There isn't too much to speak of with the Hurricanes that I haven't already covered. They dropped two of three games, won the possession battle in only one of them and are getting set to embark on a tough road trip where they'll see a lot of Western Conference teams. The Hurricanes have struggled mightily against these clubs all season, winning only two of ten games and getting dominated at even strength in most of them. There's always hope for improvement, but the Hurricanes have been spinning their wheels at even strength for most of this year and any time they put together a stretch of good games, an injury or something else happens to throw things off the rails and they never seem to recover. This happened once when Jeff Skinner got hurt and then later with Alexander Semin. Couple that with the special teams letting them down and it could be a long season if things don't start to shape up.
The Canes performance from the past week embodies this well, as they showed some promise but couldn't turn it into anything.
Team Performance (Five-on-Five)
Carolina's only awful game was the 5-2 loss to New Jersey. They were outshot in the first game, but were winning the possession battle through two and sat on a three-goal lead the rest of the game. That isn't a good thing, but the overall stats are a little misleading. Still, things are pretty ugly when you combine that game with their performance on Friday night, where the Canes got off to a terrible start and went to sleep in the third period.
Winning the possession battle against Vancouver was nice, but they came out of that game empty-handed because of horrendous special teams and they now find themselves two games below "NHL .500" and will have to fight and uphill battle for at least the rest of 2013. The Canes were also on the losing end of the scoring chance battle in that game, despite outshooting Vancouver and having the puck more. I keep using the phrase "offensively challenged" to describe this club and they keep proving it every week, as they were held to under 10 even strength chances in two out of three games.
Individual Performance (Five-on-Five)
– Drayson Bowman has been playing really well these past couple of weeks and he was one of a few Carolina forwards who won the scoring chance battle at even strength. He has been getting more ice time along with the rest of the fourth line and is definitely earning it by creating chances and helping Carolina get the puck moving in the right direction. Bowman was last used on Jordan Staal's line during the Vancouver game, so that should be a good opportunity for him if it sticks. The only bad news is that he didn't see any reward for his work on the scoresheet.
– Eric Staal had his scoring streak broken in Friday night's loss to the Devils, but he picked up a pair of primary assists in the two other games. He was also Carolina's only forward not to get outshot during five-on-five play, albeit only barely. Still, Eric has quietly been playing better and leading the way for the Hurricanes in terms of offense. The points are coming to him and he has been one of the team's best territorial players ever since Semin went down.
– Another player who is starting to see more results is Patrick Dwyer, who scored his second shorthanded goal of the season in the win over New Jersey. Dwyer also recorded an assist in the Vancouver game and has been one of Carolina's better forwards at driving the play at evens. He is getting some very tough minutes on Jordan's line and donig a great job of preventing chances in his own end, which should hopefully lead to him creating some more opportunities the other way.
– The assignments Dwyer is seeing right now is nothing compared to what Manny Malhotra has had to deal with. Malhotra took only three total 5v5 draws this past week and the Hurricanes were somehow only outshot by five with him on the ice during that time. His line also helped produce two goals in the win over New Jersey, which is huge when you consider how much of an issue depth scoring was last year.
– Jordan Staal had a pair of goals but outside of that, his performance during five-on-five play was very weak. He had a good game against Vancouver, but the Canes were brutally outshot with him on the ice in both Devils games, which is rare because he is normally very strong in this area. Granted, he took a lot of tough draws but it was still odd to see Jordan get stuck in his own zone this much.
– The reason why Jordan has to take so many tough draws is because Muller wants to protect the first & third lines. Aside from Eric Staal, none of the sheltered players are taking advantage of their assignments. Nash, Skinner, Lindholm & Ruutu are either losing or barely winning the battle at even strength and none of them are producing much offense either. Skinner & Ruutu both scored this week, but their chance production was very weak, especially when you compare their numbers to Bowman & Dwyer.
– I have no idea why Ron Hainsey struggled so much alongside Justin Faulk in the loss to New Jersey because his performance outside of that was outstanding. Take away that game, and the Hurricanes outchanced their opponents 11-5 with him on the ice and he was matched up against the Sedins in one of those games. He also scored his third goal of the season and is currently riding a nice three-game point streak. He has been a wondeful surprise this year, in my book.
– Brett Bellemore has also been a nice surprise and had a very good week. He had an error on Travis Zajac's goal in the New Jersey game but aside from that, he did a very good job of limiting the opposition's chances. Considering that he was dragging along Mike Komisarek in one of these games, I think he should be commended for his performance.
– Justin Faulk is starting to show more of his offensive upside, scoring his first goal of the season and recording a point in all three games. He's still giving up al ot in his own end, but him and Sekera have been Carolina's main source of offense from the blue-line as of late and they are at least producing in this department.
– Justin Faulk being on the ice for 17 chances doesn't look quite as bad when you consider that Murphy was on the ice for 15 of them despite playing about 10 fewer minutes. The general idea with most third pairing si that you don't want them to get destroyed at even strength and so far, Murphy is failing at that. Although, the coaching staff didn't help him out by making him start the majority of his shifts in the defensive zone and pairing him with Mike Komisarek during the Vancouver game. Using Murphy in a shutdown role will probably never work out, especially not in his rookie year.
– Mike Komisarek somehow managed to not be on the ice for one Carolina scoring chance during five-on-five play. It wasn't for a lack of trying, though since he was shooting the puck quite a bit in the Vancouver game and tried to jump into the play a few times.
– Jay Harrison's struggles could make a Tim Gleason trade very difficult because he is drowning while playing third-pairing assignments right now. I'm not sure what the problem is because he was fine in these situations the last three seasons. I'm not sure if Murphy is bringing this pairing down either because he has been the more impressive of the two, at least going by the eye-test. Carolina will have a logjam on their blue-line when Gleason eventually returns, but the poor play of Harrison & Komisarek will make it very hard for the Canes to deal him or any other blue-liner.