After an early part of the season that saw Coach Bill Peters shuffle the forward lines and defense pairings literally on a daily basis without much working, the puzzle pieces all seem to fit together perfectly. This is never a permanent thing in the NHL. Chemistry can come and go and things that are working eventually cool. But for right now, the Canes have a bunch of things that seem to be working pretty well, and that is of course a good thing. Here is a quick look at the current forward lines combinations.
Andrej Nestrasil / Jordan Staal / Joakim Nordstrom
There are more exciting things going right now, but I really think this line is the foundation of the Hurricanes recent success. Before the season even started, I wrote a post on The trio uses none of the top-end scoring talent at the forward position therefore leaving more to build other lines that can score. But they are scoring. And equally importantly, they are are taking as many of the hard minutes against the other teams’ best lines as possible.
I wrote a post just before the season started entitled “Is Jordan Staal’s line the key to the 2015-16 Hurricanes offense/forwards?” The line mates were different at the time (Nash and Gerbe), but the idea is the same. If the Canes can build a good checking line that does not use the most scoring-capable forwards and even get scoring from it, building out the rest of the forward lines gets much easier.
I think Nordstrom is the quite key. Staal and Nestrasil played together here and there earlier in the season but never really stuck. I think the missing element that Nordstrom brings is mobility/speed. He retrieves so many ‘race’ type pucks but despite not being that big is capable of playing the cycling game that is Andrej Nestrasil and Jordan Staal’s strength and is also sound defensively.
Jeff Skinner / Victor Rask / Phil Di Giuseppe
Jeff Skinner has found a rhythm. When he gets going offensively, he can score in bunches regardless of line mates. But I still think Victor Rask is a perfect complement to Skinner and Di Giuseppe. Rask is incredibly good at reading situations and getting things right positionally and decision-making-wise which gives Skinner and Di Giuseppe a little more leeway to fly around a bit with Rask reading and reacting to balance things out when needed.
Kris Versteeg / Eric Staal / Elias Lindholm
Eric Staal continues to make a high volume of good plays oftentimes not on the score sheet. He continues a strong run of being on the screen when a Faulk or someone else’s shot beats a screened goalie. He (with Versteeg) was the screen for the first goal against Arizona like many others this year. Kris Versteeg provides Eric Staal with skilled help on his left side similar to Cory Stillman and Ray Whitney who were there during his best seasons.
Chris Terry / Jay McClement / Brad Malone
I especially like Brad Malone’s play this season. His role is not the biggest or most significant on the team, but even when the team in total was struggling, he was holding up his end of the deal. Malone has been physical and an energetic spark plug in addition to chipping in some offense. The key for this line is to stay out of trouble defensively. Provide an energy boost when needed. And to also place a couple players on the penalty kill. McClement and Malone are doing that right now. Right now they are doing that.