Almost everyone in Caniac Nation is familiar with the concept of "score effects" by now. It's when a team builds an early lead and opts to sit back for the rest of the game, resulting in the trailing team racking up a lot of shots on goal and ending up in the positive ledger in the "possession" department. Carolina has been involved in plenty of these games and unfortunately, they've been on the losing end of many of them. There are times when the team sitting back will end up getting burned for it (see the New Year's Eve game vs. Montreal) but most of the time, they'll end up winning because they built a big enough lead. This is essentially what happened in Carolina's 5-4 loss to the New York Islanders.
The Hurricanes got off to an abysmal start, looking completely flat and failing to record a shot on goal until roughly the ten minute mark and giving up 14 to the Islanders. They also paid for it on the scoreboard, falling behind 4-0 and all four goals came off rebounds that could/should have been cleaned up before Islanders players could get to them. The issue of "slow starts" isn't anything new to the Canes, though. In the three games preceding this, they were outshot 35-15 and astonishingly outscored their opponents 1-0 during that stretch. They were saved (literally) by excellent goaltending in those games and got off to an equally terrible start against the Islanders. The difference was that they didn't get the goaltending and found themselves in a huge hole.
This isn't a knock on Cam Ward (who let in 3 goals on 9 shots) because the team in front of him was absolutely putrid in all phases. The Hurricanes were "outshot" 15-1 while he was in goal and all three goals were the result of Carolina's defense failing to defend the front of the net, two of them coming off a lost faceoff. It essentially looked like the Hurricanes were relying on their goalies to steal yet another game for them and you're not going to win much through that method. The word "unacceptable" was thrown around during the broadcast to describe the Hurricanes first period and that's pretty accurate, although it goes beyond just what happened last night.
Now, the Hurricanes were able to make this interesting and ended up losing by a goal, but that was really just score effects. It was a little predictable this would happen because the Islanders took their foot off the gas pedal, were icing a young team with an inexperienced goalie and got into penalty trouble after taking a 4-0 lead. They gave the Hurricanes a chance to get back into the game and Carolina took advantage of it, scoring twice in the first period and again early in the second to make it a one-goal game. The deficit proved to be too much, though.
You can go back to a few chances that the Hurricanes were unable to finish (Nash missing the net badly on a tap-in play in the third period), but this all goes back to how the Canes started the game. Yes, they fought their way back into it and had a chance to get a point, but it's hard to make up ground when you're playing from behind and it's especially hard when you spot your opponents four goals. This game was a microcosm of the Hurricanes season, in a way. They'll have stretches of play where they've been impressive and have had some positives to talk about but those are overshadowed by the 4-5 losing streaks they've endured and that has ultimately pulled them out of the playoff picture. Just like the four goals they gave up at the start of the game put a win out of reach last night. It's unfortunately, but that's been the story of the season.
Fenwick Timeline from Extra Skater
This looks like an even game going by scoring chances, but the Fenwick graph tells a more accurate story. The Hurricanes got absolutely pasted in the first 10 minutes of the game and paid for it by giving up four goals, all of which were well-earned by the Islanders. Then score effects began to kick in and the Hurricanes got a bit of a jump-start with Jeff Skinner scoring a power play goal. I thought the Hurricanes did a lot of good things in the final 40 minutes and were effective at making the Islanders play into their own zone. From then on, the problem was finishing. They had some good looks but were denied by blocks by the Islander defense or Nilsson making a couple of timely saves late in the game. The fact that the Hurricanes got into this situation in the first place is discouraging, though but that's what starting the game 10 minutes in will do to you.
Hurricanes Individual Scoring Chances
Hurricanes On-Ice Scoring Chances
Best EV Foward: Elias LIndholm +3
Worst EV Forawrd: Eric Staal -4
Best EV Defenseman: Ron Hainsey +4
Worst EV Defenseman: Andej Sekera -9
Plus/minus doesn't tell you a whole lot but Eric Staal's -3 rating was a pretty accurate indicator of how he played last night. He was on the ice for three of the Islanders four goals in the first period and didn't look good on any of them. His "leadership" and work ethic has been questioned a lot this year, but I don't think it was the case on either goal. To me, he just looked lost defensively and made some critical mistakes that resulted in Islanders players getting open in front of the net. Him chasing Calvin De Haan in the offensive zone instead of covering Colin McDonald at the side of the net on the third Islanders goal being an example of that. I have never considered Eric a great defensive forward but his play last night was bad for even his standards. Not being able to make up for it at the other end also hurt, despite Andrei Loktionov's two point night.
Kirk Muller must have also noticed that Staal didn't have his best game because he played the fewest minutes of any center not named Manny Malhotra. He went with whichever lines were the most effective and for the Hurricanes, the one line going was Riley Nash's unit with Jeff Skinner & Elias Lindholm. Skinner was the catalyst for this line, as he was the one handling the puck more, splitting the defense and recording the most scoring chances, but Nash & Lindholm both had solid games in all three zones from my viewpoint. They were also fairly effective on the power play and produced the Hurricanes first goal of the game. Nash played what I'm pretty sure is a career high of 20:24 and you could say that he earned it if "accountability" is the running theme here. Skinner being on his left wing definitely helped him, though.
If "accountability" was the theme, it didn't really extend to the defense because neither Justin Faulk or Andrej Sekera had their best games and they still were among the team leaders in minutes. These two had a pretty big role in the first, fourth & fifth Islander goals and Sekera had an especially rough outing by scoring chances. These two have been one of the few consistent things on this team but they have hit a rut as of late and while Faulk has been taking most of the heat, Sekera's also struggled. It'll be interesting to see if they have hit a wall or if this is just a rough patch.
Another thing that has stayed consistent is Ron Hainsey playing a solid game and still getting dinged with a minus, although this was due to him getting outworked in front of the net on Cal Clutterbuck's goal rather than just bad luck. His play for the rest of the game made up for it, though and he came up big on the penalty kill in the third period, which kept the Hurricanes within reach.
Islanders Individual Scoring Chances
|Calvin de Haan||0||2||0||5|
Islanders On-Ice Scoring Chances
|44||Calvin de Haan||21:07||6||3||2:32||0||0||3:42||0||0|
Best EV Forward: Colin McDonald +5
Worst EV Forwards: Frans Nielsen, Cal Clutterbuck, Johan Sundstrom, Kyle Okposo, Brock Nelson & Anders Lee
Best EV Defensemen: Calvin De Haan & Travis Hamonic +3
Worst EV Defensemen: Matt Donovan & Matt Carkner -2
Those who were thinking this game would be a cake-walk because John Tavares wasn't playing were shocked because the Islanders third line turned in a fantastic performance, Matt Martin, Ryan Strome & Colin McDonald produced four of the Islanders goals and jumped all over the Hurricanes in the first period. Ryan Strome didn't make much noise on the stat sheet, but he earned two assists and made a great play on the fifth Islanders goal, winning a puck battle and locating Matt Martin in front of the net. McDonald also had a fantastic defense and seemed to be finding the soft spot in the Hurricanes defense all night. All of this made up for the Islanders top-six having a so-so night in terms of scoring chances. The Isles top defense pair of Travis Hamonic & Calvin de Haan also had a terrific game, logging over 27 minutes and keeping the Hurricanes first line in check at even strength.
Head-to-Head at Five-on-Five
The Isles third line really stands out here, as they dominated Eric Staal's line and the Faulk/Sekera defense pairing. One would think that's a favorable matchup for the Canes at home, but the Isles completely ran the table here, producing the biggest matchup win out of either team. I chalk this up to Eric Staal having a lousy game, but the Strome unit was very impressive for the Islanders, as well.
5v5 Zone Entries
|# of entries||Shots generated||Carry-ins||Shots generated||Dump-ins||Shots generated||Failed Entries|
A score effects influenced game usually results in more open hockey and more opportunities for controlled zone entries, but the Hurricanes actually played a lot of dump-and-chase and the results speak for themselves here. There were some stretches of open play, but it was limited and the Isles played tighter defense in the neutral zone in the third period, which frustrated the Hurricanes a bit. Lotkionov, Skinner & Dwyer were the only ones producing anything off the rush with Nash & Gerbe also having modest results on carry-ins. The team's top players all struggled, though with both Semin & E. Staal having quiet games. Moving Staal to the wing didn't exactly have it's intended result here.
|Player||# of entries||Shots generated||Carry-ins||Shots generated||Dump-ins||Shots generated||Failed Entries|
Not a terribly eventful game for the Islanders in the neutral zone and I guess playing with a 4-0 lead influenced that a little. They do have some nice balance with most of the forwards taking on an equal amount of work in the neutral zone, but I expected Okposo, Nielsen & Bailey to have more carry-ins than they ended up with. Again, I think score effects influenced that because they were defending a lead and sitting back for two-thirds of the game.
5v5 Zone Exits
Zone exits weren't that big of a problem for the Hurricanes because getting the puck out of their zone wasn't the issue. All of their woes stemmed from terrible play without the puck (blown assignments, bad coverage, puck battles, etc.) and those don't show up here. It has been a problem for most of the year, but their ability to move play out of their own end was actually decent last night.
The Islanders defense didn't have as good of a game with zone exits, but the Hamonic/de Haan pairing shined here. They were the team's best defense pairing when it came to scoring chances and their ability to swiftly move the puck out of their own zone was a big reason for it. The rest of their defense struggled, but these two were relied on heavily and did a nice job with those minutes.