The 2013 season mercifully came to a close for the Hurricanes last night and they ended things in painful fashion by getting blown out 8-3 by the Pittsburgh Penguins. It's somewhat of an appropriate ending for what has been an excruciating year for the Canes but at the very least, it clinched them a spot in the top-five of the NHL Entry Draft which they will hopefully put to good use this June. As bad as the final score was of last night's game, it's kind of hard for me to get hung up on the results because Carolina iced a roster that was in shambles. They actually dressed 18 skaters tonight but two of them played a combined nine seconds, so the team was predictably worn out by the third period, where they surrendered five goals.
Not only that, but I feel like Muller approached this game like a pre-season contest because we saw line combinations that we will likely never see again for a long time. Kevin Westgarth took a few shifts with the first line and scored his first two goals of the season on top of that, Jared Staal played top-six minutes in only his second NHL game while Jeff Skinner continued to center the third line with grinders on his wings. Jamie McBain & Marc-Andre Bergeron also played top-four minutes on defense and spent some of their ice time against Pittsburgh's top-six. It's highly doubtful that the Hurricanes will come out with this kind of look ever again, so there's really no point in freaking out over them getting blown out in basically a meaningless game. The only thing that happened last night which we will undoubtedly see again is Justin Faulk playing over 29 minutes.
I really don't have much to say about this game, so I'll just leave you guys with the numbers and move on with the off-season.
Carolina Hurricanes at Pittsburgh Penguins
The underlying numbers weren't as gruesome as the final score but half of Pittsburgh's shots in the third period ended up beating Justin Peters and that's what won them the game. That and their powerplay actually showed up, which is more than can be said for Carolina's, which did absolutely nothing in seven minutes of 5v4 time. The Canes were still outplayed by a superior team for all 60 minutes which was to be expected.
Hurricanes Individual Scoring Chances
Best EV Forward: Kevin Westgarth +3
Worst EV Forward: Jeff Skinner -6
Best EV Defenseman: Bobby Sanguinetti +3
Worst EV Defensemen: Tim Gleason & Jamie McBain
The "experiment" of putting Westgarth on the first line actually worked out for the Canes since he scored two goals and actually helped the Hurricanes control the scoring chance battle. His second goal wasn't even a scoring chance, so his possession numbers ended up looking even better. There's a 88% chance that this is an anomaly but it has been nice to see him actually contribute for the last couple of weeks.
The experiment that didn't work out was putting Jeff Skinner at center on the third line as he was dominated last night. I'm not sure why they think that this is a good idea because while it does free him to easier matchups, it also gives him more defensive responsibility and I don't know if he can carry a line if they are going to put two grinders on his wings. It's just a bad plan and I think he would work better on the second line, which had a solid game last night.
While Bobby Sanguinetti was able to produce offensively, he gave up way too many chances for my liking and his defense partner, Jamie McBain, was destroyed. McBain was forced to take on more minutes with Harrison out & Corvo not playing and these are the risks you run when you do that against a talented team like Pittsburgh. Marc-Andre Bergeron also got throttled and he was playing more of a depth role.
Penguins Individual Scoring Chances
Best EV Forward: Evgeni Malkin +9
Worst EV Forward: Craig Adams -3
Best EV Defensemen: Mark Eaton & Kris Letang +4
Worst EV Defensemen: Paul Martin & Matt Niskanen -1
Almost everyone in Pittsburgh's lineup pitched into the scoring last night but the line that dominated the Hurricanes throughout was James Neal, Evgeni Malkin & Chris Kunitz. It's not the first time that Malkin has crushed the Hurricanes and it certainly won't be the last with these two teams being in the same division next year. Jussi Jokinen also had a good game and a two-goal performance against his former team.
Some Carolina players were ble to win their matchups and Jordan Staal did a fairly good job against Pittsburgh's second and third lines but that was undone by Malkin's line destroying everything in their path.
More of the same from the Canes with one weird observation being Tlusty leading a lot of the entries. The team wasn't generating much offense off them, unfortunately and the same can be said for Ruutu. It was nice to see Sanguinetti jump into the play a few times, though and I wish more of the defensemen would do that since most of them are just content to dump the puck in and nothing else.
The Pens first lien had 13 controlled zone entries and they generated 14 shot attempts off them during 5v5 play. Pretty much every forward but Sutter and Kennedy had strong games in the neutral zone for the Pens and they ended up dominating the Canes in this facet of the game as a result.
Carolina's defensemen didn't have too much of a problem with exiting the zone but their forwards were very careless with the puck. They advanced the puck out of the defensive zone only 47% of the time during 5v5 play and had 12 turnovers, Skinner being guilty of four of them. Sanguinetti and Faulk both had solid games when it came to making breakout passes and exiting the zone cleanly.
For Pittsburgh, their defensemen had a tough time when getting the puck out but their forwards were able to cover up for it. Although, it wouldn't surprise me if their overall numbers were dragged down because of Murray & Niskanen's inability to exit the zone since they wre considerably worse than the rest of their defense.
|1||PIT||9:11||Malkin - GOAl||72||29||4||24||35||71||10||18||7||58||29||4v5|
|2||PIT||15:50||Neal - GOAl||11||15||39||4||6||35||71||14||18||7||58||29||5v5|
|2||CAR||7:30||Westgarth - GOAl||12||19||8||24||27||35||48||27||15||7||58||29||5v5|
|2||PIT||3:51||Jokinen - GOAL||12||19||59||4||24||35||12||9||36||4||58||29||5v5|
|2||CAR||2:46||Ruutu - GOAL||11||15||39||6||24||35||12||9||36||2||47||29||5v5|
|3||PIT||18:24||Neal - GOAL||12||19||6||27||35||71||12||14||18||7||29||4v5|
|3||PIT||15:47||Neal - GOAL||53||72||13||27||47||35||71||14||8||2||3||29||5v5|
|3||PIT||14:36||Morrow - GOAL||12||19||59||4||47||35||71||14||18||2||3||29||5v5|
|3||PIT||4:17||Cooke - GOAL||11||13||15||27||47||35||16||10||24||7||47||29||5v5|