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.)
Not much has gone right for Carolina this year, but the ‘Canes might’ve suffered their lowest moment on Thursday in a 5-0 drubbing at the hands of the Flames.
The winless ‘Canes suffered their worst defeat of the season while recording their fewest shots on goal (16), prompting rookie head coach Bill Peters to question the team’s effort level.
“Real concerned that we didn’t stick with it. We looked like we didn’t believe, and then everybody starts trying to do each other’s job,” Peters said, per the ‘Canes website. “All of a sudden there’s duplication, guys open, back-door tap-ins and it looks unorganized.
“That’s what we saw tonight.”
Offense is Carolina’s biggest issue at the moment. The team has just two goals in its last three games and while part of that is due to the injuries suffered up front — Eric Staal, Jordan Staal and Patrick Dwyer are on IR — there’s been a distinct lack of shots on goal throughout the campaign; Carolina is dead last in the NHL in shots per game (23.5) and has only broken the 30-plateau once, in a shootout loss to the Rangers.
Even worse, things aren’t going to get any easier in the near future.
Carolina still has two games left on its Western road swing and gets Edmonton tonight, less than 24 hours after the beatdown in Calgary. The Oilers have won two straight and seemingly righted the ship after a disastrous start of their own to the campaign; following the Oilers game, the ‘Canes move onto Vancouver to face the Canucks, who are 4-2-0 to start the year and just beat the Blues 4-1 in St. Louis.
“We’ve got to flip the page as fast as possible,” center Riley Nash said. “It’s tough to do right now because we haven’t gotten any results, but we really haven’t deserved any in the past couple of games here.”
Hurricanes forward Jeff Skinner will make his season debut tonight in Winnipeg after missing four games with a concussion.
Carolina is the only team in the league that’s yet to win a game.
“I hope that I can help the guys get it done,” Skinner said, per NHL.com. “For me coming back, I’m just going to try to keep it simple. I think that as a team we’ve been getting better. Just keep building on the good things in our game and hopefully I can add to that. It’s a big game because it could be the start of a big road trip for us.”
The ‘Canes have actually managed to take their last two games to the shootout, losing to the Sabres and Rangers. And in addition to Skinner, they’ll also get Andrej Sekera back after the d-man crashed hard into the boards versus the Sabres and missed the Rangers game.
Carolina will still be without injured players Eric Staal, Jordan Staal, Patrick Dwyer, and John-Michael Liles.
The ‘Canes’ opponents, the Jets, are also desperate for a win tonight, after four straight losses has put them in an early hole.