Carolina was shut out Monday, but bounced back with two third-period goals Tuesday against Edmonton to force overtime and salvage one point to start their four-game road trip.
1. Jeff Skinner looked like he had lost his mojo for five periods on Monday and Tuesday, but then his bullet from the blue line that tied the game in Edmonton quickly reminded everyone what he's capable of. Skinner's closing in on being a point-per-game player (19 in 21 games) and has multiple-point games in three of his last five after going a dozen games — and more than seven weeks with the time missed due to injury — without accomplishing that once.
2. Despite managing just one point in two games, the Canes moved backed into playoff position with their overtime loss Tuesday. At 13-13-6 with 32 points, Carolina is third in the Metropolitan Division, one ahead of the Rangers and four behind second-place Washington. For all the injuries, up-and-down play and overall question marks surrounding the Hurricanes, it seems they will hit the season's mid-point at least in the conversation for a playoff spot.
3. If you lived through my Twitter rant last night, then you can move along. If not, here's the summary: the Hurricanes continue to be a team without an assertive identity. On Monday in Vancouver, they were forced into a plodding, no-offense outing due to John Tortorella's slow-down tactics. Then the next night in Edmonton, the Canes allowed the Oilers to turn the game into a shootout, with plenty of time and space available for both teams to score. The question is: where does this come from? It's not coaching, because this has been going on since the end of the Peter Laviolette era. Is it the long-term core of the team (Eric Staal, Tim Gleason, Tuomo Ruutu, ect.) not setting a consistent tone every night? Is it simply the kinds of players GM Jim Rutherford consistently brings in? At this point, who knows. But what's clear is that Kirk Muller has been unable to imprint a style to the Hurricanes. "Kirk" may still be "work," but no one's really sure what it is they're working toward other than trying to win playing the opposition's chosen style most nights.
Number To Know
0 — Times this season Carolina has scored more than once in the first period. By comparison, the Hurricanes have scored multiple goals in second period in 11 of their 32 games — including five times when they scored three — and Tuesday was the fourth time they scored more than once in the third period. Edmonton's 3-1 lead after the first period marked the seventh time the Hurricanes have allowed more than one goal in the opening frame this year.
Justin Peters — This will couple with the "Minus," but despite getting the loss Monday, Peters continues to establish himself as a bona fide NHL netminder. Rutherford has already said he won't expose Peters to waivers, so that leaves a trade as the likely option (over keeping three goalies once Anton Khudobin is healthy). It is a shame that the Hurricanes and Peters will likely part ways soon after a long grooming, but he's just a few months younger than Khudobin and we all know Cam Ward is going nowhere.
Cam Ward — Ward recovered after a shaky start to keep Carolina in the game against Edmonton, but that doesn't absolve him from allowing five goals. But more at play is the rift Ward's play is causing among Carolina fans. While Ward is surely overpaid ($6.3 million AAV for two more years after this one), his playoff pedigree isn't matched by many despite the small sample size. But as a regular season goalie, he's been hindered by injuries, inconsistency and, often, a poor supporting cast. If Peters goes and succeeds elsewhere, many will wonder what could have been. It's up to Ward to prove he's capable of guiding this team back to the playoffs. Once there, one should believe he'll rise to the occasion. But he needs to get there first.