Despite losing three in a row and five of their last six, there were good vibes all around the RBC Center tonight as the Hurricanes defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-2. You would think that Carolina woudl have struggled in this game given the current state of their team and the Leafs 7-1 thrashing of the Washington Capitals the night before. Desipte that, the Leafs are a team who are dressing at least three AHL-level forwards right now, one AHL defenseman and were starting their third string goalie. They were also playing their second night of a back-to-back on the road, which usually doesn't bode well no matter who you are.
When you consider all of those points, the outcome of tonight's game shouldn't surprise too many people. The Leafs looked tired for most of the night and were outchanded 24-13 overall and only had five chances in the first two periods combined. The one thing that kept them in the game the whole time was goalie Ben Scrivens, who was really the only factor that prevented this game from being at least 4-0 before the end of the second period. Despite a third period surge from the Leafs, the Canes got the job done and it was backed by one of the strongest performances we've seen from the "top line" this year.
Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Carolina Hurricanes 11/20/11 Scoring Chances
|Period||Totals||EV||PP||5v3 PP||SH||5v3 SH|
Carolina's chances are in red, Toronto's are in blue
The Leafs had virtually nothing going for the first two periods while the Canes kept the pressure up for the entire game. The stats here are a bit deceiving as the Leafs started the third period off with five consecutive chances (which was the same amount they had in the first and second periods combined) and then Carolina responded with six unanswered including two goals which put the game out of reach. I know people are saying that Cody Franson and John-Michael Liles' awful decision to pinch which led to Jeff Skinner's goal cost the Leafs the game but the team was getting plowed for the first 30 minutes. Had it not been for Scrivens, the Leafs would have dealt with a similar fate that the Capitals and Blackhawks did last night.
The Canes powerplay was also largely ineffective even if they did score a goal. They had five opportunities and nearly nine minutes of powerplay time and only created four total chances. In my opinion, they had only one solid looking powerplay this entire game and that was the one they scored on. The rest was the same old junk that's been happening the entire month. It does feel a little weird saying that the Leafs goaltending and penalty killing is what kept them in the game, though. Usually it's the other way around.
Individual Scoring Chances
Best EV Forwards: Eric Staal & Tuomo Ruutu +9
Worst EV Forward: Jussi Jokinen -5
Best EV Defenseman: Bryan Allen +7
Worst EV Defensemen: Jamie McBain & Tomas Kaberle -1
Fitting that I made my post about Eric Staal this morning because he was an absolute force out there along with the rest of the top line. They were unbelievable tonight and put together as good of an offensive performance as you'll see from a team this year. The chances didn't translate to a lot of goals (which is why I think Scrivens deserves a lot of credit) but they were still creating and that is huge for a team that's outchanced their opponent less than 10 times this season. However, an issue with having Ruutu, Skinner & Staal together is that the second line became much weaker and Jokinen had a pretty bad game at even strength. Do we reunite Skins & Finns to give the team more offensive depth or should we continue to roll with this top line and hope for this kind of performance every night? We might be better off in the long run if we put at least one of Skinner or Ruutu with Jokinen because having only one scoring line will make the team easier to shut down. Also keep in mind that this line did most of their work against a weak Leafs fourth line and an injury-riddled defense corps that is missing Mike Komisarek.
Bryan Allen and Tim Gleason look outstanding by this metric but more from an offensive standpoint since they were on ice for so many of Carolina's chances. They did do a great job at limiting the Kessel line at even strength and keeping them at bay for most of the game. I certainly won't be complaining if they put together more performances like this for the rest of the season because it's never a bad thing when you're on ice for that many of your team's chances. Justin Faulk and Jay Harrison were also very good with the former having his best game in the NHL so far. These two also saw a considerable amount of time against the Kessel line (who logged a TON of minutes) so the fact that they were able to hold their own against legit competition is a great sign. With how much mixing and matching that's been going on with the defense after Pitkanen's injury, I wouldn't mind keeping things the way they are now but I want to see how they do against a team that's not playing their second game in 24 hours.
Head-to-Head at Even Strength
The first line absolutely destroyed most of their competition and delivered a huge beating to the Phaneuf-Gunnarsson pairing. They played very well against the Leafs two main defensvie lines in their bottom-six even though it isn't the greatest competition. Schenn and Gardiner were the only ones who could seem to limit them, which is surprising when you look at how they did against the Canes bottom-six.
Allen, Gleason, Faulk and Harrison won all of their matchups with the first two turning in a pretty dominant performance. They got a little more offensive zone starts thanks to the Canes controlling most of this game but what they did was still impressive. However, they weren't as effective against the Kessel line as I initially thought. Most of the work they did was against the Leafs second line, which is missing Clarke Macarthur and Mikhail Grabovski. If anyone deserves credit for shutting down the Kessel line it's the team's third line of Jiri Tlusty, Brandon Sutter & Patrick Dwyer. The latter two have been struggling lately but they did their job tonight.
That third line of the Leafs was largely ineffective for most of this game and when you look at who it is composed of, it becomes clear why. Steckel is a fine defensive center but he's best suited for fourth line minutes, Joe Colbourne was called up from the AHL only yesterday and Joey Crabb is probably a fourth liner on most teams. Injuries are really hurting this Leafs team among other things. Steckel winning only five of his 16 faceoffs didn't help either.
The poor decision that Liles & Franson made that led to Skinner's goal sums up their night perfectly as they failed to win any of their matchups. Dion Phaneuf was another player who logged a ton of minutes and I have to think fatigue played a huge factor into him getting plowed by almost everyone he went up against.
|CAR||1||0:28||Harrison - GOAL||12||15||28||30||44||53||3||20||30||32||36||46||5v5|
|CAR||2||12:55||Jokinen - GOAL||23||28||30||36||44||59||2||12||30||46||51||5v4|
|TOR||3||15:29||Kessel - GOAL||5||6||16||30||3||12||19||30||81||3v4|
|CAR||3||6:52||Skinner - GOAL||5||6||12||15||30||53||4||12||24||30||39||41||5v5|
|TOR||3||1:00||Kessel - GOAL||6||16||19||30||39||44||12||19||24||42||51||81||5v5|