A 3-2 rally against the Colombus Blue Jackets placed the Carolina Hurricanes in 3rd place in the metropolitan division for a mere 24 hours before being shutout by the Montreal Canadiens 3-0 while also ending a four game winning streak.
January was a remarkable month for the team as they recorded their second best record for the month of January in franchise history going 10-4. Anton Khudobin showed his true colors while receiving the first star of the month. Jeff Skinner, Andrej Sekera, and Khudobin were all honored within the top 3 stars during the month.
If you read my last column you would have thought the entire roster read it as well. Semin stepped up his game and played exceptionally well after getting the nod to play for his home country of Russia in the Olympics. Staal’s season continued to incline in points, as it should. It is notably obvious when a star captain like Staal plays well, it is reflected within the teams’ performance. A captain is there to lead the way and he did exactly that. Semin and Staal had consecutive points going in to the game against Montreal.
The last time the hurricanes recorded a 10-win month was in 2009 and they proceeded to the Eastern Conference final. Coincidence? I think not.
Nathan Gerbe put up a goal in January that was featured on Sports Center’s Top 10, and we all know Sports Center doesn’t favor hockey necessarily. The between-the-legs move made notable by Marek Malik in a shootout was attempted by Gerbe while hauling full speed towards Philidelphia goalie Steve Mason. As the puck bounced over Flyers defenseman Luke Schenn inside the Hurricanes zone, Gerbe’s accelerated speed propelled him towards the puck giving him a breakaway opportunity. Gerbe then made the effort to place his stick between his legs and flip the puck past Mason. The successful attempt by the 5’5" forward was made after practicing trick shots during practice.
Nathan Gerbe goes between-the-legs to score (via NHL)
After the New Years rally against Montreal, the Hurricanes appeared to find the momentum they had been looking for. Since then, the Canes have been playing a more aggressive style. For one, they are doing very well at controlling the puck more and making smart plays. Although the consistency is lacking a little in that category, they’re doing much better compared to the first half of the season.
A critical, tight–checking game is essential at this point of the season especially considering how tight the standings are within the Metropolitan division. While the Hurricanes sit in fifth place in the division, they are four points out of a playoff spot as well as New Jersey and Washington. Carolina was caught slipping late in the third period in their 2-1 loss against Winnepeg, a game that could have easily gone down to the wire. For the most part, the Hurricanes maintained the flow throughout the first and second periods. Several Hurricanes’ chances rung the post and a Jiri Tlusty one-timer feed from Semin skimmed past the net. As much of an impact points play at this time of year it’s important that the Canes keep their cycle running efficiently in the offensive zone and keep battling for the puck in the corners. Their game against the Winnipeg Jets showed that a minor mistake could cost the game.
The Hurricanes play back-to-back games before the Olympic Break. Anticipating the return, Cam Ward should be no less than one hundred percent. Carolina’s goaltending situation as of now isn’t necessarily ideal, but it could be the factor that helps them clinch a playoff spot. The Fourth Period reported the ‘Canes could have interest in adding Florida Panthers' Marcel Goc or Buffalo’s Steve Ott to add depth to the center position. Ott’s presence would be ideal as he adds an aggressive style of play that could help the Hurricanes improve on their own.
Best of luck to Justin Faulk, Tuomo Ruutu, Andrej Sekera, and Alex Semin in the Olympics with their respective countries.