One thing statisticians love to throw around is how "x player is on pace for y amount of points" whenever they are on a hot or cold streak. Take Jiri Tlusty for instance, he's off to a pretty strong start by his standards with six goals and 11 points in 31 games. He is currently on pace for 16 goals and 29 points if he plays all 82 games, which would be career highs for him. Is it possible that he keeps up that pace? Sure, but it's equally likely that he won't because things like injuries, slumps, hot streaks, etc can happen at any time and change a player's goals and points per game rate. Actually, a player's "scoring pace" changes just about every game when you think about it, which is why I thought it would be a fun idea to look at every regular forward on the Canes, see what their pace is and whether they'll finish above or below that mark. We'll start this after the jump.
Bryan Allen has arguably been the Hurricanes' best defenseman in this very forgettable season. He's played 18-20 minutes a night, is usually given the toughest assignments and has posted a 4.5 Corsi Rel. rating, which is the best among defensemen. Not only that, but he has been outperforming the entire defense corps when it comes to creating and preventing scoring chances. Despite his great play, Allen's seen his role decrease by a lot over the past few weeks. Was Kirk Muller the reason for this? We'll find out after the jump.
I'm not sure how many games this season I've counted as ones where we needed to "burn the tape" but last night's 4-2 beatdown at the hands of the Winnipeg Jets has to be in that grouping. The Hurricanes had less than 10 even strength scoring chances, were outshot 31-21 at even strength and the only time they could muster up any kind of offense was in the third period...when they were already down 4-0. They were able to make things a little interesting towards the end, but overall the Canes were manhandled in this game.
Before we look at the gruesome details, let's put things into context that the team's #1 defenseman and highest scoring forward did not play in this game. They were also playing only 17 skaters, which put them at a disadvantage from the get-go.
Scoring chances & more after the jump
Let's face it, the Canes powerplay just isn't that fun to watch right now. I had optimism early in the season because they were at least getting shots and chances on net but forwhatever reason, that has completely gone away the past month or so. This is why I have devised this little game so us Caniacs can get some enjoyment out of watching the powerplay. We tend to see the same things over and over when the Canes have the man advantage, so why not have some fun with it?
Whenever you see one of the listed events happen you must take a drink of your beverage of choice.
Drink once when:
- A shot misses the net.
- The puck gets cleared out of the zone on the first entry.
- The Canes have passed the puck around for about 30 seconds.
- A forward playing the point.
- Tripp Tracy talks about net front presence (this if you're watching on FS-Carolinas).
- A shot from the point doesn't get through.
Drink twice when:
- The Canes give up a shorthanded chance. (double up if the player who gets the chance is a former Hurricane)
- A shot goes off the post.
- Eric Staal tries a wrap around.
- A shot misses the net AND deflects out of the opponent's zone.
- There's a missed one-timer.
Drink three times when:
- The Canes create a perfect chance but are robbed by the goaltender.
- A stick breaks.
- There's a turnover at the blue-line.
Chug what's left of your drink when:
- The Canes score a powerplay goal
I'll be adding to this as the season goes on.
Carolina Hurricanes (9-17-4) at Winnipeg Jets (12-11-4)
MTS Centre, 8:30 p.m.
TV: FS-Carolinas, TSN-Jets
Zone starts are something that I pay attention to every game but with Tomas Kaberle being traded to Montreal, I'm going to be keeping an extra eye on them now because I'm curious to see how Kirk Muller uses the defense. Next to Derek Joslin, Kaberle played the easiest ice-time by far and someone is going to have to take over that role but I'm not 100% sure who will. My first thought is Justin Faulk because he's been getting manhandled against tough competition the past few weeks and I think a guy with an offensive-skillset like him should get minutes like that. Another possibility is Jay Harrison when he gets back from injury or even Jamie McBain but the coaching staff appears to like him with Tim Gleason as the tough minutes pair. Jaroslav Spacek is apparently in the lineup tonight and he was playing Kaberle-like minutes in Montreal so it could be him too. The possibilities are endless and tonight we're facing a team with a coach that pays very close attention to zone starts in the Winnipeg Jets.
Lines, defense pairings, analysis & more after the jump
The sun is shining bright in Raleigh today as Tomas Kaberle and his three-year $12.75 mil. contract were traded to Montreal for defenseman Jaroslav Spacek. Joy and exuberance seems to be the initial reaction among Canes fans and I can't say that I don't blame them. Kaberle is a player on the decline of his career and has gone from unlucky to bad to dreadful over the course of two months.
Aside from the three year committment, Kaberle was hurting the team by taking most of the offensive zone starts for blue liners and doing next to nothing with them. When you are getting ice-time that easy, you damn well better put up some offense and Kaberle has not. He has nine points in 24 games, was underwater in terms of scoring chances and corsi for most of the season and was generally ineffective and not worth the $4.25 mil price tag. Yes, Kaberle was not getting any bounces going in his favor (team shooting a little above 5% with him on-ice) but he certainly was not playing well at all. With thee other offensive minded defensemen already on the team, giving Kaberle the cushy zone starts to do nothing was bringing down the rest of the team. GM Jim Rutherford was not going to let this continue for the next three years so he made the right move by putting him on the block and trading him. Now that he is gone, this should give the Canes more flexibility with their defense corps and Muller/Lewis can decide which players they want to protect.
The only downside to this deal? We get Jaroslav Spacek, another defenseman on the decline of his career (37 years old) and was playing extremely sheltered minutes in Montreal this year. Once upon a time, Spacek was a good all-around defenseman and even played on Montreal's shutdown pair for a lot of the 2009-10 season, but those days have gone by the wayside. He doesn't appear to be anything more than a second pairing defenseman, and I'm being generous there. That said, his contract expires after this season and the Canes could have some use for him as a third pairing defenseman should an injury occur. I've heard people say that "he can't be worse than Kaberle" and well...I guess that's true when you factor in each player's expectations.
Honestly, I wasn't expecting to get anything in return for Kaberle given he was a healthy scratch only two weeks ago and a possible buyout candidate at the end of the year but Rutherford managed to find a GM who would actually trade for his contract...and give up an NHL-level player in return. You have to give him some marks for that as Rutherford knew the Kaberle signing was a mistake and trading him to free up roster space and cap room for next year was a great trade on his part.
This is more of a bad deal for Montreal than it is a good deal for the Canes, though. Yes, getting rid of Kaberle's contract is huge but the return is minimal. The fact that Montreal traded for Kaberle is mind boggling. I know they have injuries on their defense but when you have a team that's already spending close to the cap, has three key players that need new contracts this summer (Gorges, Subban & Price) and yet, they decide to trade for a struggling defenseman who is due over $12 mil the next three years. They might have been better off giving Bryan McCabe a call and signing him for one year. My suspicion is that Andrei Markov's injury is career-threatening because I can not think of any other explanation for this. It is entirely possible that Kaberle turns it around in Carolina because, as I mentioned earlier, he wasn't getting much puck luck in Carolina but he wasn't playing well at all.
All in all, a good deal for Carolina. I expect more dead weight to be dropped in the coming weeks.
Riding a seven game losing streak and playing the second game of a back-to-back on the road is usually a recipe for disaster but Carolina came out strong tonight and (despite a couple of bad bounces early on) took it to the Oilers for most of this game. The Canes really needed a win like this to raise the spirits of both the team and the fans. Edmonton played an awful game but Carolina hasn't exactly been playing well this year either so it was good to see them put together this kind of performance. The 5-3 doesn't show how dominant Carolina was tonight but the scoring chances for tonight do. Carolina held the Oilers to only 6 even strength scoring chances tonight. Considering that the Canes had 8 even strength chances in the first period alone, this should show how one-sided things were. The score could have been a lot more lopsided had it not been for Devan Dubynk but I don't think the score matters for Carolina at this point as long as they win.
Scoring chances & more after the jump
Carolina Hurricanes (8-17-4) at Edmonton Oilers (13-11-3)
Rexall Place 9:30 p.m. EST
TV: FS-Carolinas, TSN
There is a good chance that Carolina goes down a similar path to these Oilers that we're facing tonight. They have lost seven in a row, have already replaced their head coach, have some promising youth in the system and are on track for a top-five pick. The Oilers now have three top-level forward prospects on their team and appear to be finally making progress in their rebuild. There's been a lot of people who want the Canes to "Fail for Nail" and tank to get the number one pick because it's the only option but let's think about that for a minute. A team that gets the number one pick is not instantly going to become a contender the next year. It's going to take a couple more years like this before we're sitting pretty like the Capitals and Penguins are right now. Do I want this team to have success and rebuild through the draft? Absolutely, especially when we play in a smaller market but sitting through another couple of seasons like this is going to become grating on the fanbase. This is something that I'll look at more closely in the future but I've been wondering for awhile if the Canes will follow the same path as their opponent's tonight.
Lines, analysis & more after the jump
Where do I begin with this game? Should I talk about how Carolina got off to a horrible start and ended up in a 3-0 hole? Maybe it would be better to start things off on a more positive note and say how the Canes scored six goals for the first time in forever and were even with the Flames in scoring chances. That sounds pretty good at first glance but not when you consider that they registered a good chunk of those chances late in the game when they were trailing the Flames. I could also try to be positive and talk about Mike Murphy's NHL debut, but Murphy wouldn't have needed to come in if Cam Ward didn't give up six goals on 32 shots. There's a lot of other things I could go on about with this game like Eric Staal's three point night, the powerplay failing on three attempts, Tomas Kaberle having one of his better games as of late or Joni Pitkanen's injury. There were just so many oddities in this game that I could talk about but I think this final statement sums things up best:
Mike Murphy played about 8 minutes tonight in relief of Cam Ward. When he entered the game it was 6-3 Flames. The Canes cut the score to 6-4, pulled the goalie and the Flames scored an empty netter to make it 7-4. Carolina scored twice then and lost 7-6 which means that Jarome Iginla's empty net goal was the game winner and Murphy was the goalie of record. So Murphy "lost" his first NHL start despite not even being on ice for the game winning goal.
This is what it's like when two teams with bad defenses face each other.
Scoring chances & more after the jump
With the now Winnipeg Jets being stuck in the Southeast Division, you had to figure that some sort of realignment would happen soon. The NHL announced yesterday that the governors had approved the NHL's new plan for realignment which could take effect as early as next season. Instead of two conferences and six divisions, the league will be separated into four different conferences. The teams will be divided as such:
Conference A: Anaheim, Calgary, Colorado, Edmonton, Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Jose, Vancouver
Conference B: Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Detroit, Minnesota, Nashville, St. Louis, Winnipeg
Conference C: Boston, Buffalo, Florida, Montreal, Ottawa, Tampa Bay, Toronto
Conference D: Carolina, New Jersey, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Washington
Each team will play their conference opponents six times a year (three at home, three on the road) and they will also play every other team once at home and once on the road. This really helps ease the travel issues with some Western teams (namely Minnesota, Detroit, Columbus & Nashville), especially with the way the new conferences are set up. The other change made was a new playoff format where the top four teams from each conference will face each other in the playoffs (1 vs. 4, 2 vs. 3) with the winners facing each other in the next round and then the remaining two teams will play for the Cup. How the semi-finals will be seeded will be decided later and there is a possibility we could see two teams from the East or West playing each other in the post-season.
- I like the new conferences. It makes sense geographically for everything aside from Conference C but I'll touch on that later. Minnesota really needed to be placed in a difference conference to suit them geographically and they got it. The same also applies to Dallas who also had travel issues.
- The two Florida teams in Conference C makes sense because those two arenas will get a lot of ticket sales when Montreal, Toronto, etc. visit them. It does create a problem with them in regards to traveling, though.
- One thing I do not understand with this realignment is keeping Detroit and Columbus out West. They won't have to travel as much as they did before but there's an uneven number of teams in the East and West now despite there being two teams in the Eastern Time Zone in one of the two Western Conferences. That just doesn't make sense to me.
- I am not a fan of the new playoff format at all, especially with the way the new divisions are set-up. The Western teams are going to save money by not having to travel so much but they will pay for it come playoff time. It's still uncertain if they will keep the "East/West" monikers but if they do, then there's 8 out of 16 teams in the West going for a playoff spot and 8 out of only 14 teams in the East. A below average team in the Eastern conference can make the playoffs while a good team in the West will be left out. Not only that, but this "conference playoff" idea is just silly to me. I get that they want the "best" teams to make it in but if you only allow four teams from a conference, that is going to lave a lot of good teams out of the post-season while a decent team from a weak division can get in.
Take Conference A for example, let's say that Edmonton, LA, San Jose and Vancouver all get in but Phoenix has 90-something points and is left out. Meanwhile, you could have a team like Toronto or Ottawa with 80-something points make the playoffs and win their division because they play weaker opponents. I don't understand the point of the regular season and playing six conference games if you are going to make them face each other again in the playoffs.
- From Carolina's perspective, this is going to be a tough challenge. If they decide to keep the new playoff rules, then the Canes will be forced to compete with Philly, Washington, Pittsburgh, New Jersey AND New York to even get close to the playoffs. That is some tough competition but this is my response to that is "I, for one, welcome our new Atlantic overlords."
- Supposedly they made the conferences the way they are to make it easier to add an expansion team. The NHL has a competitive disadvantage even with the cap so I don't think this is a good idea. If a team like Phoenix were to move then that would make things easier but I still believe the odds of that happening are slim.
- This is definitely going to take some getting used to and I think there's a few things that need to be ironed out but I do like the new conferences.