Despite the lack of excitement, I really liked a number of components of the Canes win on Tuesday in Detroit.
- Cam Ward extended his run of good play. It was not the toughest of nights in terms of volume and quality of chances faced, but it is pretty hard to find fault with 1 goal against especially when it is good for a win.
- I think it was the team’s soundest game defensively. The Canes have had a couple games in which they were just flat out dominant and did not really need to play defense, but in terms of games where the ice was not tilted downhill for the Canes I think this was the team’s best.
Good goaltending and sound play is a recipe for being in most games and collecting a decent number of points via late winners or even just OTL points. The third leg of that stool, namely offense, has been elusive. But if the Canes can maintain the first 2, they should be decent and are then just waiting for scoring to show up to make a run possible.
So that begs the question – Where, if anywhere, can the Carolina Hurricanes find additional scoring?
Here are some ideas that come not from the underperforming leaders but instead from depth players with potential to provide scoring depth and possibly even jump start a leader or 2.
I think he has been the team’s best forward and arguably best player in each of the Canes last 2 games. He seemed to jump start his Skinner/Nash/Versteeg line on Saturday but the line was separated on Tuesday when Peters shuffled lines to try to generate offense. Regardless, over the recent short stretch, he has been 1 of the team’s best players and seems to have upside right now in terms of providing scoring or helping others find it.
He was quiet early in the season, too quiet. He still has only a long goal and no assists in 9 games which puts him in the category of Hurricanes players who need to do more scoring-wise. (Note that this group arguably includes everyone except Justin Faulk.) After a season low 7:21 of ice time in Colorado, he has gradually earned more ice time from Coach Bill Peters. Tuesday saw Terry move up to Jordan Staal’s second line, log 15:31 of ice time and have 1 of only a handful of key offensive plays in an offense-lite game when he set a perfect screen through which Ron Hainsey shot for the game-winning goal. He has a decent tool bag offensively between his good 1-timer and some playmaking ability. If he can get going offensively, it makes the Canes deeper scoring-wise.
Through 9 games with a decent helping of power play time, he Murphy has only 2 assists and no goals. Those are the numbers of a third pairing stay-home defenseman who does not play power play not Murphy’s skill set of a skating, offensive defenseman. He has noticeably started to open things up a bit in terms of carrying the puck. There is more risk in this style of play, but Murphy needs to play to his strengths if he is going to be a difference-maker at the NHL level, and the Canes desperately need these strengths right now.
In yesterday’s Daily Cup of Joe, I suggested that Noah Hanifin’s development might be best served by a short stint in the NHL. To be clear, it is not a demotion or my opinion that he cannot handle the NHL, but rather simply good for his development. You can find that HERE if you missed it. Based on a few comments on the post and also offline conversations with a few other knowledgeable Canes fans, I think I am in the minority on this 1. I also think that it is most likely that he will stay at the NHL level at least for now.
So working from the assumption that he stays at the NHL level, I think Noah Hanifin is another player with offensive upside. He has the hands of a scoring forward and skating ability like Ryan Murphy. If/when he gets comfortable and opens things up a bit, Hanifin like Ryan Murphy has the potential to create offense for not just himself but also the forwards on the ice with him.
I think it is important to note that none of these players fall into the category of players expected to lead the offense at the start of the season. Based on that, it is unfair to saddle them with the team’s scoring woes. But because they are off the radar in terms of expected scoring (or help creating scoring), a surge by any of these players could actually help more. A burst by any of these 4 would instantly make a shallow Canes scoring group deeper. And if they can drag an underperformer or 2 from the top half of the roster with them, it only gets better.