All season long, the one thing that's been frustrating Canes fans the most (myself included) is how some of the team's best prospects were being restricted to fourth line minutes but it appears that is about to change under Kirk Muller. With Jeff Skinner out, that leaves a huge hole to fill in the top-nine but it also creates an opportunity for one of the younger players to assume a bigger role and they might be able to stick around in Raleigh if they make the most of their playing time. 2008's third round pick Drayson Bowman got his chance last night and he certainly took advantage of it. Scored two goals and was one of the team's most effective offensive players in route to a 4-3 win over the Vancouver Canucks.
That's not the only thing we can talk about in this game, though. There was the team's powerplay having a very successful night, Cam Ward's terrific play and the second line coming to life. We'll get into all of that after the jump.
Carolina Hurricanes vs. Vancouver Canucks 12/15/11
|Period||Totals||EV||PP||5v3 PP||SH||5v3 SH|
The Canucks actually outshot Carolina at even strength (33-26), but a strong effort on the powerplay is what helped the Canes get the overall advantage. Carolina also created five scoring chances with the man advantage including Jaroslav Spacek's goal. The fact that Carolina was able to tie the game at 2-2 at the end of the second period was huge because the Canucks actually had the slight upper-hand there and then the Canes were able to take control early in the third and establish a two-goal cushion. Of course, the powerplays helped a lot there because the Canucks did have the advantage at even strength. It took awhile for the Canes to finally get a goal on the powerplay and I thought those early missed opportunities were going to cost them, but they ended up getting a goal at the right time and they were creating a good amount of chances throughout the night.
Inidividual Scoring Chances
Best EV Forward: Tuomo Ruutu +6
Worst EV Forward: Brandon Sutter -3
Best EV Defenseman: Tim Gleason +3
Worst EV Defenseman: Bryan Allen -3
Bowman was the team's most effective offensive player tonight but he's got a lot of work to do away from the puck. I'm expecting his defensive game to come around as he develops but as for now, I'd like to keep him in Raleigh because this team needs players who can create scoring chances and he's doing that right now. Hell, five of Carolina's scoring chances tonight came off Bowman's stick and he had eight shots on goal. Muller has the right idea of giving this kid more ice-time because he's getting the job done. Just hope he can tighten things up defensively a little bit.
While Bowman had a huge night, one thing that might get overlooked in this game is how fantastic the second line played, especially Tuomo Ruutu. That second goal doesn't happen without him crashing the net like he did and Jussi Jokinen made a nice play to get the puck to Allen at the point. These three were also given a huge territorial advantage as all three members had a combined total of two defensive zone starts. The funny thing is, I had been calling for the second line to get this kind of treatment from the coaches all year and Muller is finally making it happen.
Speaking of protection, Canucks head coach Alain Vingleaut gave Henrik Sedin's line their usual treatment starting him, Raymond and Burrows in the offensive zone for at least 10 of their shifts. To counter this, Muller matched up this line with Eric Staal, Patrick Dwyer & Jiri Tlusty which is why their chance numbers appear as they do. Dwyer finishing as an even despite starting 8 draws in the defensive zone against Sedin's line (albeit minus one twin) speaks a lot about his defensive ability, though.
Tim Gleason was another guy who was buried with defensive zone starts as the was matched up with Vancouver's first line and he had one of his best performances of the season. It was great to see him and McBain put together a strong performance after it looked like this pair would be a disaster at the beginning. I have to say that I was a little disappointed in Allen's performance, though. He was playing sheltered minutes again and couldn't break even.
Is it just me or is Jaro Spacek everything we wanted Kaberle to be? Finished positive in scoring chances, created three powerplay chances and even scored a goal. He's been playing slightly tougher minutes than what Kaberle did and has outperformed him in both underlying and counting numbers. Shooting percentages and puck luck aside.
Head-to-head at 5-on-5.
As you can see, most of Gleason's success came against the Kesler line and not the Raymond-Sedin-Burrows line even though the former is a pretty tough unit to stop, as well. When it comes to guys who were able to slow down the Sedins, I would point to Eric Staal and Patrick Dwyer who neutralized them whenever they were on the ice. With Staal's "struggles" this year, it's easy to forget how good he can be defensively.
Drayson Bowman fed on soft competition in this game and that's what I would expect a young forward like him to do. Sure, it would have been nice to see how blow away Bieksa & Hamhuis but he isn't quite ready for that level yet. Productive soft-minute forward though? Definitely. He did do some big time damage on Alex Edler and Sami Salo, though. Both of whom had bad nights.
The one line who got to that Bieksa-Hamhuis pairing was the second line of Ruutu, Ponikarovsky and Jokinen who were able to get physical with those two and fight their way to the front of the net and create chances. That's how it's done when you take on a physical (and slightly dirty) defense tandem like those two. Ruutu and Bieksa certainly got into it a few times.
One thing Vancouver prides itself on is having a strong bottom-six circulated around a great defensive forward in Manny Malhotra. Despite that, he and the rest of the 'Nucks bottom-six were very ineffecitve tonight and I'm guessing this had to do with Vingeault not getting the matchup he wanted. Staal was matched up with Sedin in the defensive zone for the most part while Malhotra had to take on the Jokinen line...and got demolished. Although, they are missing about three depth forwards right now and are dressing a seventh defenseman in one of those spots so that likely has something to do with it.
|VAN||1||14:41||Bieksa - GOAL||4||8||16||21||30||59||2||3||17||20||35||36||5v5|
|VAN||2||10:09||Raymond - GOAL||4||6||12||21||30||39||2||3||14||21||33||35||5v5|
|CAR||2||4:08||Bowman - GOAL||4||8||12||13||21||30||6||23||27||29||35||40||5v5|
|CAR||2||0:52||Ruutu - GOAL||5||6||15||23||30||36||2||3||14||21||33||35||5v5|
|CAR||3||19:23||Bowman - GOAL||8||16||19||28||30||59||2||3||17||20||35||36||5v5|
|CAR||3||13:48||Spacek - GOAL||8||12||15||28||36||37||2||3||14||17||35||5v4|
|VAN||3||11:20||Burrows - GOAL||4||6||16||19||30||59||4||14||21||33||35||41||5v5|