Today’s Daily Cup of Joe offers a short collection of different notes.
Feast or famine scoring-wise
In recent times, the Hurricanes have had a weird run of scoring in bunches a few times but also struggling regularly too. The team has now been shut out three times in the past seven games. At the other end of the spectrum the Canes have posted six goals twice. I think a significant factor in the ups and downs is the general lack of depth scoring. As I have written about recently, minus Erik Haula the Canes centerman lean defense over offense. I think the result is that there just are not a ton of grade A scoring chances to go around for the Wings on the lower lines. The substitute which is also impacted by Haula’s departure from the lineup can often be scoring ugly goals by crashing the crease. Regardless, the path to more scoring consistency is likely rooted in being two or three lines deep in terms of scoring.
One growing positive as the season has progressed has been the Hurricanes special teams play. Early on, the power play was a mixed bag with the second unit producing but virtually nothing from the first unit. Even with Erik Haula out of the lineup the power play has become more dynamic with movement on the flanks and has consistently produced scoring chances as a result. In addition, the penalty kill that was up and down early in the season has also rounded into form. Heading into Thursday’s game, the Hurricanes were sixth in the NHL in terms of power play proficiency and third in the league for penalty killing. I would be curious to see if/when the team was last that high. No doubt the coaching staff deserves some credit, but I think a huge factor is increased talent across the roster. The power play now has more legitimate options, and Brind’Amour’s move to use Aho and Teravainen on the penalty kill has been a positive.
Trend away from balance
Somewhat related to the first point on scoring, Brind’Amour has recently been shifting away from balance in terms of ice time and leaning more heavily on the top of his roster. Jake Gardiner has only logged about 11 minutes of even strength ice time in the past two games and 13-ish minutes total. Tripp Tracy is in a marketing mode where he extolls the virtues of Gardiner’s play every time he makes a sound defensive play or even just stays out of trouble for a whole game, but the reality is that Brind’Amour does not have a really high trust level right now. The result is a third pairing on defense that is being used only carefully. Similarly, the ice time for the bottom few players is shrinking. Julien Gauthier saw only 4:04 of ice time on in Thursday’s game. Jordan Martinook and Brock McGinn were both at about 5:30 of even strength ice time to go with their regular helping of penalty kill minutes.
That combined with more line shuffling this year suggests that Brind’Amour still is not very settled on the lineup and confident in his ability to roll combinations 18 skaters deep.
What say you Canes fans?
1) What do you make of the Hurricanes recent Jekyl and Hyde that sees six goals some games and then zero the next?
2) How would you distribute credit for the Hurricanes surging special teams play?
3) What are your thoughts on Brind’Amour’s current propensity to ride the top half of the roster and divert minutes from the bottom in close games right now?