The Carolina Hurricanes opened their season in Winnipeg this Thursday and lost in OT 5-4 after being up 4-1 in the beginning of the third. So let’s see what happened when we look at the stats.
This graph shows that the Hurricanes really dominated the game throughout the whole contest. Even in the third period when the Jets came back to tie the game, Carolina was still possessing the puck more and creating more offensive chances. In fact, the whole team was positive Corsi, with the exception of the Staal-Nordstrom-Nestrasil line. If Carolina plays like this against the rest of the league, 9 times out of 10 they are going to win.
So what happened? How did a team that dominated the game end up losing? The answer is actually quite simple: dumb hockey mistakes.
As seen here Jeff Skinner is carrying the puck up the ice on the power play. Note the fact that the Hurricanes are up here 4-1 and don’t need to score any more goals to win. Skinner has two other players in front of him at Winnipeg’s blue line and two behind him. Winnipeg player number 2 is pressuring Skinner and cutting off the cross-ice pass to the left winger and player number 1 is guarding the back pass. Skinner has only two good options here: pass the puck up to the other player on the blue line or to continue skating it up the ice as shown by the red arrow. If either results in a turnover it still leaves Carolina in a position to effectively defend the counterattack.
But what does Skinner do? He passes back to the defense which turns out to be THE WORST POSSIBLE DECISION! Blake Wheeler (Player 1) expertly reads the play and picks off Skinner’s weak drop pass.
Hannifin not anticipating that pass at all gets caught skating the other direction and has no chance to get in position on Wheeler. This allows Wheeler to skate in one on one against Cam Ward and scores the goal. The next bad goal was the game-tying goal that happened with the Jets up 6-5 with their goalie pulled.
As seen here Slavin jumps out trying to anticipate a shot by Blake Wheeler, and in doing so creates a wide open lane to Mathieu Perreault. When Slavin moved out of position, Jordan Staal should have recognized that Perreault had become his assignment, but instead, he gets caught puck watching allowing Perreault to get the shot off unmolested in front of the net. Both Slavin and Staal are at fault. Slavin should have trusted his goaltender to make the save (hard I know with Cam Ward in net) and guarded the passing lane, and Staal should have read the play better.
No doubt about it this was a heart-breaking loss for the Hurricanes due to a few very bad mistakes instead of overall poor play. Ultimately, these are simple mistakes that should be fixed with more practice. Skinner is still trying to grow his game by becoming a playmaker, in addition to a sniper, and sometimes needs to learn that the simple play is the best play. Staal had a pretty bad night overall in terms of his defense and should return back to his normal shutdown self as the season progresses. The Hurricanes escaped with a point on the road against a western conference opponent, and in a season every point will count if the Canes want to make the playoffs. So all in all while a very bad loss this should hopefully be a valuable learning experience for what still amounts to a very young team.