Here’s something rare for Jordan Staal as his Hurricanes try to close out the Predators in Game 6 on Thursday (9:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN): you don’t need to dig that deep to measure his impact.
Merely glance at the simplest stats and highlights, and you’ll notice that Staal’s been a difference-maker. Maybe even the type of difference-maker he seemingly craved to be when he departed the star-studded Penguins many moons ago.
As you can see in the highlights above, Jordan Staal scored the Game 5 overtime-winner, and gave a celebration worthy of such an accomplishment.
Hard work paying off
It wasn’t just that goal, either. Staal is currently tied for second in the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs with four goals.
That becomes even more impressive when you realize that all four of Jordan Staal’s goals were scored at even-strength. Only Nathan MacKinnon has matched Staal with four even-strength goals so far this postseason.
This playoff mini-run feels a longtime coming, and it also carries over momentum from a quietly strong regular season. Amusingly, a Rod Brind’Amour quote from February feels like it could apply to what Staal’s accomplished so far for the Hurricanes in the First Round vs. the Predators.
“I don’t know how else to say it. I’ve been saying it forever,” Brind’Amour said in February, via Canes Country. “These plays he’s been making, they’re the same plays he’s been making over and over for years. We’re connecting on them right now. I can’t tell you how many times I’d come back in the game and ‘How did Jordo not have three points last night?’ I’ve been saying this over and over: Right now, he’s getting his due …”
Staal scoring, but also an all-around beast for Hurricanes vs. Predators
Again, the simple stats already paint a pretty picture for Jordan Staal. He’s currently tied with Sebastian Aho for the team lead in points, with five in four games.
Not too surprisingly, Staal continues to thrive according to the “fancy stats” he often piles up.
According to Natural Stat Trick, the Hurricanes have generated 20 high-danger chances for at even-strength when Staal’s been on the ice, while the Predators have only enjoyed eight. They’ve generated that higher quality, and also have the volume (42-19 in scoring chances).
It all translates to Jordan Staal being a player Brind’Amour clearly — and justifiably — trusts. Staal (2:50) and Aho (2:49) are the Hurricanes’ most frequent penalty-killing forwards, and the Predators have struggled mightily on the man advantage.
Coaches love their faceoff-winners, and Staal checks that box too, having won 61.5-percent of his draws (67-42).
(You could argue that Jordan Staal’s a lot like Brind’Amour, actually. Both are strong two-way forwards, including in the faceoff circle, who can contribute on offense. Both captained the Hurricanes. Each have been described as workout warriors, too.)
Contrast Jordan Staal’s work this season and playoffs with some recent dips, and this becomes even more impressive.
The 2019-20 Hurricanes run might have been the most difficult for Staal. In eight playoff games last year, Staal couldn’t generate a single goal or assist. While he’s averaged 21:14 time on ice for the Hurricanes vs. the Predators (almost a playoff career-high), Staal logged a mere 16:26 per night last time around.
Frankly, even a snake-bitten Staal was a nice asset for the Hurricanes. His mixture of smarts, skill, and power allow him to exert his will over opponents.
Only, lately, that’s translated to the sort of offense and outbursts that anyone can see.
While it would be foolish to expect Jordan Staal to maintain this pace (his shooting percentage is at 22.2), this scoring surge provides a nice excuse to appreciate what he always does for the Hurricanes.
HURRICANES – PREDATORS PLAYOFF SERIES SCHEDULE
Game 1: Hurricanes 5, Predators 2
Game 2: Hurricanes 3, Predators 0
Game 3: Predators 5, Hurricanes 4 (2OT)
Game 4: Predators 4, Hurricanes 3 (2OT)
Game 5: Hurricanes 3, Predators 2 (OT)
Thursday, May 27: Hurricanes at Predators, 9:30 p.m. ET (NBCSN) (livestream)
*Saturday, May 29: Predators at Hurricanes TBD
James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.