25 even strengths on goal. That is all the Carolina Hurricanes could muster up tonight against the Flyers in what felt like a grueling loss even though the final score ended up only 5-3. Both teams had been officially eliminated from playoff contention last night, so a win or loss doesn't mean a whole lot tonight right now but the team's compete level and play at even strength is still something I'm keeping an eye on and it was very poor tonight. Carolina hasn't had much luck against the Flyers ever since they moved to Raleigh (they've won 30 out of 117 games against Philly), but I'm not going to hang onto that as an excuse, especially when you look at the year the Flyers are having.
This is a Flyers team that has been very poor this year and has been destroyed by injuries. Half of their defense corps tonight had a combined 56 games of NHL experience, and the Hurricanes could barely put a dent in them during even strength play. Adding to that, they were guilty of multiple defensive breakdowns and allowed the Flyers top-nine to have a field day. We could have seen a repeat of the Buffalo-New York game last night were the Rangers put up eight goals if it wasn't for Justin Peters doing his best to keep the Hurricanes in it during the first period. He can only do so much, though and the Hurricanes certainly aren't going to win many games where they rely on him to bail them out of their troubles. They found this out the hard way a few times over the last month and tonight was no different.
I've been saying for awhile that the Hurricanes are a better team than what their record shows but tonight, they looked more like a team that has won only two games in the span of a month and belongs at the bottom of the Eastern Conference. Just a bad game by the entire team with very few exceptions.
Philadelphia Flyers at Carolina Hurricanes 4/20/13
The Hurricanes came out looking flat tonight, as the Flyers just pummeled them in the opening frame, registering four unanswered scoring chances in the first five minutes. They managed to survive this early barrage but the Flyers eventually got one through in the form of a breakaway goal from Jakub Voracek. It looked like this would be a route but the old theory I have is that no game is over when you are facing Steve Mason in net. Surely enough, this rang true later in the period when the Hurricanes were able to tie it on a bit of a lucky goal from Jeff Skinner.
Being able to escape a period like that with the score tied gave the Hurricanes an opportunity to "restart" things in a way and potentially turn things around. We've seen them do this plenty of times before this season but that definitely did not happen tonight. The Flyers continued to throttle Carolina at the start of the second period and basically trap them in their own zone for 70% of the frame. They had trouble containing all of Philadelphia's top-nine and covering the front of the net and they didn't create much offense because the Flyers were able to bottle them up in the neutral zone well. The ending result being the Hurricanes getting outchanced by six and crushed in the territorial game.
The final score was closer than it should have been because Peters was lights out in the first period and Mason let in a couple of goals that he would probably want back, but this all evened out eventually and the Flyers got the victory they deserved. Peters eventually broke down and let in a soft goal to Wayne Simmonds at the beginning the third period to give the Flyers a two-goal cushion and the Hurricanes couldn't muster up enough offense to make up for the difference. It wasn't a "burn the tape" type of game, but still an ugly performance.
Hurricanes Individual Scoring Chances
Best EV Forward: Kevin Westgarth +1
Worst EV Forwards: Jeff Skinner & Patrick Dwyer -2
Best EV Defenseman: Marc-Andre Bergeron +2
Worst EV Defenseman: Joe Corvo -6
Whenever the only guys with a positive shot or scoring chance differential are players who had under 11 minutes of even strength ice time, it's a sign that the entire team played a poor game. This was the case last night and it's especially true regarding the first line. They may have produced a goal and played well in the third period but they were off for the first 40 minutes. It's evident when you look at how badly the team got outshot during even strength play when Eric Staal & Alexander Semin were on the ice and it's also been happening a little too often for my liking as of late. The line did produce a good chunk of the Hurricanes offense at even strength, but they also gave it back at the other end and had a pretty disastrous shift that led to Wayne Simmonds' second goal. Both Staal, Semin & Tlusty got stuck in their own end for a good minute while the Flyers endlessly cycled the puck and won every battle. They got tired and it resulted in Simmonds jumping off the bench to connect on a one-timer. The fact that it happened immediately after the Hurricanes tied the game made it even worse.
The second line also had a rough game defensively and the way their performance went was kind of the opposite from the first line's. While it took them until the third period to show up to the party, Jordan Staal's line provided Carolina's only offense in the first period and seemed to be the only trio that could contain the zone. After that, they weren't very noticeable. Skinner's goal was the only scoring chance he got on net and Tuomo Ruutu was the only player on this line who crated any chances in the second and third period.
The Canes were starved for bottom-six production yet again as their first and second lines produced all but two of Carolina's coring chances and they had off-games, so it's pretty easy to see what went wrong here. However, the fourth line also generated the Hurricanes second goal of the game (scored by Justin Faulk) and Kevin Westgarth made an impressive play to contain the zone prior to it. Even though this line never gets to play much, I was hoping Muller would give them a few more shifts because they were the only line that was actually tilting the ice in Carolina's favor for the first two periods, as sad as that sounds. It's hard to justify giving the fourth line minutes when you need goals, but Westgarth, Blanchard & Wallace were doing a lot of good things in this game so I wouldn't have been against using them a little more.
None of the players in the defense corps had good games in my eyes. Justin Faulk scored a goal, led the team in shots with four and was a +3, but both him and Gleason had a lot of trouble containing the Flyers. Remember, the final score could have been a lot worse and Peters had to bail the Canes out a few times. Faulk & Gleason were guilty of many of these breakdowns. The same can be said for Jay Harrison & Joe Corvo, who were both torn apart during even strength play. The only defense pairing that didn't get crushed in the scoring chance department was Jamie McBain & Marc-Andre Bergeron, and they were both on the ice for multiple Flyers goals.
Bergeron & McBain are capable of providing a decent amount of offense but the risk you run by putting them together is that they are disasters waiting to happen when it comes to defensive zone play. We saw this on Simmonds' first goal where Bergeron looked like a pylon and the Matt Read breakaway goal where McBain was caught deep after Bergeron had one of his slapshots blocked in front. None of them were able to contribute any points so this pairing ended up being a net loss for the Canes. Case and point, three of the four Philadelphia scoring chances McBain was on the ice for ended up being goals.
Flyers Individual Scoring Chances
Best EV Forward: Sean Couturier +4
Worst EV Forwards: Jay Rosehill, Ruslan Fedotenko, Brayden Schenn & Simon Gagne EVEN
Best EV Defenseman: Brandon Manning +6
Worst EV Defensemen: Kimmo Timonen & Erik Gustafsson EVEN
The Flyers were able to outscore their problems and make up for basically all of their defensive shortcomings at the other end of the rink. Part of the reason for this was due to the excellent play of Sean Couturier & Claude Giroux's line, who gave the Hurricanes fits all game. Smmonds was the one who got the ultimate reward with a hat trick, one of his goals coming on the tail end of a shift by Couturier's line. The Flyers defense corps gave up a fair amount of chances but were on the ice for enough offense to make up for it. Their third pairing in particular had a very impressive game, being on the ice for quite a bit of offense while not playing a lot of minutes.
Head-to-Head at Five-on-Five
Muller must have a lot of confidence in Eric Staal because he used him in a power-vs.-power situation against Claude Giroux for most of this game. I'm not sure if this was the wisest strategy because Staal ended up getting lit up defensively tonight and using Eric in a strength vs. strength role just seems to mitigate the impact of Jordan Staal. The whole point of having Jordan is to free up Eric's line to easier matchups since he is better defensively and can handle tougher minutes. Jordan also has a lot of experience playing against Giroux from his days in Pittsburgh, so this may have not been the best game to deploy this kind of strategy. Although, the Flyers possess a pretty deep top-nine and have a lot of different forwards they can hurt you with, as evidenced by Simmonds recording a hat trick and the third line having to play a lot of their minutes against Couturier & Read.
For being the home team, the Hurricanes sure had a lot of weaker matchups exposed last night. Harrison/Corvo were destroyed by the Flyers first line along with pretty much everyone else they faced. Adding to that, Timonen & Gustafsson completely shutdown Carolina's first line and were dominated by Couturier's line whenever they were out against each other. Jordan Staal's line also had a rough game all around as even the Flyers third defense pairing did a lot of damage against them.
Carolina had trouble creating offense tonight and most of that was due to their inability to get anything going in the neutral zone. They dumped the puck in on nearly 60% of their 5v5 zone entries and generated a whopping 14 shot attempts off those dump-ins. All but seven of their carry-ins came from the top-six and even they were resorting to dump-and-chase play a lot, Jiri Tlusty, the Staal Brothers and Skinner bieng the greatest offenders here. The Hurricanes also had no controlled entries by defensemen, that isn't good.
The Hurricanes had trouble containing the Flyers in the middle of the ice last night, allowing them to enter the zone with control on 60% of their entries and the Flyers were making just about all of them count. They seemed to have one key player on each line leading their rushes through the neutral zone with Voracek, Briere and Read doing most of the heavy lifting. Simmonds was the one with three goals, but the hard work of his linemates was a reason why he had such a big game. The Flyers had a nice system going last night where everyone in their top-nine played to each other's strengths. Granted, Carolina kind of made it easy on them since they had a ton of open ice to work with.
|1||PHI||13:00||Voracek - GOAL||11||53||15||4||44||35||28||93||12||3||32||35||5v5|
|1||CAR||6:42||Skinner - GOAL||11||53||15||6||27||35||14||48||19||22||38||35||5v5|
|2||PHI||18:06||Simmonds - GOAL||11||39||59||4||47||35||10||17||24||3||32||35||5v5|
|2||CAR||12:41||Faulk - GOAL||72||8||29||6||27||35||28||93||12||22||38||35||5v5|
|2||PHI||11:27||Simmonds - GOAL||12||19||28||44||77||35||14||17||24||32||44||35||5v5|
|3||CAR||17:14||E. Staal - GOAL||12||19||28||6||27||35||28||93||12||32||38||35||5v5|
|3||PHI||12:57||Read - GOAL||20||29||39||4||47||35||10||17||24||29||32||35||5v5|