The Hurricanes have been a pretty decent team at even strength so far this year but their underlying numbers are skewed heavily due to the fact that they have been forced to play from behind in all but two of their games. This is partially the reason why they have outchanced their opponents in every game this year and why most of their players have very positive underlying numbers. The usual solution to these problems is to only include stats from when the game was tied but Carolina's games have been tied for maybe a combined 60 minutes at the most, which is obviously too small of a sample size to make a judgment call on. We should find out just how "good" this team is at even strength in the upcoming weeks when they get more games under their belt.
Unfortunately, last night's game against the Toronto Maple Leafs probably did nothing but make their underlying numbers even more strange. The Hurricanes were dominated for the first 20 minutes and outchanced 11-4 by Toronto but they went into the locker room only down 1-0 thanks to the stellar goaltending of Cam Ward. They managed to pull a complete 180 in the second period and held the Leafs to only two scoring chances while producing 10 of their own. They ended up being outchanced 21-20 by the end of the game but that's actually pretty impressive when you consider how bad they played in the first period.
Ward's goaltending was able to bail out the Hurricanes after a bad first period but the team did a nice job of responding and taking over the game after that.
Carolina Hurricanes at Toronto Maple Leafs 2/5/13
Carolina actually had the upper-hand at even strength in this game and it's all because of their play in the second period where they suffocated the Maple Leafs. They were playing with the score tied or close for most of that frame, so it's good to see that they were able to control possession without the aid of score effects this time. Their powerplay scored twice and their penalty kill went 5/5 on the night, but neither unit was very good in terms of producing and preventing scoring chances.
Most of their damage on the powerplay was done while they were playing with a two-man advantage while they created only one scoring chance during a 5v4 play. That still needs to be worked on. Meanwhile, their penalty kill gave up seven scoring chances to the Leafs but didn't allow a goal thanks to Cam Ward playing his best game of the season. Again, more work needs to be done there before we start celebrating either unit. Carolina hasn't seen many bounces go in their favor in this young season, but they did last night. On special teams, at least.
Hurricanes Individual Scoring Chances
Best EV Forward: Alexander Semin +5
Worst EV Forwards: Jussi Jokinen, Drayson Bowman, Chad LaRose -2
Best EV Defensemen: Jay Harrison & Bobby Sanguinetti +3
Worst EV Defenseman: Justin Faulk -3
The first line was much better than I initially thought, as they once again tipped the ice in Carolina's favor in terms of producing scoring chances, both at even strength and on the powerplay. They didn't produce an even strength goal all night but the opportunities were definitely there and they pretty much did their jobs when it came to producing offense while not giving up much at the other end. Semin had another very strong night.
After watching the game, I actually thought the Skinner-J.Staal-Dwyer line was Carolina's best in this game and while they were good offensively, they gave up just as much at the other end. Randy Carlyle had the Mikhail Grabovski line out against this trio for most of the game and they did a fine job of at least neutralizing Staal at even strength, save for the two particular instances when they scored.
With Dwyer now on the second line and LaRose being moved up in his place, it's not surprise that the third line struggled. This trio got their lunch handed to them in the first period by the Kadri line and couldn't do much to drive the period at all for the rest of the game. The Canes may need to do something to help improve this line because Dwyer isn't going anywhere for the next few games and it's clear that Bowman, Jokinen & LaRose do not work well together for whatever reason.
Justin Faulk played a ton of minutes at even strength and he ended up having probably his worst game defensively, as he was on-ice for over half of the Leafs even strength chances. Most of that damage was done in the first period when the Canes were getting run over by the Leafs but he had trouble containing the Leafs. Joni Pitkanen and Jamie McBain had similar issues in the first period but they managed to turn in a respectable performance by the end of the game.
It's pretty surprising that Harrison & Sanguinetti ended up being Carolina's best defensemen tonight because they were the ones who were on-ice for the only Toronto goal of the game. That goal was the only chance they were on-ice for in the first period, though and they actually had a quiet, but good performance for the rest of the game.
Maple Leafs Individual Scoring Chances
|21||James Van Riemsdyk||14:28||4||6||5:23||5||0||0:40||0||0|
Best EV Forwards: Mikhail Grabovski, Nikolai Kulemin & Clarke Macarthur +2
Worst EV Forwards: Jay McClement & Phil Kessel -3
Best EV Defenseman: Mark Fraser +3
Worst EV Defensemen: Dion Phaneuf, Mikchael Kostka & Korbinian Holzer -2
The Grabovski line made a huge mistake on Jordan Staal's goal by letting him sit alone at the front of the net, but they had a good night otherwise. Like I said earlier, I thought they did a fairly good job of pinning the J. Staal line in their own end when they could. Now, why that line was matched up with Jordan Staal in the first place is a mystery to me. I thought Carlyle would have put them out against Eric's line since that has been Carolina's best scoring unit and Grabovski, Kulemin and Macarthur are a good tough-minute line. Instead, Eric Staal went head to head with the Kessel line and won that matchup decisively.
Head-to-Head at Five-on-Five
Saying that I didn't understand Randy Carlyle's line matching would be an understatement. He kept Grabovski away from Eric Staal's line completely which allowed them to feast on every other line Toronto threw at them. There was even a point in the game where the Eric Staal line was out against Colton Orr, Jay McClement and Frazer McLaren. Having Liles and Holzer out against the E. Staal line long enough for them to create four scoring chances makes little sense either. Does Carlyle not pay attention to matchups or was this just a mistake? I hope for the Leafs sake that it was an accident.
Another interesting observation is that Gleason & Faulk did a fine job of keeping the Kessel line in check, but they did a poor job against the Leafs bottom-six and even surrendered a chance to the McClement line. The Komarov-Kadri-Frattin line has been hot lately, so I'll cut them some slack there but they still had a weak night defensively overall.
So, once again the Hurricanes top two lines were the ones to lead them to victory.
Scoring Chance Report
|1||TOR||14:16||Frattin - GOAL||37||53||29||24||44||30||43||39||21||24||55||34||5v5|
|2||CAR||18:40||J. Staal - GOAL||11||53||39||6||27||30||84||16||41||24||55||34||5v5|
|3||CAR||19:18||Faulk - GOAL||11||12||53||28||27||30||11||3||45||34||5v3|
|3||CAR||10:02||Dwyer - GOAL||11||53||39||6||27||30||42||81||21||4||24||34||5v5|