Always a day late and a dollar short, it looks like the Carolina Hurricanes are finally finding a rhythm. Their win over the Florida Panthers had it all—goaltending controversy, hot streaks, comebacks (three of them!), and ultimately a solid team win that is another huge building block for the remainder of the season. It’s just too bad they only have 11 games left.
But hey, a win is a win, and that was one of the more exciting ones this season. And as always, there’s plenty to talk about.
Any night the Hurricanes’ offense can put up three or more goals is a good night, and there are a few guys in particular who have helped the team hit that 3+ goal mark in six out of the eight games of the point streak the Canes have been riding.
Starting with the longest of the streaks, Elias Lindholm has matched his team’s with an eight-game stretch (3g, 6a) of his own. His playmaking ability continues to flourish this season, as evidenced by yet another beautiful play for a primary assist:
There’s a lot to like about that play. Stripping the puck from Aaron Ekblad, recognizing the oncoming backchecker, and finding support with an absurd pass are all great signs for Lindholm’s game.
Lindholm has been the catalyst for the lion’s share of the offense since November, but it helps to have natural scorers to work with. That’s where Sebastian Aho and Jeff Skinner come in.
Both are working with four-game point streaks, and you can look above to see some of Aho’s handiwork. His goal and four assists across the last quartet of contests is perhaps not as high-octane as he would like in terms of goals, but it shows consistency in his game and that he’s going to the right places on the ice.
As for Skinner, the Hurricanes don’t have a hotter scorer. He’s got five goals and one assist on his four-game run, and has three multi-goal games in his last six. He sits five goals short of his record of 33 from 2013-14 and shows no signs of slowing down.
But it’s also not as though this is a sudden outburst from these players. Take a look:
The Canes have played 70 games.— Cane-alytics (@Cane_alytics) March 21, 2017
Thought it would be fun to divide that in half and look at point production.
2nd half first: pic.twitter.com/CsoOBeKzpl
The Hurricanes obviously have a mountain to climb to reach the playoffs in just 11 remaining games, and it would be easy for young players to mail it in. But you’ve got guys aged 24, 22, and 19 still leading the team’s offense and willing them to eight games with at least a point. The leadership group is not limited to those with letters on their sweater, so keep an eye on who wears one at the start of next season.
Cam Ward mysteriously starting in net over Eddie Lack last night, despite the latter having significantly better numbers in the past five games, may never be explained, but the reaction this call received was almost universally negative.
For the first time since his hiring, Bill Peters is truly losing many people in his decision-making. Sure, there have been moments in the past of confusion and questioning, but this is the first time—in my memory, at least—that there has been a legitimate loss of faith. And last night’s goaltending decision was just the most notable of his personnel choices—in reality, it’s merely a symptom of a larger issue at hand.
For example: Jeff Skinner has five goals in his last three games and currently maintains a four-game point streak, but has seen his ice time dip a total of 6:23 over the past five games. Granted, subtle changes in ice time are to be expected from game to game, but this is a trend, and it’s going in the wrong direction.
Victor Rask, despite just a 33% face-off win rate and being part of a line that was noticeably and consistently outworked last night, saw identical ice time to Skinner and was not moved from his line until the third period last night.
There are the long standing jokes about Peters’ strange habits, for example, his line combination tactics—check out the Bill Peters Blend-O-Matic from the fine folks of Section 328—but this is something new. His new brand of questionable decision-making is startling, but perhaps some clarity would be helpful. Answering “we can’t go wrong” to a question about goaltending (with which you absolutely can go wrong) does not exactly inspire confidence. Fans have wholly bought into the Peters/Francis plan for the past few years, but patience may be running thin with choices like these.
The Other Finn
Teuvo Teravainen, with 37 points, is quietly having the best season of his very young career, point production-wise at least. I’m sure he would say his best season was the one that ended in a Stanley Cup parade, but from a statistical standpoint, Teravainen has continued to trend upward in Carolina.
He’s been a bit lost in the shuffle with Aho, Lindholm and Skinner putting up points left and right, but Teravainen sits at 6th in team scoring—three points behind Lindholm. His goal last night looked like many before it—not too flashy, but still counts the same:
Teravainen’s presence on the power play is generally as a passer, but when he shoots, he often scores. He does often fall into the trap of trying to force an extra pass, which could be a confidence issue or a play-style issue, but either way is something to work on on as he develops.
As quiet as he can be at times, his goals usually come at important times—last night, for example, was a strong response to an early goal against. He already complements the team’s top scorers well, and is on the verge of breaching the top five.
He’ll be an RFA this summer and will undoubtedly be qualified by Ron Francis. Provided he accepts—and God forbid any other team offer sheet him—I’d venture to guess the contract he signs could be similar to Lindholm’s two-year, $5.4 million (avg. of $2.7mil per year) deal from 2015.
With the focus revolving around the Hurricanes featured scorers, having a developing point-producer in the fold like Teravainen is a big step towards a more balanced Carolina attack.
The Hurricanes seem to do this whole “rough stretch to get out of playoff contention before we figure it out again at the last second” thing every year, but that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy the positives. Watching Skinner score multiple goals game in and game out is fun. Watching Lindholm make beautiful passes to set up goals is fun. And seeing this team win is fun, even if it’s supposedly meaningless at this time of year.
The next chance for fun is Thursday night in Montreal.