Sometimes the most frustrating losses come after your teams plays a relatively good game but makes a few mistakes that end up costing them dearly. This was the case with the Hurricanes loss to the Washington Capitals last night. Save for a weak start to the second period, I don't think anyone is going to be questioning this team's effort last night since they were the better team for most of the game and did just about everything they could to tie things up at the end. They put up 38 shots against Washington, over 20 of them being scoring chances and got a great performance out of their top line which should have been enough to win the game.
I've talked a lot about how the Canes have some room for mistakes with their lead in the Southeast Division and they had plenty of breathing room heading into the first intermission with a 2-0 lead last night. However, the more mistakes you make, the slimmer the margin of error becomes and everything gets magnified. This is what happened when the Hurricanes came out flat for the first five minutes of the second period and allowed the Caps to get back into the game. Now any error has a chance of resulting in a tie game and that's exactly what followed Eric Staal's high-sticking penalty at the end of the second period as Alex Ovechkin scored on the ensuing Caps powerplay. Caps goaltender Michal Neuvirth was also playing at the top of his game, which meant that the margin of error was now at zero and the next mistake could end up costing the Hurricanes the game.
One bad line change later and the Hurricanes found themselves down 3-2 and getting no points out of a game that they could have easily gotten one in. This loss can mean very little if the Hurricanes beat Tampa Bay, but they are going to look at this game and see it as a missed opportunity to pad their lead in the Southeast Division. Whether or not it really hurts them at the end of the year remains to be seen, but it can easily be pointed to as one of those games the team let slip away from them if they do finish out of the race.
Washington Capitals at Carolina Hurricanes 3/14/13
Some people are going to point to the second period as to where the Hurricanes lost this game and while they let the Caps back into the game then, it isn't what lost it for them. They were still leading at the end of that frame and had plenty of chances to take the lead after the Caps tied it at the beginning of the third period. They just could not finish their chances and committed a bad mistake at the worst time possible as the third period was winding down. Their performance the rest of the game was a bit of a letdown after the great first period, but they still won the battle at even strength and overall which is why it's frustrating that this game ended up in a loss.
The powerplay was also a reason for their struggles even if it doesn't seem like it here. They created six scoring chances and half of them came in the same sequence at the end of the first period while two of their other chances came during one sequence in the third period. Aside from that, the Canes powerplay looked completely helpless even if they were creating chances. They could barely contain the zone or establish possession much less create consistent pressure. The penalty kill might be getting better but this powerplay remains a huge problem.
Hurricanes Individual Scoring Chances
Best EV Forward: Eric Staal +4
Worst EV Forward: Jussi Jokinen -3
Best EV Defensemen: Bobby Sanguinetti & Jamie McBain +5
Worst EV Defenseman: Joe Corvo -4
The Hurricanes got an outstanding performance by their top line last night with these three providing most of their offense and Eric Staal having one of his better performance of the year. All of the hard work he did will be mitigated by some because of his two penalties, but he definitely did his job when it came to providing scoring chances, being on-ice for 14 overall. Semin also did his part by producing six of the 13 scoring chances he was on-ice for.
While the top line thrived, the second line had some issues creating chances against the Washington top-six. It was a strange turn of events after how well they played in Washington the other night, so I'm not sure what was wrong with them last night. I thought Jordan Staal did a fine job at carrying the play but he they weren't exactly creating many great chances and Staal passed up an opportunity at a great one (literally) in the second period. They were the only line who had a negative scoring chance differential at even strength, which is a little surprising because the Riley Nash line didn't have a great night at controlling play, but it appears that they didn't give up many prime chances.
The fourth line was guilty of some bad back-checking on the Joey Crabb goal and the most frustrating about this is that it was the only Washington scoring chance they were on-ice for. Bobby Sanguinetti had a similar night where he played a great game aside from the one scoring chance allowed, which just happened to end up in the back of his net. He didn't look good on that Crabb goal either, which is too bad because he played really well otherwise. Both he and Jamie McBain are starting to settle in as a good third-pairing and continue to provide a decent offensive presence from the back-end while not allowing many chances against.
This brings me to my next question; why weren't either of them used on the powerplay last night? Both have good offensive skillsets and have put up solid scoring numbers in the past. Giving them a look on the powerplay could be worth a shot because it really can not get any worse at this point.
Capitals Individual Scoring Chances
Best EV Forward: Eric Fehr +4
Worst EV Forwards: Nicklas Backstrom & Jason Chimera -3
Best EV Defenseman: Tom Poti +6
Worst EV Defensemen: Steve Olesky & Jeff Schultz -6
Something that might be overlooked in a bad year for Washington is the terrific play of defenseman John Carlson. He was on-ice for over half of Washington's even strength scoring chances last night and has been terrific at keeping the play in front of him against tough matchups. Carlson was on-ice for a few chances against, but he outplayed the majority of Washington's defense by a longshot. The only one who had a better game statistically was Tom Poti and guess who he spent half of his ice-time with. With Tomas Kuntdratek going down early in the first period, someone on the Caps was going to have to pick up the slack. Common sense would lead one to believe that Carlson would be that guy but it was actually Steve Oleksy. I think his numbers speak for themselves.
Head-to-Head at Five-on-Five
Faulk/Harrison spent the majority of this game matched up against the Ovechkin line and they did a pretty good job of keeping him in check at even strength. Ovechkin helped set up the game-winning goal when Gleason and Corvo were on the ice and that was after a terrible line change but even after taking that into account, they still had trouble containing #8 all night. Jordan Staal's line also struggled to control Washington's better forwards as they were beaten pretty badly by Backstrom & Johansson in the scoring chance department. Kirk Muller had the right idea in mind by getting Jordan Staal out against the Backstrom line, but the plan wasn't executed as well as it could have been.
|1||CAR||18:46||Semin - GOAL||12||19||28||4||24||31||90||16||20||36||55||30||5v5|
|1||CAR||11:43||Dwyer - GOAL||20||39||21||6||77||31||9||42||25||55||74||30||5v5|
|2||WSH||14:04||Crabb - GOAL||37||29||58||24||27||31||83||15||24||27||74||30||5v5|
|3||WSH||18:59||Ovechkin - GOAL||29||36||24||44||31||9||19||20||8||74||30||4v5|
|3||WSH||2:19||Ribeiro - GOAL||12||19||28||6||77||31||9||16||8||3||74||30||5v5|