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It’s easy to get caught up worrying about the malfunctioning special teams or Martin Necas’ unfortunate failure to make a quick adjustment to the NHL or any of the other flaws in the Carolina Hurricanes highlighted over the past four days.
It was just as easy to overlook all of that over the first 10 days of the season when everything else was going right and the Hurricanes had yet to lose in regulation, when the goals came in bunches and 81-0-1 seemed so tantalizingly within reach.
There’s only one real takeaway from the Hurricanes’ 4-2-1 start and the losses in Winnipeg and Tampa to close it out: Amid all the noise and static, the Hurricanes have played, in all seven games, the way they want to play. The way that should, eventually, bring them whatever degree of success they’re going to have. In the big picture, at even strength at least, it’s just about everything they could have wanted from the first two weeks.
They have given themselves a chance to win every game, and that’s all they can ask.
Even as he catalogs all the little areas where his team needs work, Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour can take a step back and feel good about the big picture.
“Really good,” Brind’Amour said. “We’re giving up chances, but we’re going to anyway. The effort’s been there.”
It’s too early to overreact to the other stuff, good or bad.
The power play should be fixable, by redistributing the talent among units and decreasing the outsized role Justin Faulk has had so far. (He’s much more effective as a designated shooter at the right point than he is flying solo at the blue line in the four-forward power play that all the hip coaches insist upon these days.) There’s too much raw offensive talent, with Sebastian Aho and Andrei Svechnikov and Dougie Hamilton and the net-front presence of Micheal Ferland, for there not to be at least one combination that clicks. It’s just a question of finding it and being patient with the puck.
This team was going to have issues at center whether Necas was ready or not, and they have been camouflaged somewhat by Jordan Staal’s outstanding two-way play and Sebastian Aho’s prodigious production even as he continues to adjust to the position. Perhaps Clark Bishop, swapped from Charlotte (AHL) for Necas, will be able to bring a little energy and discipline to the position, even if he lacks Necas’ skill level.
And while the Hurricanes were victimized for the umpteenth time by backup goaltenders in Winnipeg and Tampa, and their goaltending has yet to steal them a game like that, they haven’t been let down in net yet either – and they still haven’t gotten a real look at the slimmer Scott Darling.
More important is the free-flowing, aggressive style of play that Brind’Amour has championed. With the exception of Tuesday night in Tampa, when the Hurricanes looked tired as a team in their third game in four days on the road, they have outhustled all of their opponents. They have certainly outchanced them.
The results have been good. The process has been better: Only San Jose is generating more high-danger scoring chances at even strength
Of course, there’s more to this than five-on-five play. Being outscored 9-2 on special teams through seven games is no way to go through life.
But the Hurricanes have avoided the fabled bad start, have put what may be their most difficult road trip of the year behind them and can feel pretty good about not only the way they have played but their ability to keep playing that way.
As starts go, for a new coach and what in many ways is a new team, that’s even better than nine points from seven games.
Sports columnist Luke DeCock: 919-829-8947, firstname.lastname@example.org, @LukeDeCock