Despite it being the home opener, last night's game against the Detroit Red Wings was one that many fans didn't go into with high expectations. The Hurricanes are a team that's currently in transition while Detroit goes into every year with playoff and Stanley Cup aspirations. I mentioned in my preview that the most I was hoping for was for the Hurricanes to edge out a win and they were 18 seconds away from doing just that. I won't try to pretend that the Canes were the better team tonight, because they weren't, but it was disappointing to see the Hurricanes lose a game that they played well enough to win.
Overall, Detroit outplayed Carolina and earned the two points but Carolina did enough to hang with them and played with a lead for a good majority of the contest. Yet, all it took was a bad line change and a net mouth scramble in the dying seconds of the third period for the Wings to tie the game and they finished the job in overtime with Stephen Weiss scoring the game winner. There were some things to be encouraged about in this game. The Hurricanes team defense looked improved from where it was last season, Cam Ward was great and they came away unscathed on two penalty kills but ultimately, they ended up back where they were last season. That being a team that couldn't get the job done in the end and let another winnable game fall out of their hands.
This is where we're reminded that the Hurricanes are still a young team and when you are playing against a group of seasoned veterans like Detroit, one or two mistakes will often cost you the game and this is what happened here. The mistakes are fixable but this has been the story for the last 10 months and the results haven't been much different. Carolina can skate away from this game with some positives to think about, as many expected them to be overwhelmed, but I'm sure that's the last thing on their mind's right now. Detroit is a very good team and the Canes inexperience showed in the final minutes of this game. This probably won't be their first tough loss of the season, but hopefully we'll see them start to win more games like this as the season goes on.
Stats, scoring chances & a whole lot more after the jump
Fenwick Chart from Extra Skater
Earlier I said that the Wings outplayed Carolina overall and this illustrates that point clearly. The Wings outshot Carolina 34-21 at even strength and had the better of the territorial play for most of the game. Carolina looked very good in the second period and for some of the third but overall, Detroit won the possession battle. That's what the Wings do, though. They're an elite team at five-on-five and Carolina breaking even with them in a close game would have been considered a victory in my book. Alas, Detroit spent a most of the final five minutes hemming Carolina into their own zone and eventually wore them down enough to tie the game.
Although, despite Carolina not having a lot of zone time, the chances did not end up as lopsided as one might think.
The Hurricanes actually tied Detroit in chances when playing five-on-five, showing that they did a pretty good job of defending when the terms were even. I though this was evident in the first period, where Detroit doubled up the Canes in shots but many of them were from the outside and Ward had no trouble stopping them. IT's also worth mentioning that five of the Wings "even strength" chances came when they had the net empty or during overtime when it was four-on-four. So the Canes weren't that outmatched during five-on-five play.
Unfortunately, Detroit got two of their goals in those situations and that is the only thing that matters in the end. Carolina was way too passive during the empty net sequence, focusing too much on blocking shots rather than getting to the puck and clearing it, and Detroit controlled most of the overtime period which resulted in them taking home a 3-2 win. Again, there were some things to be encouraged about but the way Carolina lost this game will leave a bitter taste in everyone's mouth for another day or so.
Hurricanes Individual Scoring Chances
Best EV Forward: Riley Nash +3
Worst EV Forwards: Eric Staal & Jiri Tlusty -3
Best EV Defensemen: Jay Harrison & Brett Bellemore +1
Worst EV Defensemen: Justin Faulk & Andrej Sekera -2
- Faulk and Sekera come away with the worst scoring chance differential among defensemen and they were underwater in terms of possession, as well but I didn't think either had a bad game. Faulk actually looked very good in his own end tonight and he had to do a lot of work to bail out his teammates. His poke on Henrik Zetterberg to deny a scoring chance and the turnover he forced against Pavel Datsyuk were particularly impressive. He looks a lot stronger this year and looked like a competent shutdown defenseman last night. Although, the numbers disagree with this assessment. Faulk wasn't awful by any stretch, but he was on the ice for over half of the game's total 5v5 scoring chances and about 47% of the total shot attempts. Showing that he did have some issues when it came to preventing offense. Overall, though I would say that he was Carolina's most impressive player last night.
- The "second line" of Nathan Gerbe, Jordan Staal & Patrick Dwyer was also impressive and Carolina's best offensive unit. They were really the only unit who I thought tilted the ice in Carolina's favor and consistently created chances. Jordan's strength along the boards and Gerbe's willingness to go to the net and shoot whenever he has the opportunity makes them a good duo and I'd expect them to stay together for at least a few more games.
- Jordan Staal's line started seven of their 5v5 shifts in the defensive zone and one would think that this could have freed up Riley Nash & Jeff Skinner's line to easier assignments. This didn't happen. Nash took only one draw in the offensive zone and Skinner started only two of his shifts there, which was some odd player deployment on Muller's part. That said, these two looked very good and produced Carolina's only even strength goal of the game. It was a bit of a fluky goal with Dvorak deflecting in a long (slow) feed from Skinner, but they all count.
- The first line had a terrible game and there's no sense in sugar coating it. Alex Semin had his moments and nearly made it 3-1 in the third period, but I didn't think he played his best game either. He seemed to force some passes that weren't there and it led to him turning the puck over a couple times. His linemates weren't much better, though as Tlusty was invisible and Staal looked very slow on the back-check on the game-winner. These three were also guilty of a bad line change that led to Abdelkader's goal. You need your best players to be at the top of their game against a team like Detroit and Carolina's definitely were not last night.
- Brett Bellemore & Ron Hainsey played a lot of minutes tonight and were two of Carolina's better defensemen both in terms of shot differential and scoring chances. They were on the ice for the game-winning goal but I thought they had a solid night otherwise. Although, a lot of their time on ice came against Weiss' line and Muller kept them away from Datsyuk at all costs.
- There isn't much to say about Elias Lindholm's NHL debut. He wasn't good or bad. He was just kind of there and didn't make much of an impact. He was also held to fourth line minutes and wasn't given a chance to do much in the third period, playing only two shifts.
Red Wings Individual Scoring Chances
Best EV Forward: Justin Abdelkader +5
Worst EV Forwards: Daniel Cleary & Todd Bertuzzi -3
Best EV Defenseman: Jonathan Ericsson +2
Worst EV Defensemen: Kyle Quincey & Brendan Smith -2
Head-to-Head at Five-on-Five
Abdelkader-Datsyuk-Zetterberg was the line responsible for most of the Wings offense and they ran wild on Carolina's top-six. Jordan Staal's line did their best to fight them to a draw but that was negated by the damage they did to Eric Staal's line. Faulk/Sekera also had issues containing them at even strength. The Canes first lien was also completely shut down by Kronwall & Ericsson, which I thought would be a decent matchup for them.
|Player||# of entries||Shots generated||Carry-ins||Shots generated||Dump-ins||Shots generated||Failed Entries|
The Canes didn't have an awful game in the neutral zone, but it was poor by their standards, seeing how they had control on about 45% of their entries. However, an interesting observation here is that they were generating more offense off dump-ins rather than controlled entries. They had a pretty strong forecheck going in the third period and were forcing the Wings to turn the puck over a lot, so perhaps this is why. I wouldn't count on it being sustainable because evidence suggests that controlled entries lead to more offense, but the Canes had some decent success playing dump-and-chase last night.
The problem with this method is that there is a limited amount of offense you can create when you rely on puck retrieval & turnovers for your offense. Especially when you have guys like Skinner, Semin & the Staal brothers, who are very dangerous in open ice.
|Player||# of entries||Shots generated||Carry-ins||Shots generated||Dump-ins||Shots generated||Failed Entries|
To no one's surprise, Detroit played more of a puck possession game, which is why they ended up winning the territorial battle. Granted, a little under half of their controlled entries came from their first lien but that's the unit that gave the Hurricanes the most trouble and here you see why. Zetterberg was an animal in the neutral zone and the Wings were able to do something positive on most of his shifts.
Strangely enough, their second line reverted to dumping the puck in a lot as only eight of their 18 entries were with control and half of them were from Johan Franzen.
Ryan Murphy isn't at the level of Joni Pitkanen quite yet, but he does add that extra element that the Canes are missing with him out of the lineup. That being the ability to carry the puck up the ice. Murphy was able to exit the zone cleanly six times on 13 attempts and only had one turnover in his own zone during five-on-five play. He was basically the opposite of his partner, Harrison, who failed to advance the puck on 20 attempts.
The Hainsey/Bellemore pairing also had trouble with moving the play out of their zone despite posting some solid underlying numbers. They didn't turn it over that much, but something tells me that breakouts aren't going to be their specialty. Although, one thing I do like about their game is how they opted for safe, smarter plays instead of trying to go up the middle or do everything on their own.
These numbers do tend to support the eye test (I thought Riley Nash played a great game), and they make me feel a bit better about things. The second and third lines were the ones we were worried about, and they played great. Yeah, the first line struggled, but we have history saying they'll figure things out. If the second and third can keep up their strong play (especially when Ruutu comes back) and the first can come on, Carolina should be in the mix.