With seven games in the books for the 2017-2018 Carolina Hurricanes, the team’s record sits at 3-3-1. This looks to be a pretty much squarely average team in the early going of the season.
When a team’s record hovers around .500, it’s typically pretty safe to assume that about half of the roster has been performing well while the other half has not. For the Hurricanes so far, there have been a lot of players who are teetering on the fence between hot and cold so far. Players like Justin Faulk, Noah Hanifin, Sebastian Aho, and Elias Lindholm are some of the players who fit that bill.
For some, on the other hand (hands?), things have been a little more clear. While it’s still very early, and there’s loads of time for some of the slumpers to turn things around and be key contributors, it remains the case that some players have just been better than others.
Here’s a look at three guys who have been instrumental to what success this team has had so far, and three guys who will need to step up their game for this to be a playoff team.
There’s little question that Skinner has been this team’s best forward to this point in the season. In terms of basic production stats, Skinner leads the team in both goals (5) and points (7). Nobody else on the team has more than two goals, so he’s going to need help quickly in that department
Beyond that, though, he’s been pretty excellent in his overall game. He leads the team in individual expected goals, and his on-ice expected goals share of 57.84% trails only his usual line mate, Derek Ryan.
Still, though, there are aspects of Skinner’s game that are bound to improve in short order. For example, he’s drawn just one penalty in seven games so far this season, and that’s not something that we can expect to continue, given what we know about his knack for putting the Canes a man up.
Despite having just one scoring point to this point in the season (which came in last night’s loss), Pesce has quietly been this team’s most effective defenseman from a holistic point of view thus far.
No player on the roster has been on the ice for more of Carolina’s 5-on-5 goals than Pesce’s seven. His corsi share of 57.31% is second among the team’s blue-liners, and his expected goals share of 57.22% is first by a healthy margin.
He’s also drawn three penalties and only taken one, which is probably an unsustainable rate for a defenseman, but is encouraging nonetheless. Pesce’s PDO sits at just about an even 100, and with him doing such an excellent job driving both shot quality and shot quantity, there’s no reason the 7-5 margin in terms of goals that Carolina enjoys with him on the ice won’t persist.
Many in the Hurricanes media sphere and fan base predicted an offensive breakout forthcoming from Slavin this season, and so far, they appear to have been correct. Slavin joins Skinner and Sebastian Aho as the only Hurricanes to record three points at 5-on-5 play.
The third-year standout has also been dominant in terms of corsi share and expected goals share, at 56.08% and 54.79% respectively. And of course, #AsExpected... Slavin is yet to take a single penalty. I think that’s good out of a defenseman.
Slavin’s continued journey to being a bonafide superstar in the NHL will be contingent upon his ability to grow his offensive game to match the type of defenseman that reaches that echelon these days. His goal last night was nice, and it felt like he was the only guy on the ice at that moment with the conviction to bury the puck when he had the opportunity.
Staal is off to a highly uncharacteristic start in his sixth season as a member of the Hurricanes. Outside of his unbelievably good four-point performance in Edmonton during the road trip, his all-around game has left a lot to be desired.
Outside of that game, he has just a point in six games. But dry stretches of production aren’t exactly new from Staal. They’re the sort of thing you live with when you have a center who is as dominant at driving play as Staal has been throughout his career.
Unfortunately for the Hurricanes, that Staal hasn’t really shown up yet this season. The newly-named co-captain has just a 45.12% expected goals share so far this year. That lags behind his decent 52.51% corsi share, which indicates that with Staal on the ice, the scoring chances the Canes are allowing are far more dangerous than the ones they’re generating. That will need to turn around sharply, and fast. The Hurricanes success is heavily dependent upon Staal being the elite play-driver that he typically is.
Rask’s start has been just about as bad as his stat line of two points in seven games would suggest that it’s been.
He’s registered just 15 shot attempts at 5-on-5, good for 13th out of the team’s 16 skaters who have played at least 50 minutes in that situation. His 0.54 expected goals at 5-on-5 rank 10th among the team’s forwards, behind fourth liners and fellow Swedes Joakim Nordstrom and Marcus Kruger.
As Canes Country senior writer Brett Finger astutely pointed out on Twitter last night, Rask has just 15 points in his last 47 games. With this being the first year of Rask’s big six-year, $24 million contract extension that he signed in July of 2016, perhaps he’s gripping the stick a bit too tight and putting too much pressure on himself to live up to the deal.
Whatever it is, Carolina really does need more out of the man whose future they invested so heavily in. Hopefully he’ll find a way to break out of this dry spell sooner rather than later.
Allow me to preface this by saying that it’s never, ever fair to expect a rookie defenseman to step right into the NHL and fit in right away. Fleury’s struggles to this point are fully understandable and are likely not indicative of the quality of player he will be in the future.
With that being said, it’s worth noting that his expected goals share of 46.32% is comfortably the worst out of the five defensemen who have suited up for all seven games this season. This is despite the fact that he regularly faces the least threatening forwards on the other team’s bench.
However, Fleury’s corsi share sits at 54.17% which indicates that there are several positive things that he’s doing out there. Look for the expected goals share to improve as he develops and learns how to take the dangerous scoring areas away from the forwards he’s up against.
All statistics from corsica.hockey unless otherwise noted.