Out of all of the games on this road swing, Tuesday night's game against the Oilers was the one I was the most confident about. The Oilers have a lot of talent and some dangerous, young goal-scorers, but the Hurricanes match up more favorably against them than they do Vancouver, Calgary or Phoenix. They play an open style and while it results in them creating a lot of offense, they also have one of the worst defenses in the NHL. The Oilers rank near the bottom of the league in possession and most of it is due to them surrendering over 55 shot attempts per 60 minutes during five-on-five play. This was a chance for the Hurricanes to unleash some of their offense and have a big game.
However, much like the Oilers are a favorable matchup for the Hurricanes, the Oilers were probably coming into this game thinking the exact same thing. Like Edmonton, Carolina is a poor possession team with a defense that ranks near the bottom of the league in terms of shots allowed. Superior goaltending is the only thing keeping them from having a worse goal differential at even strength. It was basically two bad teams going up against each other with the Oilers having a slight advantage due to the Canes playing on the road the previous night.
The Hurricanes must have been really jet-lagged coming into this game because they did not look ready for this game at all and were dominated by the Oilers for the first 20 minutes. They trailed 3-1 after the first period and gave up a baffling 11 scoring chances to an Edmonton club which has struggled to carry the play against just about all of their opponents. Carolina managed to rally back from a three-goal deficit and escape this game with a point, but this was another case of the Canes letting their opponents dictate the play and decide how the game would be played. Seldom have the Hurricanes been the team that comes out strong in the first period and they end up fighting an uphill battle the rest of the game as a result. Now, the Canes being able to come back and earn points in these games isn't a bad thing, but if this club is going to be a contending team, it would benefit them to be more assertive instead of waiting to see what their opponent does first. Tuesday's overtime loss to the Oilers was probably the perfect example of this.
Fenwick Timeline from Extra Skater
If it wasn't for an early power play goal from Tuomo Ruutu, Carolina would have been in an even bigger hole after the first period because the Oilers completely dominated them during that frame. You can talk about how talented the Oilers are and how they are capable of doing this, but they have been a bad team for most of this season and the Hurricanes let them skate circles around their defense. The most discouraging part of that period was how much standing around the Canes were doing in their own zone. They weren't aggressive on the puck at all and were just waiting to see what the Oilers were going to do next instead of playing their game. Basically, they let the Oilers control the play and it could have easily been 5-1 with how much space they gave them in the neutral & offensive zones. You can see that the Canes improved as the game went on, but the Oilers were sitting on their lead at that point and let the Hurricanes do whatever they wanted. It ended up costing them, but Carolina putting themselves in a bad situation early was frustrating.
That said, there were a lot of things to like about this game and the fight that this club has shown is a refreshing change from last year. Their penalty kill came up big in the third period by scoring a shorthanded goal and killing off a five-minute major after Riley Nash was ejected for a boarding penalty. This team seems to have more composure and knows how to handle adversity better than last year's club but their preparation for games leaves a lot to be desired.
There are a couple of ways you can analyze this. On one hand, the Hurricanes outchanced the Oilers 13-9 through 40 minutes of play and got a hard earned point. However, they were also outchanced 10-4 in the first period and came out on the losing end at even strength because of that. It's only one period and the Canes managed to put that behind them but they still looked abysmal during that frame, against a very poor possession team nonetheless. Poor starts are nothing new for this team, though as they were a problem early in the season and it kept them from escaping Edmonton with two points.
Hurricanes Individual Scoring Chances
Hurricanes On-Ice Scoring Chances
Best EV Forward: Jordan Staal +5
Worst EV Forwards: Eric Staal & Tuomo Ruutu -6
Best EV Defenseman: Ryan Murphy EVEN
Worst EV Defenseman: Jay Harrison -4
After falling behind early, Muller juggled the lines quite a bit and the one thing that stayed consistent was the play of Jordan Staal, who produced over half of Carolina's even strength offense and it didn't matter who he was playing with. He was even managing to create chances with Kevin Westgarth on his wing, which is no easy task. Westgarth wasn't a complete waste, though as he managed to contribute in a few areas. His biggest came on Carolina's second goal where he tied up two Oilers players at the front of the net and gave plenty of space for Staal to put home a rebound chance. Gerbe also made a key play by winning a battle in the corner and getting the puck to the net in the first place.
That line did most of the damage for Carolina at even strength and the rest of the forwards were severely lacking. As always, Skinner was able to create chances and scored the game-tying goal on a seeing-eye shot from 50 feet away but his line was giving up more than they were producing. Staal & Ruutu were very ineffective at evens, although the former was able to make up for this on special teams with an assist on the power play and a shorthanded goal. Still, the lines are probably going to be jumbled before the Calgary game judging from this performance, especially if Alex Semin makes his return to the lineup. The question is who gets bumped down?
The Canes defense had a pretty brutal night as a whole and Ron Hainsey had some very ugly moments on three of the Oilers goals. Not having Brett Bellemore at his side is a tough adjustment, but seeing him look lost in front of the net on Jesse Joensuu's goal was very uncharacteristic of him. It also hasn't been like him to have a misread in coverage like he did on Nail Yakupov's goal. He did some positive things on the penalty kill and was very effective when jumping into the play, but his mistakes were costly.
Oilers Individual Scoring Chances
Oilers On-Ice Scoring Chances
Best EV Forwards: David Perron & Ryan Nugent-Hopkins +5
Worst EV Forwards: Nail Yakupov, Sam Gagner & Taylor Hall -5
Best EV Defensemen: Andrew Ference & Philip Larsen -5
Worst EV Defenseman: Justin Schultz -4
The Oilers first line had an interesting night. They burned the Hurricanes for two goals but when they weren't scoring, they got absolutely lit up in their own end. Carolina created eight out of their 11 5v5 chances against that line and was able to pin them into their own zone for long periods of time. This line had their moments, but they also had a very tough time controlling the puck and had a couple of turnovers that resulted in goals for Carolina. Hall's giveaway on the Skinner goal was the most notable but Sam Gagner also had a soft clearing attempt that led to Jordan Staal's goal in the second period.
That line's poor defensive play was neutralized by Perron, Nugent-Hopkins and Eberle destroying everything the Hurricanes threw in their path at even strength. This line could have easily produced two or more goals, as they dominated five-on-five play whenever they were out there and produced a good chunk of the Oilers even strength chances. The Oilers third line also did a nice job producing three chances and a goal courtesy of some strong work behind the goal line by Mark Arcobello.
Head-to-Head at Five-on-Five
One game probably doesn't mean much, but I have to eat my words about being critical of Andrew Ference during the off-season, because he played a great game last night and kept Staal's line in check. Part of that had to do with Nugent-Hopkins' line running rampant on the Hurricanes but still, he and Philp Larsen played a very good game at evens. Unfortunately for the Oilers, the play of Nick & Justin Schultz almost negated the great play of Ference & Larsen, as these two were turnstiles in their own zone. Schultz the elder having some especially bad moments. You can also see here that Jordan's line did most of the damage against Gagner, Hall & Yakupov, which shouldn't surprise you when looking at the chance count.
5v5 Zone Entries
|# of entries||Shots generated||Carry-ins||Shots generated||Dump-ins||Shots generated||Failed Entries|
Ahh, another game of dump-and-chase play...how I do not miss this one bit. Carolina's offense off zone entries was limited and while they did create a few shots on their forecheck, their overall numbers were pretty low when you look at how often they dumped the puck in. The third line reverted to this sort of play for almost the entire game and couldn't produce any chances because of it. They worked hard along the boards and created zone decent zone time, but it didn't result in anything more than that. If they were a fourth line, this would be acceptable but they need to be better than that. The top-six were the only players willing to carry the puck in, which is very similar to what we saw from this team earlier in the year when goals were hard to come by.
|Player||# of entries||Shots generated||Carry-ins||Shots generated||Dump-ins||Shots generated||Failed Entries|
The Hurricanes gave Edmonton plenty of time and space to operate in the neutral zone and as a result, they were able to carry the puck in 35 times, Nugent-Hopkins' line accounting for 13 of them and Hall's line recording 10. This goes back to the Canes letting the Oilers dictating the play early instead of being more aggressive and forcing them to play more of a forechecking style. It's not the first time that a skilled team has given the Canes trouble this year.
5v5 Zone Exits
If getting dominated territorially wasn't enough, the Canes were also very careless with the puck in their own end and committed 16 turnovers, over half of them coming from the defense corps. I thought Gleason looked better as the game went along but he and Jay Harrison were kind of a disaster whenever they had to advance the play on their own. Jordan Staal was also guilty of a turnover in the first period that led to Taylor Hall's goal. The Canes ability to advance the puck out of their own end hasn't been awful this year, but their management of the puck has been very, very sloppy and it has gotten very bad the last two games.
Somehow, the Oilers managed to be even more careless with the puck than the Hurricanes and had 17 turnovers, albeit with over 50 more touches. Their first line and the Schultz defense pairing committing nine of them. Explains their scoring chance numbers.