Questions down the middle

Questions down the middle

Almost always, good hockey teams are especially strong at the center position. Teams that face a regular deficit at that position tend to struggle overall. Today’s Daily Cup of Joe takes a look at the Canes down the middle at a time when there are definitely some question marks.   2019-20 The Hurricanes made an off-season move to acquire Erik Haula to fill out the center position entering the season. He seemed to fit nicely as a scoring-capable third center. Sebastian Aho had established himself quickly as a legitimate first line center. Jordan Staal was in his familiar slot as a solid, even if scoring light, second line center. And Lucas Wallmark had established himself as a capable fourth line center who could slot higher if needed. That seemed to work reasonably well out of the gate. Staal seemed to start slow but that was not uncommon for him. And that was overshadowed by Haula’s fast start on the score sheet. But by the midway point of the season, the situation had deteriorated a bit. Haula’s early season scoring was largely on the power play as a finisher, and he never really established himself as a playmaker/catalyst for third line scoring. Staal’s slow start continued making it look like maybe he was just a half step slower and not quite at the same level as previous years. And Wallmark was fine for fourth line center but probably not the guy to bump up into Haula’s slot. With the team sputtering a bit, General Manager Don Waddell made his second move in five months to try to add a center...
2020 NHL Playoffs — Gm3 @NYR: James Reimer leads Canes to win and series sweep

2020 NHL Playoffs — Gm3 @NYR: James Reimer leads Canes to win and series sweep

Entering with a 2-0 lead in the series, one had to figure that the New York Rangers would muster a push in game three. And that is exactly what happened.   Recap of the Carolina Hurricanes 4-1 win over the New York Rangers Whereas the Hurricanes were the more aggressive team by a wide margin in game one (and to a slightly lesser extent in game two), the Rangers very clearly had the upper hand early in Tuesday’s game. Only 3:33 into the game, Sami Vatanen was caught flat footed, beaten and then took a penalty. And just in general, the Hurricanes spent much of the period under duress. Fortunately for them, the best player on the ice in the first period and probably the second period too was James Reimer. The early Rangers power play for him involved early, and he never missed a beat making save after save to keep the Hurricanes in the game. The first period ended with the Rangers mounting a 14 to 6 shot advantage but a 0-0 tally on the scoreboard. But maybe being paid late for a strong first period, the Rangers scored only 12 seconds into the second period when a quick up from the defensive blue line found Jaccob Slavin out of position maybe watching the wrong player. Vatanen did not have the giddy up to help across fast enough, Chris Kreider marched in and finished mostly alone. The Hurricanes would counter pretty quickly when Andrei Svechnikov fed Teuvo Teravainen streaking to between the circles for a pretty backhand finish. From that point forward, the rest of the second...
Deep dive on Lucas Wallmark

Deep dive on Lucas Wallmark

#VoteTeuvoToday Please please please do your part to help our Canes hockey community vote Teuvo Teravainen into the 2020 NHL All-Star Game. VOTE HERE   Today’s Daily Cup of Joe does a deep dive on Canes center Lucas Wallmark.   Lucas Wallmark’s entry point following the 2018-19 season After bursting onto the scene last year when Victor Rask was injured at the start of the 2018-19 season, Lucas Wallmark reminded me very much of Josef Vasicek and ironically also Victor Rask in their rookie seasons. Like both of those players, Wallmark was mature well beyond his experience level in terms of attention to detail and the challenging defensive responsibilities of an NHL center. Wallmark jumped straight in the C3 slot as a rookie and looked capable doing so. That advanced level of soundness defensively makes for a high floor for a young player and a great starting point to grow into more at the NHL level. Vasicek did that to some degree before injuries and a shift in the NHL to a faster game limited his ceiling. And Rask similarly rose quickly before suddenly plummeting when the offensive part of his game seemed to completely dry up. Then Wallmark did one better filling Jordan Staal’s shoes taking on Staal’s top-end match ups when Staal was out of the lineup for an extended period of time with a concussion. Over the course of the 2018-19 season, Wallmark established himself as a capable center who was not in over his head defensively even against other teams’ top lines. He finished with a modest 28 points especially considering his reasonable helping of...
Checking In with Brandon Stanley — The mid-December edition

Checking In with Brandon Stanley — The mid-December edition

As we approach the holidays, the 2019-20 season has more or less solidified itself as a transition year for the defending Calder Cup champions. A repeat run is looking increasingly unlikely, as even a playoff spot is likely not in the cards at this point. However, that does not mean there are not some promising performances happening down in Charlotte. A few slow starts have started to turn around, and prospects that look like potentially big pieces down the road for the Canes have taken their games up a notch. The team is lacking the depth and firepower of the previous year, but these are some of the most promising performances as we hit right around a third of the way through the year. Instead of doing a game-by-game breakdown, for this edition we’ll take a look at how notable prospects are performing and what to watch for as we head into 2020.    Defensemen Jake Bean The good: The young offensive defenseman continues to be lethal offensively and on the powerplay, showcasing the skill that made him a highly-regarded defenseman and led to his first-round selection in 2016. Bean is leading the Checkers in points with 17 (5 goals, 12 assists) and still looks every bit the powerplay quarterback everyone hoped he could be. His shot has gotten significantly better since he first broke in as a pro, as his most recent goal against Syracuse displayed when he wired a wrist shot top-shelf from distance that beat the goalie cleanly. The bad: His defensive game hasn’t taken the step forward I’d hoped to see thus far. He’s not a physical...
Checking In with Brandon Stanley — 10/18 – 11/10 plus player spotlight on Alex Nedeljkovic

Checking In with Brandon Stanley — 10/18 – 11/10 plus player spotlight on Alex Nedeljkovic

Up and down we go, friends. The Charlotte Checker roller coaster is riding right along.  The Checkers, through the first month+ of the year, have looked about like what they are: a young team with a lot of new faces trying to find their identity. I headlined when the season started that they lost a 30-goal scorer, one of their best two-way centers, all three of their captains, and a few other important, ultra-talented others from their championship run that have graduated to the Canes. One night they’ll have a great showing and fill the net up, showcasing a steady defense and solid goaltending, the next they’ll look lost in their own end, hanging their goalies out to dry with odd-man rush after odd-man rush (hmmm… That sounds kind of familiar, actually). So, with three weeks’ worth of games to cover (eight games) and a player spotlight featuring a player that I think a lot of people are asking questions about at the moment, we’ll jump right in.   Charlotte Checkers 2, Utica Comets 8 So, yeah, this happened a couple weeks ago. We won’t dwell here long. The Checkers got punched in the mouth early and never recovered. Alex Nedeljkovic was pulled with about five minutes to go in the first period, with a sweet save percentage of .400 (three goals allowed on five shots), and Forsberg didn’t fare much better allowing the five more on 24 shots. Utica is a good team with some really nice young prospects, and they showcased their skill on this night. This was actually part of a month of October that saw...
Checking In with Brandon Stanley: Getting to know the new guys for the Charlotte Checkers

Checking In with Brandon Stanley: Getting to know the new guys for the Charlotte Checkers

Canes and Coffee is thrilled to announce that Brandon Stanley will again be offering regular updates on the Charlotte Checkers and with it the good group of Canes prospects playing at that level. You will find Brandon’s longer thoughts here, but please also consider following him on Twitter at @bwstanley26. Welcome back, Caniacs!   Charlotte Checkers departures After their thrilling run to the Calder Cup championship last spring, the Checkers saw a significant amount of changes heading into the 2019-20 season. Let’s just take a peep at this list of key players from last year’s roster no longer in Charlotte.  Andrew Poturalski – alternate captain, playoff MVP with 12 goals and 23 points in 18 games, leading scorer with a 70-point regular season, signed with Anaheim. Aleksi Saarela – team-leading 30 goal-scorer (and yes, I’m still salty about it. I hope the kid can figure out how to get his head right soon, if the reports are true, because the talent level is immense), traded to Chicago. Martin Necas – 52 point rookie season, looking great in the Canes lineup.  Trevor Carrick – 47 points from the blue line while serving as alternate captain. Traded to San Jose, where he’s finally getting a shot at some NHL ice time.  Nick Schilkey – really solid AHL player, responsible two-way game while chipping in 15 goals and 37 points and playing all over the lineup, in all situations. Now with Bridgeport, the Islanders AHL affiliate.   Patrick Brown – 19 goals and 35 points while being one of the team’s top penalty killers, and serving as captain. Signed by Vegas.  Nicolas Roy,...