For the second game in a row, the Hurricanes outchanced their opponents only to come out on the losing end of a blowout. Despite outchancing both Florida and Tampa Bay by a combined 40-34 and 32-23 at even strength, the Canes have been outscored 2-9 and now find themselves starting the year with an 0-2-0 record. This is frustrating to watch, but the fact that Carolina has been winning the battles at even strength should mean that better days are on the horizon. I mean, simple regression should tell you that the Hurricanes aren't going to continue to shoot at less than 3% forever and Ward won't continue to let in more than 20% of the shots he faces in the long-run. So this team isn't as bad as their -7 goal differential through two games would lead you to believe.
There are some problems with this team, though and the main killer in both games has been slow starts. They had a parade to the penalty box in the first period against Florida resulting in three powerplay goals against. The same trend continued against Tampa Bay, as the Hurricanes created only three scoring chances (despite several offensive zone draws) and allowed two early goals to put themselves in a 2-0 hole heading into the first intermission. Carolina managed to wake up after that and ended up on the right side of the shots and scoring chance ledger, but the slow starts are something that really needs to be fixed. Cam Ward hasn't been playing well enough to bail them out of it and they can't keep spotting teams 1-2 goals five minutes into the game.
Scoring chance breakdown coming after the jump.
Carolina Hurricanes vs. Tampa Bay Lightning 1/22/13
This illustrates what I said in the introduction. The Canes got off to a horrible start and spent the rest of the game climbing out of the hole they dug themselves into. They actually had the game within reach in the second period, but two goals in the third by Tampa made the lead insurmountable. Most of the chances the Hurricanes created in the third came with the less than five minutes remaining when score effects had already taken their toll, so the fact that they had a +4 chance differential in this game isn't as impressive as it may appear. Lightning goaltender Mathieu Garon definitely had to work late in the game to keep it 4-1 but it wouldn't have made much of a difference regarding the Canes having a chance to win. At least the penalty kill didn't totally stink.
Carolina Individual Scoring Chances
Best EV Forwards: Patrick Dwyer & Jordan Staal +4
Worst EV Forward: Jussi Jokinen -4
Best EV Defenseman: Jay Harrison & Joe Corvo +2
Worst EV Defenseman: Bobby Sanguinetti & Joni Pitkanen EVEN
Remember how I said that Jussi Jokinen's line could have a potential breakout game? Boy, was I wrong there. He along with LaRose and Skinner created zero even strength scoring chances when they played together and somehow allowed Tom Pyatt's line to run them over. Skinner was a non-factor until he was bumped up to Eric Staal's line late in the third period and all of the scoring chances he was on-ice for came when he was with that unit. I'd expect him to stay there for at least the next game as Kirk Muller will continue to play with the lineups until he finds four units who can work well together.
One unit that did manage to work well was Jordan Staal's line with Jiri Tlusty and Patrick Dwyer, who were terrific in all three zones. I didn't expect this unit to produce much offense since Dwyer has a limited skill-set but he was on-ice for four scoring chances and didn't surrender any in his own end. Meanwhile, Jordan Staal won his matchup against the Stamkos line and produced an impressive amount of offense to go with it. That's exactly why the Canes acquried him.
Eric Staal and Alexander Semin gave up a lot of scoring chances in their own end but they were also responsible for about half of Carolina's offense last night. Semin was on-ice for nine of Carolina's 13 scoring chances and 14 of the 19 total chances they created in the entire game. I should also mention that he created five of them on his own, including one shorthanded bid. The pucks are going to go in for him eventually if he keeps this up, because he was a force offensively.
Defense wasn't exactly a major problem for the Canes last night since they gave up only 11 scoring chances at even strength, but the pairing of Joni PItkanen and Bobby Sanguinetti had a lot of problems when it came to playing in their own end. Sure, they were on-ice for six even strength chances thanks to that late flurry by Eric Staal's line, but they were also on-ice for OVER HALF of the scoring chances Carolina gave up. It's safe to say that these two won't be playing together for awhile.
On a more positive note, Tim Gleason and Justin Faulk had a fantastic night defensively, surrendering only two scoring chances when they played together and Faulk had a great night against the Stamkos line. His offensive production was much lower than it was on Saturday night but the fact that he got the job done in a shutdown role against one of the league's best goal-scorers is very impressive. Whether or not these two stay together will depend on what Muller wants to do with Faulk because while they have the makings of a good shutdown pairing, it may come at the expense of Faulk's offensive upside. At the same time, the Canes have enough puck-movers on their blue-line that they will probably take that trade-off.
As for Corvo and Harrison, they were harmless and got the job done as the third-pairing, which is all you can ask of them.
Lightning Individual Scoring Chances
|26||Martin St. Louis||15:14||2||6||5:04||1||1||0:00||0||0|
Best EV Forward: Tom Pyatt +4
Worst EV Forward: Martin St. Louis -4
Best EV Defenseman: Victor Hedman +2
Worst EV Defenseman: Eric Brewer -4
Head-to-Head at Five-on-Five
The most frustrating part about yesterday's game? Jordan Staal's line dominated, Stamkos & St. Louis but the Hurricanes couldn't take advantage of it because the Jokinen line was outplayed by Tom Pyatt, Benoit Pouliot and Nate Thompson. Pitkanen and Sanguinetti were also beaten up by the Lecavalier line and Carolina's more protected players couldn't do anything against Tampa Bay's third defense unit. Those are matchups the Canes have to take advantage of in the future. Victor Hedman and Matt Carle did a nice job against Eric Staal's line, though.
Scoring Chance Log
|1||TBL||14:42||Pyatt - GOAL||53||59||36||24||25||30||4||11||67||6||25||32||5v5|
|1||TBL||8:24||Conacher - GOAL||12||28||21||24||25||30||4||89||16||6||77||32||5v5|
|2||CAR||16:25||Skinner - GOAL||11||12||53||28||27||30||89||18||2||77||32||5v4|
|3||TBL||18:23||Aulie - GOAL||53||59||36||44||77||30||11||44||67||3||29||32||5v5|
|3||TBL||10:03||Malone - GOAL||11||37||6||27||30||91||26||12||6||25||32||4v5|