Don't look now, but the Hurricanes have won three of their last four and won yet another scoring chance battle. Tuesday's disaster against Pittsburgh aside, this team has looked improved over the past week, but they have gotten some help with the number of one-goal games but it is a lot better than going through a losing streak. It also helps to draw a penalty in overtime against an AWFUL Leafs penalty kill which helped Eric Staal record his second goal of the night to win it for the Canes in overtime. Carolina played a great game overall and got one of the strongest defensive efforts from Brandon Sutter, Justin Faulk and Jay Harrison, but they didn't fully wake up until the the third period where they fell behind 3-1...and then went onto record seven consecutive scoring chances, tie the game and eventually pick up the two points in overtime.
If we can get more efforts like what we saw in the third period then there should be some great things to come from this team. Sadly, one great period does not make a team great and if the team did play like they did in the third period all the time then they wouldn't be sitting where they are in the standings right now. It'll be a long process but let's enjoy the victory for now and hope we can see more performances like this.
Carolina Hurricanes vs. Toronto Maple Leafs 12/29/11 Scoring Chances
|Period||Totals||EV||PP||5v3 PP||SH||5v3 SH|
Carolina's chances are in red, Toronto's are in white
The Leafs actually had a slight edge on Carolina for the first fourty minutes or so and were the better team in the second period. Like I said earlier, the Canes really came alive in the third period after they were down 3-1. It was a brilliant comeback effort from them and a strong defensive performance overall. The problem with how they played in the first two periods was that they weren't creating enough chances but they weren't letting the Leafs do too much either. The third period collapse was inevitable but lucky for us, the Leafs got way too comfortable with the lead and ended up losing it. Scoiring effects? Possibly, but the Leafs failed to record a scoring chance even after the Hurricanes tied the game with over eight minutes left.
The powerplay wasn't working for either team (that is until overtime *cough*) and the Hurricanes did a fantastic job on the penalty kill, which really was a difference maker because an early powerplay goal could have changed the outcome of this game. James Reimer wasn't exactly on top of his game either and that played a factor in the third period when the Canes had their offensive tear.
Individual Scoring Chance Stats
Best EV Forward: Brandon Sutter +3
Worst EV Forward: Jussi Jokinen -1
Best EV Defenseman: Jaro Spacek +4
Worst EV Defenseman: Tim Gleason -3
Eric Staal and Zac Dalpe will be the main stories of this game but Carolina's best player was Brandon Sutter and it's not even close. Why do I say that? Because his line with Chad LaRose and Drayson Bowman were matched up against Phil Kessel's line and Sutter was not on ice for a single scoring chance against for the entire game. This is with 16+ minutes of ice-time when you include the 5:32 he spent on the penalty killer. He is always lauded for being a great two-way forward and he played as well as any forward could defensively tonight. He also had that snipe in the first period to put the Canes up 1-0. Bowman and LaRose also did a good job when it came to defending.
Speaking of good defense, Justin Faulk and Jay Harrison were also matched up against Toronto's big line for most of this game and were terrific at shutting them down. Do I think these two will become the new shutdown pair with Gleason struggling? No, but they earned another game in that role after how well they played tonight. I could actually make a case for this being Faulk's best game as an NHL-er because of how well he played defensively at even strength. Harrison is just continuing to outperform everyone's expectations this year and tonight was just another chapter in that story. I don't know if this kind of performance will sustain but if it does, we have quite a diamond in the rough on our hands.
Gleason was actually reunited with Bryan Allen for the latter part of this game and I am hoping this continues because Gleason has not been good lately while Allen's great play has been wasted with sheltered minutes. If Harrison/Faulk can stay consistent, then I think reuniting Allen/Gleason is the right thing to do because we would have two defense pairings who can handle tough minutes along with one we can shelter with McBain/Spacek. That's assuming their performance keeps up, of course.
The fourth line being a little more consistent is also helping as Nodl-Brent-Stewart outchanced their opponents and it's good to see them doing work with their limited ice-time. Staal was actually double shifted with Brent and Stewart for a little bit and he ended up being an even in scoring chances. The two goals and three points overshadow that a little bit. I'm not saying he played bad but he was sheltered a bit with the first line and he could have done a little better defensively. This applies to Tlusty and Dalpe, too. Tuomo Ruutu also had his six-game point streak snapped and you can see that him and the rest of the second line were fairly quiet in this game.
Head-to-Head at five-on-five
When going head-to-head with Dion Phaneuf & Keith Aulie, Staal's line won the battle and the only other unit who they had trouble with was the Connolly line and Schenn/Gunnarsson. They still did pretty well when matched up with their main counter-parts, though. Speaking of which, Brandon Sutter's line were phenomenal against Kessel-Bozak-Lupul and just about everyone else they faced. The same goes for Faulk/Harrison.
Spacek has quietly been a very, very effective third-pairing defenseman for the Hurricanes. He hasn't been playing top-minutes or matched up with the toughest of competition but he's getting the job done with his assignments.
Scoring Chances for NHL Game Number 20544
|CAR||1||15:45||Sutter - GOAL||16||21||28||30||44||59||4||19||34||42||51||81||5v5|
|TOR||2||18:18||Kadri - GOAL||12||19||22||28||30||44||2||12||16||34||36||43||5v5|
|TOR||3||13:24||Kulemin - GOAL||4||6||15||23||30||36||4||34||41||47||51||84||5v5|
|TOR||3||10:54||Lupul - GOAL||5||6||28||30||36||59||4||19||34||42||51||81||5v5|
|CAR||3||10:12||Staal - GOAL||4||8||12||19||22||30||3||34||39||41||59||84||5v5|
|CAR||3||8:10||Dalpe - GOAL||4||8||12||19||22||30||3||19||34||42||59||81||5v5|
|CAR||4||1:51||Staal - GOAL||4||12||16||28||30||3||20||34||36||4v3|