in Raleigh as of late.
It's a shame that they played so poorly because Jordan Staal's line had a very good game. They were the only line not to get destroyed at evens and were responsible for about half of Carolina's even strength scoring chances. Jordan himself had a very solid game, and it's remarkable to see what he can do when you put some more talent on his line. Unfortunately, I think they might get broken up soon if Eric's line can't continue to drive the play without Semin playing on the right wing.
This was also one of the better games for the Hurricanes third line and I thought Gerbe was very impressive. He's so strong on the puck and had a couple of moments where he created offense out of nothing. You'd think the coaches would reward him with some power play time but that wasn't the case. As for the fourth line, they were barely used and Andrei Loktionov did some solid work on the Hurricanes second power play unit in his first game.
Even without Justin Faulk in the lineup, Andrej Sekera managed to have an impressive game in San Jose. He's probably good enough to carry John-Michael Liles as a defense partner against. However, he can't carry a third-pairing or AHL quality defense partner. We knew this from his days in Buffalo and he had to do this last night by playing the third period with Jay Harrison. These two were on the ice for five Ranger scoring chances during the third period and while only one of them was during 5v5 play, two of them ended up being goals. That isn't even including Rick Nash's fluke goal that deflected off Sekera's stick and past Khudobin. Sekera's had worse games, but this wasn't one for the highlight reel.
While Sekera had to carry a big workload, he did much better with is minutes than the third pairing of Ryan Murphy & Jay Harrison, who were annihilated at even strength. Harrison had a very rough game, spending most of the game scrambling in his own end due to his inability to move the puck out of the zone and took a beating in terms of scoring chances. Harrison was on the ice for 15 Ranger scoring chances and the Hurricanes were outshot 25-10 with him on the ice.
The sad part is that I didn't think he was terrible defensively because he had three blocked shots and had a couple of good back-checks in an attempt to deny Ranger scoring chances. He just spent the entire game trapped in the defensive zone and chasing the Rangers down the ice, which doesn't equate to anything good. His partner, Ryan Murphy also had a very tough game at even strength. It's amazing that he wasn't on the ice for any 5v5 goals against when you look at how many chances the Canes gave up with him on the ice. They were kind of set-up to fail by the coaching staff, though because they didn't start any of their faceoffs in the offensive zone and were constantly sent out with the top line in front of them. I wouldn't call that using either player to their strengths or proper use of a third defense pairing.
Ron Hainsey & Brett Bellemore deserve a medal for managing to come out of this game smelling like a rose when you look at how the rest of the team played.
Rangers Individual Scoring Chances
|Martin St. Louis||0||5||3||8|
Rangers On-Ice Scoring Chances
|26||Martin St. Louis||13:40||5||3||4:09||3||0||0:49||1||0||0||0|
Best EV Forward: Brad Richards +3
Worst EV Forwards: Derick Brassard, Mats Zuccarello & Benoit Pouliot -2
Best EV Defenseman: Anton Stralman +2
Worst EV Defenseman: Dan Girardi -2
It's ironic that I praised the Rangers third line in the intro because they ended up having the worst scoring chance differential last night, although I didn't think either of them played poorly. In fact, all three of them were very good offensively at even strength, Zuccarello in particular was impressive, they just gave it all back in their own end. Their other two lines made up for it, though. Stepan's line was sort of quiet but came out positive and Richards' line had no trouble controlling the play at evens. They also did a lot of good work on the power play with Martin St. Louis having the primary assist on the game-winner.
Head-to-Head at Five-on-Five
Some interesting observations for the Hurricanes regarding matchups. Muller went with Jordan's line against Stepan with Hainsey/Bellemore behind them. That worked out well. What didn't work was having Nash's line spend 5+ minutes against Richards' line. The original plan was to have them out against Brassard but that got away from them and this trio ended up getting mauled by Richards & St. Louis. Sekera/Liles also had trouble with the Richards line and Eric Staal's line were shut down by the McDonagh/Girardi pairing. Harrison/Murphy were also torn apart by the Rangers third line and Murphy was somehow out against the Rangers top-six long enough for them to create six scoring chances against him. Bad depth creates matchup issues, but this was an all out nightmare for the Canes.
5v5 Zone Entries
|# of entries||Shots generated||Carry-ins||Shots generated||Dump-ins||Shots generated||Failed Entries|
What a game for Nathan Gerbe. He has been one of the few consistent players on this team (partially because he role has changed a lot) and he was the Canes best player in the neutral zone last night. It's nice to see him play well but when he's the team's best forward at creating offense on the rush, then that's probably not a good thing. It's also not good when two players (Skinner & Gerbe) are responsible for about half of the team's shot attempts off zone entries.
|Player||# of entries||Shots generated||Carry-ins||Shots generated||Dump-ins||Shots generated||Failed Entries|
|M. St. Louis||6||5||4||5||2||0||1|
As bad as Carolina was at getting the puck into the zone, they were about five times worse at preventing controlled entries. They've been giving up the blue line way too easily since the Olympic break and the Rangers top-nine had a field day against them. I mentioned that the Rangers third line had a good game offensively and Brassard led the way here with seven carry-ins. St. Louis also had a nice game on the Rangers and should take some of the burden off Carl Hagelin in the neutral zone if this game is any indication. Rick Nash also had a nice game here and so did Anton Stralman on their blue line. The Hurricanes made it easy on them, though because their defensive strategy seems to be reverting to what it was in November.
5v5 Zone Exits
Take away Sekera & Liles and Carolina's breakouts were a mess and their forwards also had a very tough time with exiting the zone. Let's hope that Lies isn't out for too long because as ineffective as he has been on the power play, zone exits are one area where he's done a nice job and the rest of the team's defense hasn't been able to pick up the slack, especially if Komisarek is going to be replacing him the next game.
|26||M. St. Louis||R||4||0||1||0||0||1|
Breakouts are one thing the Rangers struggled with under Tortorella and it appears they had a tough time with these last night despite dominating the shot clock and the territorial game. Stralman's 35.7% success rate was the best on the team and the only other defensemen who advanced the puck more than 20% of the time were Ryan McDonagh, Anton Stralman & Kevin Klein, the latter of whom wasn't relied on for zone exits that much. It could be just an oddity of a one-game sample but it's worth taking a closer look at because the Rangers have always ranked low in zone exits in my studies.