Author: James O'Brien

Carolina Hurricanes v Vancouver Canucks

Hope for Hurricanes? Their winning streak at a glance


While injuries were a reasonable – if frustratingly persistent – excuse, there wasn’t much use sugarcoating the Carolina Hurricanes going 0-6-2 in October. That same team is now undefeated in three November games, however, prompting fist bumps and smiles, according to the Raleigh News & Observer.

“The guys are playing hard,” Cam Ward said. “We pushed the pace early on (and) it was a complete effort by everybody. We’ve got a good thing going here and we want to keep it going.”

So, what can we take away from this three-game winning streak?

  • Looking at the possession stats is probably kind of silly at this point. Just consider the comical contrast in their stats from October (fifth-worst) to November (second overall).
  • Going simpler might be wiser then, at least for now. One promising trend is that the Hurricanes are out-shooting opponents. They did so by a slight margin in their last two losses of October and hold a 104-76 shot advantage during this run.
  • Cam Ward has been playing considerably better. He has a shutout and three wins in this run. His overall numbers are still sub-backup-level (.886 save percentage, yikes), but hey … baby steps.
  • From the “No, duh” department: The Hurricanes are better with Eric Staal than without him. He has a goal and two assists in his four games back from injury. Beyond the obvious addition of another legitimate scoring option, getting a player like Staal back creates a domino effect of benefits: players get the chance to slide back into more comfortable/specialized roles. Carolina might even start approach “somewhat competent” status once Jordan Staal’s healthy. (Maybe.)

It could be an interesting week-or-so for Carolina. They face the battered Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday and then the wobbling Washington Capitals on Saturday. After that, it’s the surprisingly hot Calgary Flames on Nov. 10.

Three games – or, really, the full 11 contests they’ve played so far – present a sample size that’s simply too small to draw any meaningful conclusions.

That said, there’s at least hope that the Hurricanes might not be as bad as they first seemed.

(Then again, maybe this will only hold true for a couple weeks. Mid-November presents five straight road games and six of seven away from Carolina, so they might just go through the meat grinder once more.)

PHT Morning Skate: USHL team presents ‘Political Loser Night’


PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

Following Decision 2014, Iowa-area hockey fans can take advantage of this ingenious “Political Loser Night” by way of the USHL’s Waterloo Blackhawks:

Fans who present a piece of political junk mail from a losing candidate will receive $1 off a regularly priced ticket to the November 7th matchup.  A losing candidate’s yard sign will be worth $3 off.  And any candidate on the ballot who loses an election in Black Hawk, Benton, Bremer, Buchanan, Butler, Chickasaw, Fayette, Floyd, Grundy, or Tama County will be entitled to a free game ticket.  Limit two reduced or free tickets per order.

The full write-up is pretty splendid, honestly. (H/T to

Sympathy for high-end draft busts in light of Hugh Jessiman’s career winding down in Europe. (Greatest Hockey Legends)

Five NHL head coaches whose seats have gotten quite a bit hotter through one month of the 2014-15 season. (The Hockey News)

Looking back at stranger days for the NHL Draft. (Grantland)

Editor’s Note: Pro Hockey Talk’s partner FanDuel is hosting a one-day $15,000 Fantasy Hockey league for Wednesday’s NHL games. It’s just $2 to join and first prize is $1,400. Starts Wednesday at 7:30pm ET. Here’s the FanDuel link.

Advanced stats and young forwards. (Puck Daddy)

Karri Ramo’s dark-and-mysterious goalie mask is inspired by Edgar Allan Poe and Tim Burton. (In Goal Magazine, via Puck Daddy)


Bruised Blues could get Stastny back soon

New York Rangers v St. Louis Blues

The St. Louis Blues probably won’t get Paul Stastny back as they take on the New Jersey Devils tonight, but he was cleared for contact on Monday and could return sometime this week.

That’s the mostly positive update from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch as of yesterday:

“We put him on the ice for final evaluation,” Head coach Ken Hitchcock said on Monday. “If the evaluation is proper after a full session of contact, we would evaluate him to play in the next three or four games. Today first 100 percent green light from hitting standpoint.”

The Blues are currently on a five-game winning streak despite injuries and a bacterial infection that Hitchcock described as “a rolling thunder through the hockey club.” Still, the team could certainly use Stastny, who has four points in his first four games as a member of the Blues.

The 28-year-old seems like he should integrate into the St. Louis mix seamlessly, as he combines nice offensive skills with the kind of two-way conscience that Hitchcock treasures.

The Blues face the Devils twice this week: in New Jersey on Tuesday and then at home on Thursday. That second Devils game kicks off a five-game homestand, as they also host the Nashville Predators on Saturday.

There’s always a chance Stastny deals with a setback regarding what’s believed to be a shoulder injury, but if things go well, we could see him back early during that upcoming slate of home games. Despite this winning streak, the Blues are likely anxious to get him back in the lineup.

Bruins’ Julien is ‘still very hungry to win another Stanley Cup’

Claude Julien

Few NHL coaches enjoy the success and job security that Claude Julien’s managed with the Boston Bruins.

He’s currently in his eighth season behind the B’s bench, and with a multi-year contract confirmed, he could very well be this team’s head coach for more than a decade.* Even with rare job security, Julien told that his drive hasn’t faded.

“As a coach, personally, it’s about understanding that if you think you have it all figured it out then you’re in trouble,” Julien said. “You keep learning, and every year or so there are things that change in our game. The thing that I feel the most is that no matter what we’ve accomplished, I still feel very hungry to win another Stanley Cup.”

The veteran coach added, “as long as I have that fire in the belly, I’m extremely happy being in this organization as long as they’ll have me.”

It’s difficult to see why the Bruins would opt against keeping Julien (and GM Peter Chiarelli) around for the foreseeable future.

Even with a tough 7-6-0 start to 2014-15, the Bruins’ record with Julien at the helm is pretty stunning: 317-169-65, with a Stanley Cup, two championship round appearacnes and a steady run of postseason success.

The timing of the extension is pretty clever, too.

Julien can focus on getting the most out of a battered Bruins blueline without the stress of wondering about his long-term financial future. He has his work cut out for him with 6-foot-9 safety net Zdeno Chara out of the mix for quite some time, yet this is also a chance to once again prove that Boston can shake off the challenges that frequently surface during an 82-game regular season.

He certainly has a sterling record of succeeding in that regard, so far.

* – Sports will teach you that a coach’s contract isn’t the sturdiest shield when a team starts to think about making a change …

NHL on NBCSN: Devils try to cool booming Blues

Patrik Berglund, Stephen Gionta

NBCSN will continue its coverage of the 2014-15 campaign when the New Jersey Devils host the St. Louis Blues at the Prudential Center at 7:30 p.m. ET tonight. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game online.

From injuries to mysterious infections (and maybe injured players dealing with said infections), the St. Louis Blues have been dealing with some notable hurdles early this season. Even so, they’re really starting to look like a team many pegged as a serious Stanley Cup contender, as they’re currently on a five-game winning streak.

That most recent win came last night against the New York Rangers, so the New Jersey Devils get two obvious advantages: they’re fresher and play on home ice tonight.

The Devils have been a tough team to peg in some ways.

They started off the 2014-15 campaign boasting a robust offense, as they won their first two games 11-5. A three-game winning streak was followed by a four-game skid, deflating some of that early optimism.

Now the Devils are on a two-game winning streak of their own, so Tuesday’s game against the Blues provides a chance for Cory Schneider & Co. to prove that New Jersey is better than a “bubble team.”

To do so, they’ll have to find a way to cool off red-hot Blues winger Vladimir Tarasenko, who scored his seventh goal of the season in dazzling fashion last night:

Tarasenko now has six goals and two assists in his last four games.

Editor’s Note: Pro Hockey Talk’s partner FanDuel is hosting a one-day $25,000 Fantasy Hockey league for Tuesday’s NHL games. It’s just $2 to join and first prize is $2,000. Starts Tuesday at 7pm ET. Here’s the FanDuel link.

Each squad is hoping to get key offseason additions back sometime soon, though probably not tonight.

Paul Stastny was recently cleared for contact on the Blues’ end while Mike Cammalleri is expected to start skating again soon for New Jersey.

The Devils and Blues split their 2013-14 season series, and they’ll get the 2014-15 version over with quickly. Today’s match begins a home-and-home set that will represent their meeting this year (barring a Stanley Cup Final matchup, of course). Speaking of Cup Final matchups, Ken Hitchcock’s face may conjure up positive memories for longtime Devils fans, as his Dallas Stars fell to the Devils in a competitive 2000 championship round.

That’s probably about as far as the “history” angle goes for these two teams, really, but that doesn’t mean that tonight’s game won’t be heated.

Considering their reputations, one would expect a defensive battle, yet there are plenty of factors that could make for fireworks. Ultimately, it’s an interesting test for both squads, perhaps especially for New Jersey.