There's only two games to recap for the Canes this week and neither of them were anything to write home about, as they were both losses and ones that the Hurricanes played poorly in. To add to that, they also sustained a few injuries to key players, the biggest of which being goaltender Cam Ward, so the morale of the team has crashed back of Earth after a three-game point streak. The injuries to Ward, Skinner, Khudobin and Dwyer make the future very uncertain, especially if Khudobin can't return soon, but Carolina losing to both Minnesota & Colorado last week wasn't very surprising. Why? Because Carolina has struggled nightly against the Western Conference this season.
The Canes are now winless in five games against the West this year and they have been outscored 15-9 during that time. They have also been "outshot" 236-211 during five-on-five play against the West and when you compare that to their 52.7% Corsi percentage in six games against the East, it isn't a surprise to see that they lost to both Minnesota & Colorado last week. This isn't meant to be an excuse because Carolina will be seeing more of the West this year, but it does reveal that most of Carolina's problems are coming against teams they aren't overly familiar with.
So should we expect the Canes to rebound once they have more intra-division games? Possibly, but they still have a lot of games to play against the West this year and can't continue to get outplayed and leave points on the table, especially if they have playoff aspirations. We've seen the Canes play well enough to at least get to overtime against top-tier teams like Los Angeles & Chicago, so they have the ability to keep up with them. Unfortunately, none of that was present when they took on Minnesota & Colorado on the road this past week. A closer look at both of those games is coming after the jump.
Team Performance (Five-on-Five)
As a whole, it doesn't look like the Hurricanes played too badly last week, but the overall numbers are skewed a little because they were playing from behind for the majority of both games. Yes, they outshot the Wild when they were within one goal, but they were also trailing by two for most of the game and could not generate many scoring chances. They had only ten for that entire game and seven at even strength. When you are playing from behind, that isn't good.
Sadly, this is slightly better than their performance against the Avs, where they were outshot 20-8 while the game was within a goal and let the Avs run all over them for most of the first period. The Canes didn't have much trouble with creating offense that game, but their defensive performance was poor to say the very least. Hopefully games like this won't be the case every time they have to play in a different time zone.
Individual Performance (Five-on-Five)
– Jordan Staal continues to be a beast at driving the play in tough situations. He had only one assist, but his line was much better offensively than it was the previous week. Just goes to show that being able to get the puck into the offensive zone and keep it there has its advantages in the long-run. If the coaches ever decide to put a scorer on his right wing, then he could be in store for a pretty big week. Jordan has done everything well this year, except score and I am confident that it will change soon.
– Nathan Gerbe was attached at the hip to Jordan Staal this past week and his stats reflect that. Although, it's good to see that he is not hampering this line at all and is actually contributing well with how much he shoots the puck. It will be interesting to see how he does on the first line tonight. He may not be as talented as Jiri Tlusty, but he shoots the puck more than anyone else on the team not named Jeff Skinner, so he might fit in nicely there.
– I've considered Radek Dvorak a pleasant surprise for the Canes this year and he continued to be that last week. He had a bad penalty at the end of the Minnesota game, but overall he was solid. The Canes were only outchanced by one with him on the ice despite him being deployed in brutal situations. Unfortunately, he was also injured in the Colorado game but Patrick Dwyer should be returning to fill in for him.
– The first line won the territorial battle yet again and produced two goals for the Hurricanes this past week. Semin in particular has looked very good these last few games.
– Even though they outshot their opponents, the first line was also on the losing end of the scoring chance battle with Eric Staal having some bad defensive gaffes in both games. I think the first line will be fine in the long run, as Muller is still sheltering them and they are outshooting their opponents, but they definitely aren't in last season's form yet. Hopefully adding Gerbe in place of Tlusty, who has been one of the team's worst territorial players this year, will help give them a spark.
– With Jeff Skinner out of the lineup on Friday, Muller decided to use the third line in a defensive role and they ended up getting crushed as a result. Since Muller moved Jordan to the first line with Lindholm taking over his spot as the 2C, I can understand why he chose to bury the third line but I have no clue why he kept Tuomo Ruutu on this unit. The team was trying to make a comeback and using one of your better offensive players in a super defensive role seems counter-productive.
– Brett Sutter & Kevin Westgarth continue to be liabilities at even strength and I have no idea why Elias Lindholm had to start the Colorado game centering these two. Thankfully, this wont be the case tonight against Pittsburgh, as Lindholm will be moving to the wing and playing on the 2nd or 3rd line, which makes more sense if he is going to stay on the team.
– Andrej Sekera & Justin Faulk continue to be excellent and Sekera had a productive two-point night against Colorado. These two are not only doing a fine job of keeping the play in front of them at even strength, but they are shutting down some of the opposition's best forwards. It might be just my home-team bias speaking, but I really think they are one of the most underrated shutdown pairs in the league.
– Ron Hainsey had his worst weak defensively, being on the ice for a lot of chances & shot attempts. However, the Hurricanes still outshot their opponents with him on the ice and his was with him starting the bulk of his shifts in the defensive zone. He played alongside Ryan Murphy for some of Friday's game, so that might be where most of his offense came from but he has shown some decent puck-moving skills early in the year.
– Bellemore had another solid performance against Minnesota and unfortunately, he is now on IR with an undisclosed injury.
– Ryan Murphy giveth and Ryan Murphy taketh away. The Hurricanes rookie defenseman had another high-event week, being on the ice for a high number of Carolina shot attempts along with a lot of the oppositions. The Hurricanes gave up 91 total shot attempts during five-on-five play last week and Murphy was on the ice for over half of them. Murphy still has a lot of value on the power play and for leading breakouts, but he should not be playing this many minutes at even strength. He is getting sheltered and the Canes are still getting crushed territorially whenever he is on the ice. If he stays on the third pair, this isn't a big deal but the coaches have been increasing his usage to give the team's offense a spark and while that has worked, the trade-off on defense almost negates it.
– Playing on the road contributed to Murphy's struggles, as the Wild had a lot of instances where they got their first line out against him and Jay Harrison. The numbers do a good job of illustrating how that turned out. Harrison's likely going back in the lineup tonight and hopefully the coaching staff can do a better job of sheltering him at home.
– Mike Komisarek was on the ice for five even strength chances and 11 shot attempts despite playing under 10 minutes. Nothing more needs to be said here.