This has been a pretty frustrating season to watch for Hurricanes fans, not because the team has been playing poorly but because of how inconsistent they have been. After losing five games in a row, the Canes went onto earn points in their next five and then followed that up by dropping their next four, three of those losses coming in the previous week. To make matters worse, the team played some of their worst hockey of the season during that stretch and was dominated by two Eastern Conference clubs in their losses to Boston & Detroit. Carolina's even strength play has taken a pretty big step back this year, but the numbers they posted against Boston & Detroit would put them at the bottom of the league if it continued for a long stretch of time. You have to account for injuries, as the team was missing their best play-driving forward, Alexander Semin, for all three games but their even strength performance was still very ugly regardless.
They were able to salvage some good out of this week by defeating Ottawa at home and earning a point in an overtime loss to Boston, but this team has had major problems keeping up with top clubs at even strength and it will hurt them later in the season if things don't improve.
Team Performance (Five-on-Five)
The Hurricanes are offensively challenged right now and it's not just because of poor shooting luck (although that is also a problem). Sunday's win over the Senators was the first time the Hurricanes recorded over 10 even strength chances in a game since November 12th and they have been held to 10 or fewer even strength chances in eight games this year, which is already too high for my liking. To make things worse, they were also pummeled territorially controlling less than 45% of the five-on-five shot attempts and that number could have been a lot worse had it not been for the Ottawa game. That being said, the Hurricanes had the burden of playing some very tough opponents this past week, which undoubtedly impacted their underlying numbers but this is a team that was supposed to be competitive this year. If they want to stay in the mix and be taken seriously, they can't continue to get run over by stronger possession clubs. Getting wins over weaker teams like Ottawa will help, but the Canes need to start sizing up better against tougher clubs.
– In a week where the Canes were heavily outshot, do not overlook the great work done by Jordan Staal's line. He, Nathan Gerbe & Patrick Dwyer were the only thing keeping the Hurricanes from being in the cellar in terms of possession and have done a great job of tilting the pace of play in Carolina's favor when they are on the ice. The downside is that they haven't been scoring, but I doubt they will continue to shoot at only 2-3% for the entire year. Dwyer is starting to see some results, scoring two goals this week and Jordan also recorded a pair of assists.
– This was a productive week for the first line in terms of boxcar stats, as Eric Staal had seven points in four games and is riding a six-game point streak. Tuomo Ruutu also recorded his first two goals of the season and had a wonderful showing against Ottawa, looking more like his usual self.
– Kevin Westgarth wasn't a complete liability when he was on the ice and had two scoring chances against the Senators. Unfortunately, he also took a really bad boarding penalty in that game and will probably see some disciplinary action for it.
– Elias LIndholm returned to the lineup and looked vastly improved compared to his first stint. He scored a power play goal against Ottawa and the team was only outshot by one with him on the ice. When taking his usage into account, that is a very good showing by him and I think he could be in Raleigh long-term.
– The first line is producing on the scoresheet, but they are getting heavily outshot while playing soft assignments. Most of this is from the first three games, but it's still a major red flag for them. Semin was the possession driver on this line and Staal has to really pick things up if he wants to carry this line. He showed signs of doing that against Ottawa, so hopefully that continues.
– Jeff Skinner didn't exactly have the impact I thought he would in his return to the lineup. He is normally a terrific possession player, but the Hurricanes were playing in their own end for the majority of his ice time and the coaching staff elected to move him back to the "third line" after the Detroit game. He was one of two players to not win the possession battle against Ottawa on Sunday, which was very odd to say the least.
– Jiri Tlusty had a rough showing against Detroit, as he was on the ice for three goals against and committed brutal errors on two of them. His statistical performance isn't bad when taking his usage into account, but the Canes need him to start producing soon because he hasn't brought much to the table otherwise.
– Riley Nash also had a very rough game against Detroit and found himself benched after turning the puck over on Darren Helm's goal. He was then a healthy scratch for the next two games and his numbers do a good job of showing why. He should be back in the lineup come Wednesday from the sound of things, though.
– The fourth line is getting buried in the defensive zone and they aren't exactly doing a great job of moving the play forward at all. They have also been on the ice for 14-15 shot attempts per game, which is a little too high for a line that gets limited minutes.
– Andrej Sekera scored three goals this week and is now tied with Gerbe for second on the team. The opposition outshot Carolina heavily with him on the ice but with the Canes desperate for offense right now, I'm sure they will take Sekera's production. He has provided a very nice offensive presence on the team's first pairing with Justin Faulk.
– On that note, Faulk quietely had an excellent week. His two points against Ottawa were his only marks on the scoresheet, but he was Carolina's only defenseman to win the possession battle last week and did it while taking on some brutal assignments. Both him and Sekera have been inconsistent this year, but Faulk has been very solid these last few weeks in terms of territorial play.
– Ron Hainsey is still a rock on the back-end.
– Bellemore scored his first NHL goal but outside of that, he had kind of at ough week. He is normally very good at limiting opponent's chances, but ended up on the wrong side of the ledger in both categories here. Seemed like he was due for a bump in the road, so hopefully he can rebound.
– Tim Gleason has looked just plain bad in his return to the lineup and was a healthy scratch against Ottawa. He was turned inside out by Jarome Iginla & David Krejci on the Bruins overtime goal on Saturday afternoon , made a poor play in front of the net on Helm's goal on Thursday night and the Canes were outshot by 20 with him on the ice. This is with him getting third pairing assignments, too which speaks volumes about how poor he has played. Gleason has endured a lot over his career and has fought through a lot of injuries, but all of that mileage might be catching up with him because he does not look like someone I would trust playing top four minutes right now.
– Carolina continues to get heavily outshot with the third pairing on the ice and Ryan Murphy is taking a lot of the damage. He was on the ice for nearly half of the scoring chances that Carolina gave up and had some tough moments in both Boston games. He was also knocked off the puck which led to a turnover on Jason Spezza's goal Sunday. This is part of the learning process, but Murphy's territorial play hasn't taken many steps forward throughout the year and it's a little concerning. Although, playing with Harrison & Gleason isn't helping that cause.