Wow, that was something.
I’d love to write a great introduction to this piece, but let’s just get it over with. Let’s talk about last night.
Third Periods Don’t Have to Be Excruciatingly Terrible
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. The first thirty minutes of this game were really solid.
Carolina had a 1-0 lead thanks to a well-placed shot by hometown boy Noah Hanifin and a great screen in front by Lee Stempniak. Hanifin’s ability to skate well at the blue line and find a shooting lane is pretty impressive. This goal was a great example of Hanifin’s offensive instincts, and the whole play started thanks to his perfect stick check just inside the Carolina blue line. He played very well last night.
We’ll just ignore the fact that they failed to cash in on a 3-on-0 just moments before Hanifin’s goal.
From there on, things did not go well. From the halfway point of the game through the end of regulation time, Boston dominated Carolina in shot attempts by a margin of 43 to 11. In the final five minutes of the third, that margin was 11 to one.
The Hurricanes did exactly what they did in New York on Tuesday. They played passive hockey and didn't apply any pressure on Boston’s defense and former Hurricanes goalie Anton Khudobin.
Ultimately, this bold strategy of doing absolutely nothing with the puck came back to bite the Hurricanes as the Bruins finally found an answer for Cam Ward. That answer was driving the net. Torey Krug’s shot from the point bounced around in front of the crease and the puck deflected off of Teuvo Teravainen, who was being bodied by David Backes, and past Ward.
You would assume that this team would have already learned that playing passive hockey in the final period doesn't win hockey games.
The Hurricanes went 24-2-3 when leading after two periods a season ago. This season, they are 6-1-4, which ranks last in the league.
If that wasn't enough, Carolina is now 3-4-3 when they score first. That also ranks last in the league.
I wrote yesterday that, if this team can play a full sixty minutes, they will be one of the toughest teams to play in this league and they still seem to be far off in this regard.
The Fourth Line Played Like a Fourth Line
The bright spot over the past week for the Hurricanes has been the play of Joakim Nordstrom, Jay McClement and Viktor Stalberg on the fourth line.
On Thursday, they got torn apart by the Bruins.
The trio averaged just 34% of the corsi share while they were on the ice, with Nordstrom (five shot attempts for, 18 shot attempts against) being a -13 in that category.
McClement also won a far below-standard 42% of his faceoffs.
On the flip side of that, Carolina’s penalty kill went a perfect four for four, thanks in large part to this trio of fourth liners.
McClement’s role was even bigger than usually on the penalty kill thanks to the loss of Jordan Staal and a lower-body injury to Elias Lindholm that kept him out of the third period and overtime. McClement skated 3:50 on the penalty kill, which was the most by a lengthy margin amongst Carolina forwards.
Another Great Outing from Cam Ward
An abysmal third period from Carolina was very nearly salvaged by the play of Cam Ward.
Ward stopped 34 of 35 Bruins shots on Thursday and stole a point in the standings for the Hurricanes.
A stellar month of November, featuring a 1.74 goals against average and .934 save percentage, from Ward carried over to the club’s first December game. He made numerous big-time saves down the stretch.
No pucks that went off of a Boston stick was able to beat the veteran netminder. It’s a shame that his efforts didn’t result in a shutout victory. He certainly earned it.
Another So-So Game from the Top Line
Jeff Skinner, Victor Rask and Elias Lindholm failed to generate much offense in New York on Tuesday and Boston did an even better job at controlling them last night.
Of course, losing Lindholm hurt the other two players in the third period, but even before then, they struggled to form any sense of offensive potency.
Carolina needs their top players to contribute, especially with Jordan Staal on the shelf for the foreseeable future, and now if Lindholm is out, Skinner and Rask have even more pressure on them to create offense.
It’s not like they didn’t get their chances. Skinner had a pair of breakaways, both of which were unsuccessful, and his shootout attempt was read all the way by Khudobin in the third round.
It’s definitely not time to panic with Skinner. Skinner is just two games removed from a game breaking performance against the Panthers.
However, Rask hasn’t been nearly as effective, picking up just two assists over his last six games and finding himself on the negative side of corsi share in each of his last three outings.
Again, there’s no sense in pressing the panic button here, but now is not the time for these two players to stop doing what they have been doing, given that big injuries are starting to pile up at the forward positions.
Back to New York
The Carolina Hurricanes will now look to right their wrongs as they return to New York for a rematch against the Rangers on Saturday.
It’s a 1:00 pm start time at the Garden and the road team will need to start on time again, and just as important, they will need to play a complete game for all three periods.