Today’s Daily Cup of Joe takes a shot at condensing the Carolina Hurricanes situation down into bullet points.
1) Goaltending will be critical
With the rest of the Metropolitan steaming ahead, the Hurricanes will need to string together more than a handful of wins followed immediately by a couple losses to rise up the standings. That kind of consistency will be nearly impossible without solid and consistent goaltending. Vezina-worthy is not required but consistently ‘good enough to give the team a chance’ is. Here is hoping that the strong back-to-back set that saw each goalie play well serves as a restart for the duo.
2) The special teams continue to be a drag
Whereas, strong special teams play can sometimes help collect points in lackluster outings, the Hurricanes have seen the opposite. The loss to San Jose in overtime could almost entirely be pinned on special teams play and very rarely has the team gained an advantage from them. The penalty kill is a bit perplexing because the personnel seems to be adequate and the bench boss Steve Smith has manufactured top 5 penalty kill units from different lineups in consecutive years prior to the 2017-18 season. The power play has a history of being ‘meh’ at best in recent years, so perhaps its current #28 ranking is not as surprising. It is troubling nonetheless.
3) It’s Skinner time
Jeff Skinner who has generally played his best hockey as the season wore on should be about due to heat up. His current pace for 27 goals is not horrible, but he has been quiet of late and the team needs more from to push up the standings. Timing is right based on past experience for Skinner to have one of those stretches where he puts the team on his back offensively for 5-6 games.
4) The team needs to find an identity and a repeatable formula
Maybe I am making too much out of it, but one of the things that troubles me about the Carolina Hurricanes is that now 32 games into the season, I do not see this team as having an identity, style of play and repeatable formula for winning. Rather, the teams successes seem to be a random mix of everything. There is nothing wrong with finding different ways to win, but a random formula often leads to random results. More often than not, teams that win consistently do have a style of play that plays to their strengths and drives wins when they hit a groove and can put out the same brand of hockey for an extended run.
I will save the longer version for another day, but I am increasingly starting to believe that what Peters wants to do and what he should do are actually opposed. Peters preference seems to be for structured play to a system that tries to lean defense first. Conceptually, there is nothing wrong with this, but I actually think the team’s strengths lie elsewhere and that its weaknesses do not mesh well with this target. Both Scott Darling and Cam Ward look more comfortable in the games in which they see a higher shot total. And with Noah Hanifin leading the way, I think the Hurricanes skating blue line is built to be better than the opponent if and when things get a little bit frenetic. Further, the young blue line’s propensity to have its share of defensive lapses does not mesh well with trying to win 2-1. But we will save the longer version of that debate for another day.
5) The defense needs to be better
For a couple years now, it has been believed that the next leg up for the Carolina Hurricanes would come from the maturation of a young blue line with an incredibly high ceiling. As I have written before, the gap is still often fairly significant between the reality of today and the optimistic hope for tomorrow. Aside from Noah Hanifin, the blue line is producing below an NHL average level offensively and in my opinion has more than the NHL average for significant breakdowns, or ‘big oopses’ as I have dubbed the stat. That combination of high risk/peril in terms of break downs coupled with relatively low reward in terms of scoring production will need to improve for the 2017-18 Carolina Hurricanes to reach anything close to their potential ceiling.
What say you Caniacs?
1) Is this a reasonably decent summary of the 2017-18 Carolina Hurricanes’ current situation?
2) Is there anything you would add to or subtract from this short list?