Carolina finished this most recent week the same way as they did the one before with a 1-1-1 record. The big difference this time is they actually outshot two of their opponents and didn’t need to rely on special teams to win their one game. Hell, they actually played some great hockey in the games against Ottawa and Chicago which is very refreshing to see. Unfortunately, things ended on a bad note with the 5-1 beatdown they took at the hands of the Flyers and they ended up being outscored 7-6 this week. If we can take any positives it’s that the team is playing slightly better at even strength than they were earleir in the month but there’s still plenty of things to work on. The powerplay converting only once on ten attempts is one problem along with the top line still being in a pretty bad slump. There’s a lot of good and bad to break down, so let’s go through it all after the jump.
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Not much has changed compared to last week aside from Ponikarovsky playing against much tougher competition now that he’s part of the Sutter line. Pitkanen and McBain are continuing to get some really tough assignments this year, which is something that I wasn’t expecting but with Kaberle/Harrison getting most of the sheltered minutes and the team being outshot so much, it’s not terribly surprising. I thought Gleason and Allen taking on such a huge workload would have a bigger effect on the rest of the defense, though. Also notice how the new first line of Staal, LaRose and Tlusty are getting easier zone starts (against above average competition) while the team’s best scoring line of Ruutu, Skinner and Jokinen is still stuck with a ton of defensive zone starts. Then again, I’m guessing this could be Maurice’s way of trying to get Staal out of this rut he’s been in all season.
Cam Ward – Stopped 62 of 64 shots, only allowed one goal on 51 shots at even strength and earned a shutout against the Blackhawks. Ward has been quality in his last six starts and is arguably the team’s MVP for the first month. Definitely great to see him play so well after starting off the year with two rough outings.
Jussi Jokinen – Jokinen is another candidate for first month MVP as he was the team’s most consistent forward and added another goal and assist to his totals this past week. He also blew away his competition with 14 chances created while only giving up 8 in his own end and only being on ice for one even strength goal against. That’s with most of his draws coming in the defensive zone, too. Oh, speaking of draws, Jokinen was also 56.6% effective at the faceoff dot. Also of note is he created 7 chances on the powerplay. I think we’ll see his point total increasing if he keeps this up because he’s playing very well and not depending a lot on percentages for his success.
Tuomo Ruutu - Ruutu has really picked it up ever since being moved back to the second line with Skinner and Jokinen. He was on ice for more scoring chances than he gave up for the first week this season, scored a goal and wasn’t on ice for a single goal against. Add in the fact that he had a solid +12 corsi rating and I’ll mark it down as a good week for Ruutu. However, I have noticed that his ES ice time has dipped…a lot. He played less than 10 minutes at even strength in all three games this week. That’s something to keep an eye on.
Jay Harrison - The points aren’t there but Harrison has been producing a lot of chances at even strength and shooting the puck a hell of a lot more than he ever did (11 shots on net this week). Also had a strong scoring chance percentage and wasn’t on ice for a goal against all week. For Harrison, that’s a solid week.
Jiri Tlusty - He scored a goal, recorded an assist and earned himself a promotion to the first line. I’m curious to see how this goes because Tlusty is having a good season and has always had talent, but he’s never been able to put it together. I’m not suggesting that he is now but it’s really nice to see him playing well with the ice-time he’s been given. He’s still getting beaten shot-wise at even strength so I’m a little concerned about that.
Eric Staal - Third week in a row Staal has ended up here. He failed to score a goal this week, had only one point and is still giving up a ton of chances at even strength (was on ice for 20 this week). There is some good news concerning him, though. He was 63% effective at faceoffs, recorded 6 chances on the powerplay and is at least getting shots on net. I wish more of them would be of high quality, though. Here’s hoping that November is a better month for the captain.
Joni Pitkanen - Was on ice for three opposing goals this week and failed to get on the score sheet completely. I would say that it’s time to give Pitkanen some easier ice time but he was good last week so I’m not going to jump ship yet.
Jamie McBain - As Pitkanen’s play goes so does McBain’s and he was pretty brutal this week. -22 corsi rating, scoring chance percentage of less than .30 and was on ice for three goals. Good thing he set up the game tying goal against Ottawa last Tuesday or this week would have been a total clunker for him.
Brian Boucher - Boucher has given up 10 goals in his last two starts. He hasn’t gotten much help in any of his games but he needs to be better than this.
Tomas Kaberle - He’s actually playing very well as a third-pairing defensemen and was on ice for 18 of the Canes EV chances last week. I know the two points on the year and zero shots on goal for the week are frustrating but the points will come to Kaberle soon enough if he keeps playing like this.
Tim Gleason - Had one assist on the week, ended up on the positive side of the corsi and scoring chance battles and made a nice “pass” to Tim Brent on his goal Friday night. Unfortunately, he was also on ice for three goals against and one of which came on a brutal turnover to Scott Hartnell in the Flyers game.
Bryan Allen - Similar week to Gleason only he was on ice for more chance shorthanded, was demolished in the corsi battle and…received time on the powerplay. How about that?
Jeff Skinner - Scored the game-tying goal against Ottawa and is keeping his head above water in scoring chances. He was also on ice for no goals at even strength and has been doing most of his damage on the powerplay with 8 chances created 5-on-4. If he kick things into high gear at even strength then that would be swell.
Patrick Dwyer - Held off the scoresheet completely, was on ice for three of the shorthanded chances the Canes gave up and two goals against. A solid outing at even strength saved him from getting a negative.
Chad LaRose - Zero goals and two assists and not much else to say for LaRose. I would like to see him try to shoot the puck more because he’s had his chances but he isn’t finishing them at all. If he wants to stay on the first line that has to change.
Brandon Sutter - Scored on yet another breakaway, was even in scoring chances and had a pretty solid week on the penalty kill. He was shelled at even strength with a -23 corsi rating, though.
Alexei Ponikarovsky - No goals or points to show for it but Ponikarovsky’s underlying numbers were not bad this week aside from him not generating much chances at even strength. He’s helping this line drive the play a lot, though as his corsi rating was much higher than Sutter and Dwyer’s. Ponikarovsky also wasn’t on ice for one goal against.
Tim Brent - Scored on a deflection Friday night and is continuing to struggle at the faceoff circle despite that supposedly being one of his strong suits. He’s doing some good work on the second penalty killing unit, though.
Anthony Stewart - Didn’t play against Ottawa and didn’t do much in the games he was active in.
Zach Boychuk - Not doing a lot with the fourth line minutes he’s been given but that isn’t completely his fault. It will be interesting to see what he can do once the ice time gets balanced among forwards a little bit.
Brett Sutter - Played one game and was sent back to Charlotte.