Carolina's had the unfortunate burden of playing some very tough Western Conference teams early on in the year and so far, they've done an okay job of living up to the challenge. They managed to snag a point out of Detroit (if you want to count them) & Los Angeles despite getting outplayed but Sunday's afternoon's poor effort against the Phoenix Coyotes was troubling to say the least. Carolina's had a tough schedule out of the gate, but if they're going to be a competitive team this year, they need to at least play up to their opponent's level even if they don't win. We didn't see any of this against Phoenix and it had a lot of people fearing the worst about last night's game against the Chicago Blackhawks, last year's Stanley Cup Champions.
For the first 20 minutes of the game, all of those fears came to fruition. The Hurricanes were straight up dominated by the Blackhawks and looked like they didn't even belong in the same league as them. The game was still in reach, as the Hawks led only 2-0 after the first intermission, but it could have easily been a lot worse considering how bad the Hurricanes looked at the time. The Hawks were skating circles around them and Carolina could barely keep the puck out of their own zone, much less generate any offensive pressure. Not many expected Carolina to win this game, but if this continued then there was going to be a serious cause for concern in Raleigh.
Thankfully, the story was much different for the rest of the game. Carolina had much more jump in their step during the second period and even though they came away empty-handed, they actually looked like a team that reasonably matched up well with Chicago and spent much more time in the Hawks' end. This hard work paid off in the third period when the Hurricanes scored twice to tie the game and were able to earn a point, which is pretty impressive considering it looked like they were in for a blowout loss after the first period.
Not being able to finish the job in overtime was a little disappointing but there were enough positives to dig out of the last 45 minutes for the Canes to set a good tone for their upcoming road trip. Their top players are starting get to the form they were at last year while younger players like Ryan Murphy & Jeff Skinner also played a big role in their comeback. There are definitely some things to build on from this game, even if it wasn't a full 60 minute effort. That said, this game also gives the Hurricanes a lot they need to work on in future games. The power play and game-day preparation both being at the top of the list.
Fenwick Timeline from Extra Skater
The Hawks destroyed Carolina in that first period and the Canes were forced to play catch-up for the rest of the game. The good news is that they managed to even the gap in the second period and were producing plenty of offense in the third period. The bad news is that they were already down two goals at that point and the Hawks were sitting back a little and the Hurricanes were able to establish a forecheck much more easily than they were in the first period. The Hawks are normally a strong defensive team, so I didn't expect the Canes to tie the game even with score effects taken into account but they did get the help of a couple of bounces (see the Hainsey goal where Crawford lost his stick), so that definitely helped. In the end, the Hurricanes played 45 minutes of solid hockey and were rewarded for it with a point in the standings, which is about right.
This year's team has been almost the opposite of last year's "fragile" squad. They started the game by playing their worst 20 minutes of the young season and found themselves in a 2-0 hole. Had this happened to last year's team, they would have just crumbled and let things snowball in the final two periods. Instead of letting things get worse, the Hurricanes were able to battle back and tie the game in the third period. They had a couple of bounces go in their favor, but the Cane still played some very good hockey in the second and third periods, outchancing the Hawks 11-7 at 5v5 play during that time. That's pretty impressive considering Chicago is normally a powerhouse at even strength.
That being said, the Hurricanes still came up short in the end, failing to secure the two points in overtime and eventually losing in the shootout. We all know that the shootout is a coin flip, so losing that doesn't bother me too much. What really disappointed me is that the Canes had multiple opportunities to end the game in overtime and the third period but ended up coming up short. They had two late power plays both in the third period and overtime that they couldn't capitalize on and that's basically what decided the game.
It's a little odd how you can say that Carolina "should" have won a game that they were dominated in for the first 20 minutes, but they definitely clawed their way back in it and had some missed opportunities towards the end. It was a "tale of two games" and unfortunately the story didn't have a great ending for the Hurricanes no matter which way you slice it.
Carolina Individual Scoring Chances
Best EV Forward: Tuomo Ruutu +2
Worst EV Forward: Patrick Dwyer -3
Best EV Defensemen: Jay Harrison & Ron Hainsey +1
Worst EV Defenseman: Andrej Sekera -3
This game was all about the first line, who woke out of their slump last night and had a very solid game offensively. "Offensively" being the key word here, as both Semin & Eric Staal had a lot of issues when it came to playing in their own end, but these two along with Tuomo Ruutu were doing their thing and creating a lot of chances for the Hurricanes. They were one of the Canes best territorial lines last night, helped by Muller feeding them offensive zone draws, and created 13 total shots on goal. Adding Ruutu to this line was a nice touch, as he gives the line more of a physical dimension and has enough skill to keep up with the likes of Staal & Semin. His key play on Semin's goal being a good example of that.
Also a big factor in Carolina's offense was rookie Ryan Murphy, who has looked much more aggressive and dynamic by the game. The result has been a mixed bag, as Murphy's creativity with the puck really makes the Hurricanes offense a force to be reckoned with (see him being on the ice for 10 of their chances). However, Murphy's tendencies to dangle with the puck in his own end have led to some blunders (see the end of the second period) and he's going to be on the ice for a lot of chances against as a result. My hope is that Murphy can become a stronger territorial player by being the type of defenseman who can drive the play but for now, the Canes will have to take the good with the bad.
Neither Jeff Skinner or Radek Dvorak got an assist on Ron Hainsey's goal, but their hard work earlier in that shift should not be taken for granted. These two were winning battles down low and forced Crawford to make at least two saves, one of them causing him to lose his stick and that goal does not happen without either of their contributions.
Skinner had another strong game in terms of territorial play, which was important because the second line didn't do much offensively, although they didn't allow much either. I was hoping that adding Tlusty to Jordan's line could lead to them getting some more goals but they ended up having their worst territorial performance of the season. That's mildly concerning even if it did come against Toews & company. I thought Jordan had a solid game away from the puck, though.
Blackhawks Individual Scoring Chances
Best EV Forward: Brandon Saad +4
Worst EV Forward: Michal Handzus -3
Best EV Defenseman: Brent Seabrook +4
Worst EV Defenseman: Niklas Hjalmarsson -2
Tripp noted that the Hawks grinders were doing most of the good work for their team and he was correct for the most part, as both Brandon Saad & Andrew Shaw had solid games. However, these two along with rookie Joakim Nordstrom were victimized on the game-tying goal, where Nordstrom turned the puck over a few seconds prior to the goal. Their second line was also caught on somewhat of a bad change on the first goal and it allowed the Canes to get a clean zone entry to help set it up.
Most of the Hawks top players all had solid games, as Chicago had the puck in Carolina's end whenever Toews, Kane, Seabrook or Keith were on the ice. Part of the reason why Jordan Staal's line didn't do much offensively in this game.
Head-to-Head at Five-on-Five
Muller used Jordan's line against Toews while Eric played most of his shifts against Handzus, Shaw and anyone else the Hawks sent out for a defensive zone faceoff. Despite that, Eric's line didn't win too many of his matchups but they did have some success against Handzus and Chicago's fourth line. They put a dent in the Hjalmarsson/Oduya defense pairing but Chicago also created a lot of offense with them on the ice so it all evened out in the end. Nash's line seemed to thrive against Kruger's, though and Muller was able to get that matchup a few times because he barely used his fourth line at all.
5v5 Zone Entries
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Carolina's first line was responsible for nine of their controlled zone entries and they were able to generate eight unblocked shot attempts off them. This is a major improvement over what they were doing for the first six games, but still a little low for their standards. That said, it was good to see them get back on rack and beginning to take over the neutral zone like they did last year. It was also nice to see Murphy jump into the play more often and he even opened up some room for Jay Harrison to get active offensively. I'm hopeful that Murphy can have this kind of an impact on his teammates in the future.
The Canes are still dumping the puck in a little too much for my liking, though…especially since this strategy hasn't been working that often.
|Player||# of entries||Shots generated||Carry-ins||Shots generated||Dump-ins||Shots generated||Failed Entries|
The Hawks dominated the neutral zone against Carolina and this is generally what they do to most teams. Kane, Toews, Hossa and Keith are all some of the best skaters and puck-handlers in the league and the Hawks are able to get a lot of traction in the neutral zone because of it. Kane had a monster game and Toews' performance matches some Canes players best performances. Andrew Shaw was also very effective at getting through Carolina's defense on the forecheck, which was a little surprising because he was one of the few Chicago forwards which relied on dump-and-chase play during the playoffs last year.
5v5 Zone Exits
How about Ron Hainsey? Not only did he get the game-tying goal, but he also had a very effective night at advancing the play out of his own end. It's not a surprise that the Canes outshot Chicago 15-11 at 5v5 play when he was on the ice. He is a lot more versatile than I initially gave him credit for and has gotten better every game.
Murphy also had a solid performance by zone exits, although that has been the case for a few games now. The real surprise is that his partner, Jay Harrison, led the team in zone exit attempts and was able to advance the puck almost 20% of the time. His performance was sub-par overall, but a drastic improvement over his previous numbers this year.
The Hawks have the most mobile defense corps in the league and it showed here as four out of their six defensemen were able to successfully advance the puck on at least 20% of their zone exit attempts. The only ones who didn't were Seabrook & Leddy, the latter of whom didn't play that much. Both Hjalmarsson & Oduya were tasked to do a lot of this and both performed very well, only committing two turnovers in their own end.