One thing I did over the summer was use David Staples' "error stat" to rate Carolina defensemen last season. If you need a refresher on what an error is, it's a defensive gaffe that leads to a goal. I've decided to continue using this stat and expand on it a little. Instead of looking at only defensemen, I'll also be looking at forwards because they can obviously make errors that lead to goals by turning the puck over or failing to back-check. I'm also going to break down the data weekly to see if any players are improving or getting worse when it comes to committing errors that lead to goals. I'll also include some screenshots since I have access to a lot more data than I did over the summer. Let's begin, shall we?
Boston Bruins (1-2-0) vs. Carolina Hurricanes (0-2-1)
RBC Center: 7:30
TV: Versus/NBC Sports
Opposing Viewpoints: Days of Y'orr
Still in search for win number one, the Canes return home to RBC Center to take on the Boston Bruins which will be their first nationally televised game of the season. Only three games into the season and there's already a lot of frustration among Canes fans with decision made by head coach Paul Maurice. It's understandable to be frustrated when you start off the year winless but let's keep in mind that it's only three games into the season and we should wait a little longer before we start to bring out the torches and pitchforks.
Some new surrounding this game is that the defense pairings will be shaken up a bit with Jamie McBain being inserted into the lineup. The powerplay struggled last game against the Devils and McBain can help us out in that area but it also means that Justin Faulk wil lbe sitting out tonight's game as a healthy scratch. Faulk has looked solid in his first three games so I do not think scratching him is the right call but Harrison being a better penalty killer makes him slightly more needed than Faulk at the moment. Either way, I hope this move pays off as McBain proved to be a solid puck-mover last season and should help out the team's blue line provide some offense.
Scouting the opponent, lineups and analysis after the jump
Much like the Washington game, the Canes could not do much against the Devils at even strength. They were outchanced 13-9 and only created one chance 5-on-5 in the third period and two overall. That's it. Considering they went into the third tied 2-2, it's pretty bad that they couldn't muster more than two chances. Carolina's offensive woes have dated back to the pre-season and if you're looking for an example of how much this team is struggling to create offense, I would point right to this game.
Luckily, the Devils had the same problem and a strong second period along with a decent showing from the first line of Eric Staal, Chad LaRose and Jeff Skinner kept Carolina in this game. That and a strong performance from the penalty kill which only allowed three shorthanded chances for the entire game.
We'll look at things more closely after the jump.
The Canes may have gotten a point in this game but my thought the entire time was that the Canes were outplayed the entire time at even strength and only got a point due to a strong powerplay. After looking at the scoring chances, my belief is confirmed. The Canes were outchanced 6-12 at even strength in Saturday's game against Washington but they generated 8 (!) chances on the powerplay and it resulted in two goals. If it wasn't for that, this game wouldn't have been close. Sometimes you need to win the special teams battle to stay competitive and that's what the Canes did on Saturday...until they coughed up two powerplay goals. Let's examine things more closely...
The hot topic around the Hurricanes web community is how the team currently rostering nine defensemen and how three of them (including arguably the team's best prospect) have been scratches in the first three games of the season. Paul Maurice has shuffled the lines and defense pairings a couple times now but has yet to change the lineup. He has a good reason not to because the current defense corps has been pretty solid so far (granted, it's only been three games) but sooner or later, Jamie McBain and Derek Joslin are going to have to get some playing time (my view is that Murphy should be sent back to junior for another year). To make matters worse, neither McBain nor Joslin can be sent to the AHL without passing through waviers and I'd have to think that there are a few teams interested in claiming them. Here's my take on how Carolina should fix this logjam...
Something these two teams have learned in recent years is that getting off to bad starts can doom your playoff chances, especially in the Eastern Conference. Last year, the Devils had a miserable first half but found themselves fighting for the 8th seed in the latter half of the year where they had an incredible surge. Sounds a little familiar doesn't it. The Canes got off to an awful start in 2009-10 and while they weren't exactly in position to fight for a playoff spot, they really stepped it up after that terrible stretch. Both teams are in rebuild mode now and are searching for their first win in this very young season. Carolina managed to earn a point in Washington thanks to a strong powerplay, solid goaltending from Brian Boucher and a clutch goal from Jussi Jokinen while the Devils were shutout in their home opener by the Flyers in a game which a New Jersey fan described as "the worst game the Devils ever played." Yikes.
Anyway, this game has a pretty early start time and there's nothing better than matinee hockey so let's get things rolling.
Scouting and line combos after the jump.
After last night's collapse against the Lightning, I didn't have too high of expectations for Carolina's game against Washington tonight. When a team is playing the second game of a back-to-back on the road against a team with a high powered offense, it's normal to go in not expecting much. Thankfully, the Canes showed a lot of resilience tonight and managed to earn a point in the standings. Unfortunately, some of the mistakes that occurred last night happened again and Carolina ended up losing this game in overtime 4-3. Overall, it wasn't that bad of a performance by Carolina but there's still a lot of work to be done over the next few days.
More thoughts after the jump.
Now it's time for the moment you've all been waiting for...sort of. One of the main things I was planning to do with this blog is record scoring chances for the Carolina Hurricanes. For those of you new to this, a scoring chance is a shot that's directed towards the net from a rough, "home-plate" shaped area in the offensive zone. The exact area is kind of tough to describe so I'll just show you this diagram instead to give you an idea of what I'm talking about. Scoring chances is similar to corsi where it is a plus/minus system that is based on how many shots a player was on ice for, but we are only counting shots that came in a dangerous, scoring area which is displayed in the diagram I linked above. This gives an idea of which players are creating the most offense for their teams. Me, along with dozens of other hockey bloggers, are recording chances for their favorite teams this season so this information can be available for everyone on the Internet. All of this is possible thanks to Vic Ferrari and his time on ice web site which allows you to plug in the scoring chance data you recorded and it displays them in these easy-to-read tables that I will post below.
After the jump, we'll take a look at how the Canes did tonight against the Lightning.
A new season means a new sense of optimism for many teams and you want to at least put together a strong performance to start the year even if you don't win. The Carolina Hurricanes did this...for about half of the game and then a complete meltdown occurred and ended up getting blown out on opening night. It's disappointing but brighter days are ahead and there were a few positives that you could drag out from this game, as odd as it sounds.
The Canes were the better team for the first 20 minutes tonight as they really had their legs going, kept the Lightning pinned in their own zone for most of the period. They outshot them 16-12 and took the lead 8:07 into the game with a goal from Jeff Skinner. The play started when he forced a turnover in the neutral zone, got the puck back to Tim Gleason on the point who was able to get a shot on net and Skinner quickly put in the rebound. The Canes continued to put pressure on the Lightning for the rest of the period and most of the second until Chad LaRose misplayed a puck in the neutral zone, which led to a turnover and Tampa Bay soon capitalized on it when Martin St. Louis scored on a rebound after the Canes failed to clear the puck multiple times in their own zone.
Things took a turn for the worst when rookie defenseman Justin Faulk took a bad interference penalty in the second period and it was followed by Jussi Jokinen taking an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after which put the Canes on a 5-on-3 and as you colud probably guess, Tampa Bay scored quickly on it. Things just snowballed after that. Tampa Bay completely shutdown Carolina in the transition game, bottled them up in the neutral zone and continued to build on their lead after baiting Carolina into taking multiple penalties. Once the Lightning scored twice in ten seconds, you could tell that it was pretty much over.
Carolina completely let their foot off the gas after falling down 3-1 and paid the price, which is going to kill you against a team like Tampa Bay who plays in a system that thrives on other team's mistakes. If Carolina plays like they did for the first 20-30 minutes in this game, they have a better chance at winning but they didn't and you can chalk it up to a lack of effort and a lot of missed opportunities. Just be thankful there are still 81 games left on the schedule and I'm sure Carolina will turn in better performances than this later in the year.
- Jeff Skinner was Carolina's best player tonight by a longshot. He was all over the ice doing whatever he could to create chances and get Carolina back into this game. He was placed on Staal's line for this game but he certainly didn't need to rely on Staal too much to create plays. Carolina's only goal was due to him forcing a turnover in the neutral zone and he was constantly doing everything he could to put pressure on Tampa Bay. I'd go as far to say that he was the driving force on this line and not Eric Staal (although he had a pretty good game too).
- Justin Faulk's first NHL game was a rough one. He took a couple of pretty bad penalties and was caught out of position on Adam Hall's breakaway goal. He'll improve with time, though and it's too early to jump on the "Send him back to Charlotte" bandwagon.
- When I said that missed opportunities were a reason Carolina lost, it was basically another way of saying the powerplay was lousy. They had five PP opportunities tonight, didn't score on any of them and generated a whopping three shots on net. Compare that to the Lightning's two powerplay goals and seven shots on net then it should be easy to see why Carolina lost this game. I also don't know what the point was of having Jay Harrison on the second powerplay unit. I think we'd be better off putting a forward on the point there.
- On the other special teams side, I thought the penalty kill was pretty solid even though they gave up two goals. The first one was a 5-on-3 and the other was off a weird looking rebound. Tim Brent, Brandon Sutter and Patrick Dwyer were very solid on the PK tonight and I'm glad that these three logged a lot of minutes there instead of LaRose and Staal.
- I'm not one to say that things need to be shaken up after one game but I honestly do not know why Paul Maurice thinks that Jiri Tlustly should play on Jussi Jokinen and Chad LaRose's line. He has little offensive upside and isn't that good defensively either so I'm not sure what he brings there. Let Zac Dalpe play there instead of on the fourth line so he can get some more experience.
- The first line was very good tonight at even strength but the rest of the lineup was pretty invisible in my opinion. Hoping that some other players can step it up but the lines definitley need to be chagned a bit for that to happen.
- Tough to say who was the best defenseman for Carolina but I thought Tim Gleason and Joni Pitkanen did a pretty good job of keeping Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis in check for most of the game. Pitkanen logged more minutes than any other Hurricane tonight and had a nice play to stop a breakaway from Stamkos. Gleason had a good night at even strength but he was on-ice for both of the Lightning's powerplay goals.
- Have to give credit where it's due and say that the Lightning played a pretty solid game overall and showed a real killer instinct towards the end. Eric Brewer and Victor Hedman made sure that Skinner's line didn't have much room to work with at all after they took the lead and they didn't look back.
- Ward played a good game overall despite giving up five goals but there wasn't much he could do about any of them aside from maybe the second powerplay goal. Roloson was good at the other end but he didn't need to go out of his way to make that many big saves.
- Good night at the face-off dot for anyone not named Eric Staal (6/22) or Jussi Jokinen (5/12). There's that.
There's definitely some positives you can draw out of this game despite the 5-1 loss but the fact that the team just seemed to stop trying after falling down two goals is a huge cause for concern and with a high-powered Capitals offense next on the schedule, they can't afford to turn in another performance like that if they don't want a repeat of tonight. I'll have the scoring chances next.
1. Martin St. Louis
2. Jeff Skinner
3. Steven Stamkos
The season began yesterday but I forgot to post a full recap of the projections I have for this year's taem. There's a few players who I didn't get to post my in-depth projections for so I'm including them in here too. I'm only including players who began the year on the team because doing everyone really isn't feasible at the moment.
It's pretty similar to last season with Staal and Sknner being the only two to crack 50+ points but I have Jokinen scoring 20 goals. I also have Ponikarovsky with a bounce-back season now that he may get top-six minutes. Of course, I made these projections assuming they would be on different lines than they were yesterday so this is all subject to change.
I didn't make a projection for Faulk or Murphy, unfortunately.
McBain's numbers will probably be down because of spending more nights in the press-box than I thought he would. Same goes for Joslin. Overall, I feel that these are pretty reachable expectations. I have Pitkanen slightly improving and Kaberle having a slightly worse year, but those 43 points will be pretty good for Carolina given the production they had on their blue-line last year.
Overall, I have Carolina's "main" roster scoring 209 goals, which really isn't that good but it could go up if the AHL call-ups produce during their time here. Let's hope that someone else up front has a break-out season because the numbers here aren't that optimistic.