With an 0-1-1 start to the week, the Canes mood, including mine, is not the greatest right now. And of course, I have written my share of posts suggesting changes not always of the pleasant variety.
But amidst the struggles, there are some positives to be found without looking too hard even:
1) Victor Rask
He is quietly having a good season, and more significantly is adding to what he did last season. He carried forward his sound 3-zone play in terms of reading where to be and what to do consistently right. He is tearing it up in the face-off circle recently winning 41 of 57 in his last 3 games for 72 percent. And on a team struggling to score, he is on pace for 30 goals and 20 assists which is up from only 33 points last season. One has to like where he is right now at age 22, but even more significantly his current rate of improvement and where that could take him.
2) Jeff Skinner’s scoring chances
With Skinner, we have reached the point where the frustration is with his inability to finish which is almost always the last stop before a scoring outburst. He has a crazy total of 4 posts in the past 2 games. He has 17 shots in the past 3 games and did register the huge goal to send the Ottawa game to overtime where the Canes eventually won. More importantly, he is going and getting shots near the net and is buzzing around in the offensive zone. If he can keep up the style of play, the goals will come.
3) Justin Faulk
He was the final installment of ‘7 D in 7 days’ which you can find HERE if you missed it. His 6 goals are fun, but for me the best part of his story is how he continues to improve and his growing role as a leader with a fire for winning.
4) Brett Pesce
Now that we have seen it for 9 games and with a few small bumps in the road, it is easy to take for granted what Brett Pesce is doing right now. It is not at all the norm to jump straight into a top 4 slot upon arriving in the NHL. It is an even bigger stretch to have a player do it without any AHL seasoning. But he continues to look capable. There is room for his game to grow just like with any 20-year old making his NHL debut, but what he has done so far should not be underestimated.
5) Kris Versteeg
When Ron Francis added him via trade, I was happy to have a playmaker added to the mix, but part of me wondered if the Canes could have done just as well adding a free agent like Brad Boyes or a couple other options on the cheap. The more I watch Versteeg, the more I put him in the category of Ray Whitney as an interesting blend of intensity and leadership combined with appropriately timed levity. And on a team short on playmaking, that basic skill set is also appreciated.
Honorable mentions go to both Eric and Jordan Staal. I did not think either were great on Thursday versus Minnesota, but I continue to think Eric is playing pretty well despite modest scoring and once the scoring kicked in, Jordan has been okay too.
Finding a reasonable number of positives amidst the team’s struggles overall begs the question of how that is possible. I think it comes down to the fact that the scoring just is not there at the top half of the lineup, and the team is getting almost nothing for relief in terms of depth scoring. And (ugh) the power play is not helping either. Layer on a couple power play goals, a few more Skinner finishes and a couple more goals from the depth players and what is the team’s record?