Monday’s Daily Cup of Joe has player by player quick hitters on the Hurricanes goalies and defensemen.
Cam Ward: His stat line was not pretty on Saturday, but with the team in front of him playing really sloppy, the effort was not as bad as 4 goals against might seem. Through 3 games, I have been happy with his restart after the All-Star break.
Eddie Lack: After not getting the start on Saturday, I think it is entirely possible that Lack remains on the shelf until the back-to-back on February 28 and March 1. The Canes play only twice this week, then get 6 days off and then play 5 straight home games with no back-to-backs. March is a COMPLETELY different story, but the workload in February is actually reasonable to just ride Ward. That said, Tuesday is maybe the biggest wild card and presents an interesting opportunity. The road game against the Capitals is tough sledding no matter what, so just maybe Peters buys Ward a day off and gives Lack a ‘nothing to lose’ game with no real pressure?
Jaccob Slavin: His game against Connor McDavid was 1 of the most impressive of his young career. Slavin’s combination of skating ability and just plain guts and courage to keep gaps so tight on arguably the most dangerous player in the game entering the offensive zone with speed was utterly phenomenal. Slavin had at least 2 poke checks off the rush which demonstrates just how tight he played him, and McDavid’s only goal came on a shift when Hainsey/Hanifin got caught out against McDavid when the Canes failed to get the puck deep for a line change.
Brett Pesce: If he can improve his ability to receive and shoot on net with less than perfect passes and his ability to pick and hit corners on wheelhouse passes, I think Brett Pesce has the untapped potential to become an 8-12 goal scorer. He has a really good understanding of where and when to step into holes. He just does not finish quite enough of them yet.
Justin Faulk: His game offensively has hit a higher gear of late. He has very clearly returned to a ‘when in doubt shoot’ mentality on the power play which is a good thing and has 2 posts to his credit this week because of it. He has also gained a couple really good chances jumping up into the rush. The higher gear offensively gives me renewed hope that the same crispness will return just in time defensively.
Ron Hainsey: I want the Hurricanes to make the playoffs for selfish fan reasons. But I also think there are many players on the Hurricanes who are deserving. Jeff Skinner and Justin Faulk are still young but have logged a good amount of NHL time without ever tasting the playoffs. But more than anything, I really want Ron Hainsey to get the chance he deserves. Despite logging more than 800 regular season games in the NHL over 14 seasons, he has never played in the playoffs which is unjust.
Noah Hanifin: He is at a low point right now continuing to too frequently make puck management or defensive coverage errors at the same time that his potential to create offense with his skating ability is nowhere to be found. I hate that the Canes have painted themselves into a corner somewhat similar to with Lindholm. Giving Hanifin a short run in the AHL might help but also carries significant negative baggage as a major demotion at this point because of it not being used even for a short stretch early in his development process. Maybe a couple games as a healthy scratch (see Tennyson) can provide a reset. As long as the Hurricanes are chasing playoffs, it probably is not an option, but if those hopes faded, I would also be eager to instead bump Hanifin up into the top 4 to take a quick look to see if a bigger challenge sparked him to a higher level.
An important positive is seeing watching Elias Lindholm play at the highest level of his young NHL career right now providing a reminder to be patient and also that it can take awhile for young players to develop. And to be clear, I am NOT at all in the camp that considers trading Hanifin. While his development thus far is not what I would have hoped for, his upside is still intact, and I would not give that up based on 1 1/2 seasons as a teenager playing in the NHL.
Klas Dahlbeck: He has quietly had a couple strong games and in the process at least temporarily seized a spot in the lineup. He even stepped in on the penalty kill with Pesce in the box 3 times this weekend.
Ryan Murphy: Now 24 years old and yet to carve out a regular role in the Hurricanes lineup, I think he is the most likely Hurricanes player to depart at the All-Star break not so much to make a playoff push addition but rather just to make a ‘change of scenery’ trade that gives him a fresh start in a new environment and yields a similar player for the Canes.
Matt Tennyson: Of the half dozen-ish combinations that we have seen in the bottom defense pairing, we have not yet seen Dahlbeck/Tennyson mostly because Hanifin is anchored in 1 of the bottom pair slots. With Hanifin sputtering, I would give Tennyson a look next to Dahlbeck.
Within the next few days, I will do a similar post on the Hurricanes forwards.
With a busy Monday schedule, I also put up my weekly playoff chase update and also opened The Coffee Shop with polls and discussion questions early for the week of what should be more positive chatter with a 3-game winning streak.