Carolina's game against the Sabres on Wednesday ended on a sour, familiar note as they dropped yet another game in overtime. How poor their performance in OT games this year is one story but that isn't the main reason why they lost this game. Penalties were. You know it, I know it, anyone who watched the game or looked at the box score knows it. It doesn't matter how badly you outshoot, outplay or outchance the opposition, when HAND your opponent seven powerplay opportunities, you are digging your own grave, especially in a game on the road. The worst thing about the penalties was that they were all legit and were the result of incredibly poor discipline from guys like Chad LaRose and Jussi Jokinen (who had THREE minors on the night).
The final shot & chance total (10-16 & 24-42 respectfully) indicates that the Sabres controlled this game, but narrow it down to just even strength play and things are slightly more even. Buffalo outchanced the Hurricanes 14-10 at even strength and Buffalo only had a 24-20 shot advantage, so this wasn't that much of a "blowout." Carolina got themselves into penatly trouble and things ended up looking much more lopsided in Buffalo's favor on the statsheet, but the penalties are what doomed Carolina in this game. That along with the Canes doing nothing in the third period and their powerplay looked absolutely horrible on all three opportunities. The "special teams" battle has been a reoccurring theme for the Canes lately and them losing that battle ended up burning them on Wednesday night.
Aside from the penalties and awful powerplay Carolina played a decent game considering it was the second night of a back-to-back on the road. They really need to give Cam Ward a breather, though. I thought the reason for signing Brian Boucher was to use him in situations like this but the coaching staff clearly trusts #30 more. He played great, but the team can not keep giving up 40+ shots a night and expect him to be a brick wall. Give him a night off or two off to rest.
Scoring chances & more after the jump
|Period||Totals||EV||PP||5v3 PP||SH||5v3 SH|
Carolina's chances are in red, Buffalo's are in white
The Canes played their best hockey in the first period, when they did exactly what you are supposed to do when playing the second game of a back-to-back. They established an early lead and focused on defending for the rest of the frame, and they actually executed this strategy well. They even killed off two penalties without giving up a scoring chance. All they had to do was continue this strategy and it would have been smooth sailing. Unfortunately, it is hard to continue to play like this when you constantly take penalties and that's exactly what happened to start the second period. The Sabres finally took advantage of Carolina shooting themselves in the foot and then got a lucky bounce off a defection goal to take the lead. The Canes were still hanging tough at even strength and tied the game with a goal from Chad LaRose but they would go on to take three more penalties in the third period and that clearly had an effect on their performance. Going by the table above, you can tell that the ice was tilted in one end for the entire third period as Carolina did next to nothing offensively for the rest of the game. This was with two powerplay opportunities, too. In what seemed like a fitting ending, Carolina took another late penalty in the third period which carried over into OT and the Sabres won the game on, you guessed it, a powerplay goal.
Carolina was clearly jet-lagged from playing a back-to-back game as they didn't have their legs for most of the first and third periods and weren't producing much offense. The Sabres eventually took advantage of this once the Canes handed them powerplay opportunities on a silver platter. It's strange because the team was playing so disciplined before this game and it seemed like they threw all of their hockey sense out the window. It reminded me a lot of the Nashville game from early January, only this time Carolina managed to get a bit lucky on the penalty kill and earn a point. I'm sure Kirk Muller had plenty to say about this to the team.
Individual Scoring Chances
Best EV Forward: Jeff Skinner +4
Worst EV Forward: Jiri Tlusty -6
Best EV Defenseman: Jamie McBain +2
Worst EV Defenseman: Justin Faulk -4
The LaRose-Jokinen-Skinner line leads the way the the second game in as they seemed to be the only unit which was creating any kind of offense. The chart should tell you how good this line performed and how invisible everyone else was. The Canes had 10 even strength and this line produced about half of them with Skinner and LaRose being on ice for about 7-8 a piece. Skinner was definitely the team's best player and that accounts for his play both on the powerplay and at even strength. I'm glad to see this line step up and produce scoring chances (and goals) but at the same time, it's depressing to see that only one line did all the work at even strength in this game. Someone else has to come forward.
Eric Staal's linemates were invisible and Tlusty had a horrendous night as he wasn't on ice for a single Hurricanes scoring chance. Tlusty has quietly been great in scoring chances this season but this certainly was one of his worst games of the year. Stewart looked like a non-factor for the most part, too. You could tell that Staal was trying to do a lot of things on his own and getting some help for him on the wings could go along way. Tuomo Ruutu can not get healthy soon enough.
Sutter, Nodl & Dwyer had a pretty uneventful game and they seemed to be a little overwhelmed by Tomas Vanek's line at times. They also started a grand total of one shift in the offensive zone, according to the faceoff report. Sutter was one of the team's better penalty killers, at least. Speaking of which, how do we spend so much time on the PK and not give Nodl any ice time there? Yes, I am going to harp on this.
Jamie McBain had a great game at both ends of the rink. He added another assist to his total and did a great job of playing in his own end and cleaning up a some of the forwards mistakes. I noticed him make a few good defensive plays against Buffalo's second line that really stood out to me. Spacek also played well and scored his fourth goal of the season off a quick point shot after an offensive zone faceoff win. These two have made a solid third/offensive pairing.
The rest of the defense corps was rather poor and Justin Faulk/Jay Harrison got stuck with a truckload of defensive zone starts (11) which obviously didn't help their performance. They were hit pretty hard by Nathan Gerbe's line as they could not seem to contain them at all. Tomas Vanek's line also had a big night as they got the better of Bryan Allen & Tim Gleason for most of the game. These two also gave up a handful of chances on the penalty kill, but they were used there a lot. Gleason played over half of Carolina's penalty kill time.
Head-to-head at five-on-five
|CAR||1||17:13||Spacek - GOAl||4||8||30||36||53||59||3||23||30||36||42||57||5v5|
|BUF||2||19:39||Myers - GOAL||12||13||19||28||30||44||3||23||30||36||42||57||5v5|
|BUF||2||18:58||Vanek - GOAL||5||6||12||19||30||9||10||22||26||29||30||4v5|
|CAR||2||14:50||LaRose - GOAL||5||6||30||36||53||59||6||19||24||30||36||63||5v5|
|BUF||4||4:04||Pominville - GOAL||6||12||30||44||9||10||26||29||30||3v4|