It was another good week for the Carolina Hurricanes. They extended their win streak to five games with a perfect 3-0-0 record, picking up wins against a trio of quality opponents with records at or above NHL .500.
They have another tough week ahead of them, but before we get there, here are some of my thoughts about the last week of hockey.
- The Hurricanes haven't allowed a powerplay goal since October 30. That was 25 days ago. Since then, the Canes have killed off 23 consecutive penalties and have lifted their league-best penalty kill success rate to 91.8%, which is an even three percentage points better than the second-place St. Louis Blues.
- Carolina’s penalty killing unit has played an integral role in their 6-2-2 start to the month of November. Through ten November games a year ago, the Canes rendered a 2-4-4 record. It wasn’t until a breakout December that the Hurricanes got their season on track. If history repeats itself, the Canes should be in a good position going into the latter portion of their season.
- Once upon a time, Cam Ward allowed eight goals on just 38 shots. He reached that feat during the club’s opening road trip in October. Now, he sports a 7-4-3 record with a 2.27 goals against average and .919 save percentage. Amongst goalies with 10+ appearances, Ward has the 14th best save percentage and tenth best goals against average. It’s been preached for a long time that average goaltending would propel this team into a playoff hunt, and those narratives appear to have been right.
- It’s great to see Elias Lindholm finally break through. He scored his first goal of the season against the Jets on Sunday and extended his point streak to three games with an assist against the Maple Leafs on Tuesday. This is a player that has done almost everything right this season but has just recently been able to translate that into points. Lindholm’s 53.83% corsi share ranks fifth amongst Carolina forwards with at least ten games played and he has become a staple on an elite penalty killing unit. Will his recent offensive breakout get rid of the talk of him being a bust? Probably not, but one can hope.
- The Hurricanes might have finally found their sixth defenseman solution. Matt Tennyson has skated in five games since getting recalled from Charlotte along with Brock McGinn and Derek Ryan. He’s a plus-three player and sports a 53.41 corsi-for percentage at even strength. He has limited mistakes while skating with Noah Hanifin, which is really all that the Canes need. Since he has joined the team, they’ve played noticeably better as a six-man unit. Also, he’s from Minnesota, so the red, white and blue line is back.
- Let’s talk about the forwards that Carolina called up five games ago. McGinn and Ryan have found ways to contribute and have played well. McGinn has been a game changer with his aggressive game and his ability to lay hits and give the rest of the team energy. He was a key player against Montreal and Winnipeg because of the way that he plays the game. Ryan got his first point of the season against Toronto and has been a good puck mover on the man advantage while winning an impressive 59.6% of his faceoffs. Ryan likely isn’t a long-term solution as a third line center, but McGinn’s aggressive game should keep him around in a bottom-six role. The big knock on him right now for me is that he hasn’t been able to capitalize on scoring chances. He’s proven that he can score and contribute offensively at the AHL level, but that has yet to happen in the NHL.
- Carolina has seemingly seen enough of Ryan Murphy. Reports suggest that he will be traded sooner rather than later. TSN’s Darren Dreger has said that three teams are in serious talks with Ron Francis to acquire the 2011 12th overall draft pick. At this point, I don’t see why you’d trade him. He’s been criticized for things he has done well, and while many point to poor defensive play as a reason to cut him loose, his advanced numbers suggest that’s not even accurate. And what would the Hurricanes even want for him? They don’t need a defenseman, although they were rumored to be interested in Anaheim’s Cam Fowler, and his current trade value likely isn’t high enough to get a forward worth a spot on this roster, unless that player was to be a third-line center who projects to be better than Derek Ryan. So, that leaves a few options; trade him for a mid-round draft pick that likely won’t pan out to be as good as Murphy, trade him for a similar “change of scenery” player or package him in a bigger trade that would actually make an impact on the NHL team, and why make a big trade when everything is going in the right direction? At this point, I think he’d be more valuable as potential expansion bait than a trade chip. For a longer explanation of why trading Murphy isn’t a great decision, check out Kyle’s piece from Saturday.
- After a big October from Jeff Skinner and Victor Rask, I had subtle worries that they may drop off. While they haven’t been throwing up a lot of multi-point games as of late, the duo has continued to produce consistent offense. Skinner is riding a three-game point streak (2-1-3) and Rask has netted four goals and five points over his last six games. November hasn’t been a flashy month for them, but they have continued to be a force ever since Lindholm hopped up to the right wing on that line.
- Jordan Staal is amazing. Amongst players who aren’t Boston Bruins, he leads the league in even strength corsi percentage at 60.15%. Boston’s Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak are the top three players in that category. Staal’s 62% faceoff win percentage ranks second in the league. His ability to win faceoffs has directly impacted Carolina’s tenth-ranked powerplay, as he is winning 72% of his powerplay draws. He is an early favorite as a Selke Trophy finalist and he shows no signs of letting up. That paired with the fact that he is playing his two talented offensive wingers in Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen makes him a huge threat every time he steps on the ice.
- Lee Stempniak’s early season success overshadowed the impact of Viktor Stalberg as a free agent acquisition. After some struggles early on, Stalberg has been a fantastic fourth-liner and penalty killer. He’s a physical player and his speed makes him a dangerous player with the puck and in space. His aforementioned speed makes him a breakaway threat, and he has taken advantage of his opportunities.
- Perhaps the most impressive part about Carolina’s current win streak is how they are winning. They have adapted their game appropriately in each win. They flexed their offensive muscles in a 5-1 win against the Capitals, Cam Ward stood tall, as did their team defense, against the Sharks, they mounted a comeback win against the Canadiens, they stepped up their physical game yet stayed cool and disciplined against the Jets and they played a strong defensive game and kept up with a speedy Maple Leafs team on Tuesday. Good teams find ways to win games, and that’s exactly what the Hurricanes have been doing.
- Carolina’s Thanksgiving matchup against the Canadiens will be their biggest test of the season. They are going into a very hostile building in the Bell Centre and they’ll play a hungry team that will undoubtedly start their world class goalie Carey Price. Montreal wants revenge for a game they should have won in Raleigh and they are coming off of a tough 4-3 loss to the Senators on Tuesday. If there’s a game that the Canes would lose, it would be this one. Coming out with two points and extending their win streak to six games would be a huge feat for this club.