Tag: slow starts

Eric Staal

Could Eric Staal’s sluggish start be related to his hit on brother Marc?

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Eric Staal has been the unquestioned leader on the Carolina Hurricanes since the day Rod Brind’Amour hung ‘em up. He wears the “C,” he’s annually among their top scorers, and sets the tone for his team in all three zones. But while the Hurricanes have gotten off to an average start, Staal has been a disappointment.

Pierre McGuire wondered one NHL Live this evening if there was more to his poor start. “I’m worried about Eric Staal,” McGuire said. “He’s a minus 13, he’s kind of mired in a huge slump… the ‘go-to’ guy on this team right now is Jeffrey Skinner and he’s 19 years of age. The second ‘go-to’ guy is Brandon Sutter. They need more from the captain—and I love the player.”

Mike Milbury asked the question that a lot of people are wondering. Is Eric Staal’s slow start related to the hit that he threw that knocked his brother (Marc) out with a concussion since last season? McGuire agreed that that the Carolina captain hasn’t been right in the early going. “There’s something wrong,” he said. “He’s not the same player.”

Staal’s numbers were alright in October. But the Hurricanes need him to be better than a 20 goal, 50 point player if they want to succeed this season. And that plus/minus rating? People can argue about the validity of the stat, but minus 13 is unacceptable for a guy that is supposed to be the leader. Is he shying away from the physical side of the game because of last year’s results? Only Staal can answer that question.

Going into tonight’s game against the Lightning, the Hurricanes are right about where a lot of people thought they’d be. They’re sitting a point out of the 8th spot with a record hovering right around .500. They’re average. Not an elite team, but not a cellar-dweller. They’re a team that has the potential to fight for one of the last playoff spots in the Eastern Conference—but they’ll need to maximize every bit of potential if they want to make it to the postseason this year.

Remember, they were the team that missed the playoffs on the last game of the regular season in April. If anyone knows the importance of every single point, it’s the Hurricanes. Getting Staal back on track will go a long way towards Carolina taking the next step.

Slow starts plague Bruins, Canucks early in season

Boston Bruins v Vancouver Canucks - Game Seven
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Much like two friends who go drink-for-drink during a binge, both the Boston Bruins and Vancouver Canucks are seemingly dealing with Stanley Cup hangovers. (The Bruins lost to the Hurricanes while the Canucks fell to the Flyers tonight.)

The two teams that made it to the 2011 championship round have combined for two wins in seven games so far. They’re losing in different ways, but to extend the metaphor, both seem like they just want to sleep late instead of getting to work on time.

For the defending champion Bruins, it seems like they’ve been a little flat to start games. Their offense has been stagnant in general, but it’s been more pronounced in the first period; they’ve scored just one of their seven goals in the opening stanza. That happened when they were still riding the high of a banner-raising ceremony, so the B’s must find a way to find an early spark more often.

That spark isn’t coming from the usual suspects like injured center David Krejci or top-line wingers Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton, but at least the B’s are showing some promise from Tyler Seguin and solid work from their goalies.

On the other hand, the Canucks keep shooting themselves in the foot early on. The instinct is to assume that Vancouver’s talented group has a feeling that they can just “turn it on” and win games late, but that’s been a dangerous instinct so far. It worked out against the Columbus Blue Jackets; the Canucks had more penalties (three) than shots (two) in the first period, but wrangled a 3-2 win after revving up the pressure in the third.

That didn’t work out so well tonight against a legitimate contender in the Philadelphia Flyers, though. The Canucks took the game’s first four penalties, which allowed Philly to take a 3-1 first period lead that they managed to preserve with a 5-4 win.

The Canucks didn’t look sharp in their season opener against the Penguins, either, as they went down 2-0 and 3-1 but managed to squeeze out a charity point.


Seven games between two teams is a small sample, but the Bruins and Canucks shouldn’t rest on their laurels, either. They need to remember that their past accomplishments will only make teams try that much harder to curb their future success.