A couple of weeks ago I said this:
"Despite having only two goals, Skinner actually had a great month and the chances were going heavily in Carolina's favor when he was on the ice. Same goes for Jokinen only on a lesser scale. The reason for Skinner not scoring enough despite driving play in the right direction is mostly due to bad luck. Skinner had 35 shots on goal, was clearly getting plenty of opportunities at even strength but the pucks just weren't going in for him....If Skinner keeps playing like this then the goals will eventually come."
We are now five games into March now and Jeff Skinner has three goals and five points during that time. Part of the reason for this outburst is because he and his line with Jussi Jokinen and Chad LaRose have been constantly getting pressure in the offensive zone and creating scoring chances. It is no surprise that he has been on ice for 28 of Carolina's even strength scoring chances this month, an amount that leads the team. There's always a stretch of time when the bounces don't go a player's way but hard work and good play will not go unrewarded forever and we saw that hard work pay off for Skinner's line tonight in a 4-2 win over Tampa Bay. He, Jokinen and LaRose contributed to three of Carolina's goals and they were Carolina's best line for the third night in a row. A strong performance from them and goaltender Cam Ward, who made 36 saves, is main reason why Carolina was able to pick up a victory in a game where they were heavily outshot and outchanced.
We've seen a lot of games go this way lately, haven't we?
Scoring chances & more after the jump
|Period||Totals||EV||PP||5v3 PP||SH||5v3 SH|
Carolina's chances are in red, Tampa Bay's are in white
This is similar to the Washington game in the sense that the Hurricanes offense did a fine job but their defensive play was atrocious for 2/3 of the game. It looked like things would go bad in the first couple of minutes as Tampa came storming out of the gates and a goal from Ryan Malone. Carolina would then get the benefit of a powerplay only a few minutes later and Jaroslav Spacek scored in his second straight game to tie it. Tampa Bay had control for the rest of the period, but the Canes did get a few good shifts from the aforementioned line of LaRose, Skinner & Jokinen, one of which led to Skinner's first goal of the game. The second period was more of the same as the Bolts clearly had the edge at even strength but Ward was terrific and shut down all of the Lightning's chances. His best moment came about 9 minutes into the third period when he made two point blank saves on Martin St. Louis and Steven Stamkos to keep this a tie game. Despite starting the third on the penalty kill, Carolina played much better in their own end in the third period and took the lead after Skinner scored on what was a beautiful individual effort. That would end up being the game-winning goal as the Hurricanes played solid defense for the rest of the game and did not allow Tampa Bay to perform a shooting gallery on Ward.
Tampa Bay may have been held to only nine shots in the third period, but they had 29 the rest of the game, which is way too much for my liking. Carolina's defensive play has improved over the last month or so, but that has completely gone by the wayside this past week as they were only two shots away from allowing 40 or more in all three games. And yet...the team won two of those three games and earned points in all of them. What gives? Good goaltending helps. So does getting an early powerplay goal a few good bounces along the way. Not all wins are perfect and this one was far from it, but the Canes should be happy about how they were able to finish off the Lightning and lock away two points in the standings.
Individual Scoring Chances
Best EV Forward: Jeff Skinner +2
Worst EV Forward: Andreas Nodl -4
Best EV Defenseman: Jaroslav Spacek +4
Worst EV Defenseman: Justin Faulk -8
Carolina had only one line that was either at 50% or better when it came to scoring chances and I shouldn't even need to tell you which line that was. Skinner, LaRose and Jokinen are giving up a lot defensively but the fact that they produced over half of the team's even strength chances (again) is enough for me to ignore that. They have produced goals in three straight games and are getting the job done offensively and that's all I care about for now. Of course, these three also led forwards in offensive zone starts so that likely had something to do with their big numbers.
Speaking of offensive zone starts giving some players an advantage, both Jamie McBain & Jaroslav Spacek led defensemen in that category and, unsurprisingly, they led defensemen in scoring chances as well. Both got on the scoresheet as well with Spacek scoring his fifth of the year and McBain recording an assist on the same goal. One thing I like about Kirk Muller is that he's playing guys to their strengths and it's worked wonders for both McBain & Spacek.
The first line was very, very invisible tonight aside from the returning Tuomo Ruutu having a couple of big hits. Staal seemed to be non-factor for most of the game and had a big mental lapse on the Nate Thompson goal as he forgot to cover his guy in the slot. Jiri Tlusty being knocked out of the game after taking a hit from Stamkos did not help this cause, either. In a season that's been full of unfortunate injuries, it would only be appropriate for Carolina to lose one of their first liners on the same day that another one returned. Neither Jerome Samson or Tim Brent made much of an impact when they were used in that spot after Tlusty got knocked out.
Andreas Nodl ended up being the worst rated forward and his line actually had a decent game offensively. Five scoring chances and eight shots on goal is usually good for their standards, but they could not slow down Stamkos' line and ended up giving up a lot of shots and chances against. They also did not look good at all on that Malone goal and neither did Tim Gleason and Bryan Allen. I am pretty sure that those two have been outchanced in every game this month and Allen's had a very rough last few games. Taking their workload into account, I expect them to get slightly outchanced on most nights but they are simply giving up way too much in their own end right now.
Allen and Gleason were not the only defense pairing that got hammered at even strength tonight as neither Justin Faulk or Jay Harrison played well at all. While Allen and Gleason gave up a lot of chances in their own end, they sort of made up for it by being on ice for a good few chances. That was not the case with Faulk & Harrison as they could not seem to get anything going offensively. They also saw a lot of time against the Stamkos line because Guy Boucher rode them like pack-mules at even strength. This is the second game in a row where these two have been blown out in terms of scoring chances and it's worth monitoring.
Head-to-head at five-on-five
- The fact that McBain & Spacek did not lose any of their matchups in a game where the Canes were heavily outchanced speaks volumes about how well they played. Sure, they were kept away from Stamkos but they played their role perfectly, which is what I've been saying for the last few weeks.
- Skinner, LaRose & Jokinen were the only forward unit to win most of their matchups and they even outchanced Stamkos & St. Louis. They also puverized the Brewer/Hedman pairing, which is pretty impressive.
- Since when is Brendan Mikkelsson this good?
- Ryan Malone was probably Tampa's best player tonight but Nate Thompson also had a very good game and so did Teddy Purcell & Mike Commodore.
- Justin Faulk & Jay Harrison lost all of their matchups and the Dwyer-Sutter-Nodl line lost all but one of their's.
- The Stamkos line saw a lot of time against just about everyone because they played for almost 25 minutes at even strength, which is pretty ridiculous but Tampa's foward depth isn't the best.
Lightning Scoring Chances
|26||Martin St. Louis
Best EV Forward: Steven Stamkos +5
Worst EV Forward: Ryan Shannon -1
Best EV Defenseman: Brendan Mikkelsson +9
Worst EV Defenseman: Keith Aulie -2
|TBL||1||18:40||Malone - GOAL||5||6||14||16||30||39||11||12||14||29||40||77||5v5|
|CAR||1||16:18||Spacek - GOAl||4||8||30||36||53||59||7||12||23||40||44||5v4|
|CAR||1||7:31||Skinner - GOAL||6||8||30||36||53||59||2||3||11||12||14||40||5v5|
|TBL||1||2:46||Thompson - GOAl||5||6||12||15||19||30||2||18||34||40||44||77||5v5|
|CAR||3||13:24||Skinner - GOAL||4||8||30||36||53||59||7||22||26||40||77||91||5v5|