Thirty games into the season, what do we know about the Carolina Hurricanes?
Looking at the season in 10-game segments, the Canes were 6-3-1 in the first segment, 3-5-2 in the second and 4-5-1 in the third after the 6-4 road loss Thursday to the Montreal Canadiens.
Andrei Svechnikov blew past the Habs’ Shea Weber and beat goalie Carey Price with a quick backhander in the second period, scored again on Price early in the third and nearly had his first NHL hat trick. That blew up Twitter and Canes coach Rod Brind’Amour called it the rookie’s “coming-out party” albeit with a few defensive mistakes.
“He looked like he was trying to win the game for us, and that’s what we need more of,” Brind’Amour said. “But he shouldn’t be our leader on the ice. We’ve got older guys who need to step up.”
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Canes captain Justin Williams used the word “middling” this week to describe the Canes. Interesting, and apt. With losses in five of their past six games, “stumbling” is another as the Canes (13-13-4) host the Washington Capitals (18-9-3) on Friday.
Given the parity in the Eastern Conference, the Canes could edge their way back up the standings in the five-game homestand before Christmas. Or not.
Here’s what we know:
Aho needs to stay in the middle
From the moment he was hired as head coach, Brind’Amour expressed doubts about using Sebastian Aho at center. Aho on the wing was fine his first two years in the league and he did score 53 goal in those two seasons. But he was drafted as a center, the Canes won’t win the Stanley Cup this year, it’s all about building for the future and Aho’s future is at center.
Brind’Amour did move Aho to the wing but has him back at center since Jordan Staal went out with concussion. He should be there to stay. He’s much more involved and active.
“All year he’s been fine at center but we were trying to figure out if that’s where he could be the most effective,” Brind’Amour said.
The three-headed goalie situation
The Canes have gone nearly half the season and can’t quite get the goaltending thing right.
There’s a good reason for that: injuries. As Brind’Amour said, “One guy keeps dropping.”
“We’ve only had three goalies were who healthy for about a week, it felt like,” he said. When healthy, Petr Mrazek and Curtis McElhinney are the Canes’ best options and Scott Darling No. 3. Or will Alex Nedeljkovic be No. 3?
A need for more offense
The Canes need more offense from Teuvo Teravainen, who has five goals in the first 30 games. Then again, the same can be said for Victor Rask, Brock McGinn, Lucas Wallmark, Dougie Hamilton, Warren Foegele, Phil Di Giuseppe, Justin Faulk … you can go down the list.
“We need our big players to win us games here and there, but the only way to have success is that everybody has to contribute,” Brind’Amour said.
Canes owner Tom Dundon has said the team needs to acquire another proven scorer, a sniper. The Canes had one, Jeff Skinner, but traded him away. That has been good for Skinner, who has 22 goals in 32 games for the Buffalo Sabres, and bad for the Canes.
The D needs to be there every game
The defense needs to be a strength, night after night, game to game. Things were so loose, so inefficient Thursday that Brind’Amour could only say, “Holy moly” in talking about the play of the D-men.
“That’s supposed to be the best part of our group,” he said.
Dougie Hamilton had one of the worst games of his career Tuesday against Toronto, when he was minus-4. Justin Faulk struggled Thursday and was minus-3. Haydn Fleury went out with an injury against the Habs but Brind’Amour didn’t use that as an excuse.
Penalties no longer killers
Credit to the Canes for continuing to improve the penalty killing. Looking at the 10-game segments, the Canes gave up 11 power-play goals on 33 attempts in the first 10 games, six on 32 in the second 10 and now just one on 31 attempts after killing off six power plays at Montreal.
The Canes, once last in the NHL, are now tied for 13th. They’re pressuring well, moving well and getting sticks on pucks. There is a confident vibe to the two units that wasn’t there early in the season.
A middling power play
The power play has been hit and miss all season, regardless of who’s on what units. Too stagnant.
The Canes were 4-for-35 in the first 10 games, then 7-36 in the next 10. They were 5-for-30 in the last 10.
Svech, Fishy and Turbo
Just a thought but shouldn’t Andrei Svechnkov get a shot at playing with the Finns? Aho, Teravainen and Svechnikov would be a young line — average age 20.7 years old — but one with speed, skill and in Svechnikov’s case some added power.
Svechnikov’s line, with Wallmark at center and Williams at right wing was dangerous and productive Thursday, but it might be time to take a look at the Russian and the Finns.
The captain gets it together
Maybe Justin Williams heard the whispers getting louder or maybe gave himself a talking-to but his play has picked up of late. Williams is 37 and was beginning to show his age, but the captain has five goals in the last 11 games and has provided a spark at times.