Jay Harrison is a player who I have been following with interest all season. Going into training camp, I had him as someone who could have been lost on waivers because there were eight defensemen aiming to make the team. He ended up making the starting lineup and since then he has played on both the powerplay and penalty kill and has bounced around among the defense corps in terms of ice-time and assignments. He even found himself on the team's "shut-down" pair with Tim Gleason for a couple games, which is a huge assessment to what the coaches think of him. What I have been wondering is where Harrison fits the Hurricanes long-term. Can he be an all-around defenseman or a reliable shutdown guy? Or is he suited for a depth role in the bottom-pair? After the jump, we'll look at how he's been used this season and where he can fit long-term.
This was a game that I would like to erase from my memory permanently if it were possible, but I have a job to and am here to share all of the ugly details of the 4-0 shutout the Canes endured at the hands of the Montreal Canadiens. I don't even need to get into scoring chances to illustrate how ugly this game was for Carolina because through the first 30 minutes, they were being outshot 25-6. They were going up against a team who is dressing three rookie defensemen, including one who was playing his first NHL game, and could only manage six shots through 30 minutes. Let that sink in for a minute. That is unacceptable no matter what team you are. The final stats don't look as ugly because the Canadiens decided to sit back in the third period while the Canes tried to muster up any offense they could to break the shutout. There's not much you need to do when you're leading 4-0 and outshooting a team 32-12 through two periods of play.
TSN color commentator Ray Ferraro called Carolina's play "one of the worst defensive efforts he has ever seen" and I am inclined to agree with him. Although, I felt that the forwards are much more to blame than the defense corps. So many forwards were guilty of lazy back-checking (Skinner on Subban's goal, for instance) and completely forgetting to tie up Montreal players in the neutral zone and it forced the defensemen into a lot of bad situations. To make things worse, the powerplay was lifeless yet again and Carolina wasn't creating much offense at even strength either when the game mattered. It was a pathetic game all-around and hopefully a wake-up call for a team that's now lost six of their last seven.
We'll revisit the disaster after the jump
Carolina Hurricanes (6-9-3) at Montreal Canadiens (7-7-3)
Bell Centre, 7 p.m.
TV: TSN, RDS
This is one game I have been looking forward to all season because it marks the first time this year that the Hurricanes will face former teammate Erik Cole. I've said a lot about Cole this off-season and how I felt that Carolina can replace him because he wasn't much of a possession driver here and much of his success was dependant on Eric Staal. As you probably know, Carolina has yet to find a replacement for Cole and the wing position on the first line has been a carousel all season. This relates to the poor start Staal got off to (he's picked it up since November) and we're only a month into the season, so I stand by my initial statement.
The reason why I believe Cole's performance in Carolina is replaceable is because he posted very poor possession metrics last season despite playing on the first line. In the WOWY I did for Eric Staal, Cole's numbers were awful when he was playing without #12. Cole's shooting percentage was also higher than it ever was in 2010-11, so he was slightly lucky last season. I am willing to say that having Cole on Staal's wing would be nice right now but I still believe that replacing him should not be a big hassle.
Cole's performance in Montreal has completely reversed. He isn't having any bounces go his way (6.80 on-ice shooting%), but he has been one of Montreal's best forwards in terms of possession and scoring chances. Hindsight is 20/20, I suppose.
Lines, analysis & more after the jump
The Hurricanes are lacking talent in their top-six. You know it, I know it, everyone who watches hockey knows it. Fortunately, the team is finally blessed some organizational depth and have a few forwards currently on the roster who have top-six potential. If there was good thing that came from the injury to Jussi Jokinen, it was that Paul Maurice finally gave players like Anthony Stewart and Zach Boychuk a chance on the second line to see how they would fit in. Fast forward a week later and Stewart is a healthy scratch, Boychuk has played only 13 shifts over the last two games, Jiri Tlusty has been bumped to the fourth line and Zac Dalpe is still only getting 3-5 minutes of ice time per game.
Certainly there has to be a reason for this, right? Let's see how these players performed when getting top-six minutes.
I'm a week late so no analysis for this game.
Carolina Hurricanes vs. New Jersey Devils 11/08/11 Scoring Chances
|Period||Totals||EV||PP||5v3 PP||SH||5v3 SH|
Carolina's chances are in red, New Jersey's are in white
Individual Scoring Chances
Best EV Forward: Zach Boychuk +4
Worst EV: Forward: Jiri Tlusty & Patrick Dwyer -4
Best EV Defensemen: Jamie McBain, Bryan Allen & Tim Gleason EVEN
Worst EV Defenseman: Tomas Kaberle & Joni Pitkanen -1
Head-to-head at even strength
Some say that the NHL is a sport where you live and die by special teams and while I believe that controlling the play at even strength is more important, special teams performance can determine the outcome of a lot of games. Take Carolina's game last night against the Flyers for instance, the chances were even at 10 a piece when playing at even strength but the difference is that the Flyers scored on four of their chances while the Canes only scored once. It was the Canes special teams which kept them in this game. Yep, two shorthanded goals (one on a penalty shot) from Patrick Dwyer are what put things within reach for Carolina. Oh, you thought I was going to say something about the powerplay? I should because they had a big role in Carolina losing this game. On five powerplay opportunities, the Canes created only one scoring chance and one of those opportunities came when the game was 4-3 in favor of the Flyers. Like I said, special teams can win and lose games for some teams and this ineffective powerplay is really hurting the Canes right now.
More after the jump
Philadelphia Flyers (9-4-3) at Carolina Hurricanes (6-8-3)
7 p.m. RBC Center
TV: FS-Carolinas, CSN-Philadelphia
I described the Canes last game against the Flyers as a "burn the tape" kind of game because of the disaster of a third period the Canes had. Seems that has been a recurring theme since then because Carolina's endured numerous third period meltdowns ever since that loss. Even in their 5-3 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins they took a 3-0 lead into the third period only to have Pittsburgh tie it. Let's hope the team has tightened things up since then and will try to not let the Jagr-Giroux-Hartnell line dominate them like last time. *knocks on wood*
Analysis, lines & more after the jump
Dale Tallon and the Florida Panthers were the laughing stock of the NHL this off-seaosn after the former made numerous ridiculous signings and trades in an effort to get his team above the salary cap floor. There were a lot who believed that this team would be one of the worst in the league yet again and doomed for years to come. We are over a month into the season now and Florida finds themselves at 8-5-3 and two points out of the top spot of the Southeast Division. Whenever a bad team like this gets off to a hot start, my first inclination is to look at their underlying numbers to see how much luck they've been receiving (see the Ducks last year) and find out if they are as good as they appear. Florida has gotten their fair share of luck but the difference is they have actually played well over their first 16 games.
More after the jump
The final frame has been Carolina's enemy all season long and tonight's game had recipe for disaster written all over it. The Canes were being outplayed slightly by Pittsburgh for the first two periods but were able to take a 3-0 lead into the third by containing them in the neutral zone, killing penalties well and Ward had to stand on his head a few times, especially in the first period. Then things got really crazy in the third with the Pens finally putting a stranglehold on Carolina and clawing their way back into the game and eventually tie it up at a 3-3. Carolina had to endure seven unanswered chances from the Penguins in that period before the Canes finally established an attack of their own and reclaimed the lead with a goal from Eric Staal. All Staal did was go to the side of the crease and pick up the loose change after Chad LaRose got a shot on net. Sometimes that's all you need to do to break a slump.
After that point, Carolina finally settled things down and allowed only two Pittsburgh scoring chances the rest of the way and snapped a four game losing skid. Ward certainly earned this win with how many times he was forced to stop Evgeni Malkin and James Neal tonight.
Pittsburgh Penguins (10-3-3) at Carolina Hurricanes (5-8-3)
RBC Center, 7 p.m.
TV: FS-Carolinas, ROOT Sports
Remember what I said yesterday about trying to be optimistic? The Canes are making it hard for me to do that. It's not just because they have lost five in a row and failed to score more than two goals in each of those games, but also the fact that injuries are piling on. Joni Pitkanen is out week-to-week with a foot injury and I can't stress out huge of an injury this is. The Canes do have a lot of NHL-quality defenders at their disposal but Pitkanen is the backbone on this defense. He plays in all situations, leads the team in time on ice and is actually keeping his head above water in corsi on a team that is getting shelled at even strength. This also means that someone else is going to have to step up and take over the minutes that Pitkanen plays. As much as everyone doesn't want to hear it, that someone might be Tomas Kaberle. He hasn't been used in that role in awhile but I'm all for giving it a shot and he, along with Jay Harrison, played the most minutes on defense last night against the Rangers. Let's see how Kaberle does when he's not protected as much as he has been this year.
Also of note is Paul Maurice hinting that Eric Staal could see some time at wing tonight. I'm all for trying anything at this rate because Staal just can't seem to find his way onto the score sheet no matter what. His underlying numbers have improved a lot in the past couple weeks but the results haven't come yet so why not shake things up a bit? Everyone's guess is that Brandon Sutter will center his line and I like that idea because Sutter has a lot of offensive potential but he has been used in a more defensive role ever since being on the Hurricanes. Let's see how he does when he's not buried with defensive zone starts for a change. His 21-goal season a couple years ago was mostly due to a high shooting percentage but he's a great skater and has shown some goal-scoring ability so I'm all for giving this a shot. Carolina is going to need all the help they can get against Pittsburgh tonight.
Lines, analysis and more after the jump