During the Carolina Hurricanes' recent solid stretch, a few standout players have led the way. Jeff Skinner — who has four goals in his last three games — is one of those, including two-tally performance on Tuesday night against the Kings.
It’s a rather overdue breakout for Skinner, but the Canes will no doubt be glad it happened. But the way Skinner adapted his game to regain his form is worth a second look.
On his first of the night, Skinner does excellent to buy time and space and alter his shooting angle. Victor Rask starts the play as he works the puck across from the top of the blue line on the power play.
Pretty simple umbrella power play here. It would honestly be nice to see Skinner slide up a bit higher to be an easier passing option for Rask, but this obviously works too.
But then Skinner works his magic. A quick fake shot and two steps inside and he’s got a whole new net to shoot at.
Ah, welcome back, Jeff. The “stuck in a rut” Skinner happily blasts a slap shot into the chest of Jake Muzzin here; but “elite scorer” Skinner is patient and opens up a better opportunity for himself.
Not only does the fake shot freeze Muzzin and force Darcy Kuemper down early, but it shifts his angle to effectively open up more of the net that was previously covered. It’s common to see players change their shooting angle by working on firing pucks from non-traditional stick positions (i.e. closer, further away from the body) to fool goaltenders into being square to their bodies instead of the puck — Skinner basically accomplishes the same thing with two quick steps to the inside and a deadly release.
Oh yeah, that release...
...in case you forgot, Jeff Skinner is a sniper.
His second of the net was just as, if not more, flashy as his first. Philip Di Giuseppe forces a turnover along the boards in the offensive zone and Skinner is off to the races.
You can almost see how wide Skinner’s eyes get in that GIF alone — good work from Di Giuseppe to intercept the pass and find Skinner down the wall. But now what?
With minimal shooting angle, Skinner stays hot and takes the shot himself instead of trying to force a pass to Elias Lindholm.
Another play, another world-class shot, ho-hum. This play is a good example of what I was talking about before, where players alter their stick position to get a better angle on goal. From where his body is, Skinner is looking at a pretty tight seal by Kuemper. But throwing his hands to the inside for a quick backhand release gives him the element of surprise and a brand new shooting angle — provided he gets his shot off quickly enough and has enough loft on the puck, Kuemper has no chance.
While he’ll always have his ups and downs, Jeff Skinner will remain a special player. But boy, is it ever time for him to get hot — the status of Skinner’s scoring production down the stretch of 2017-18 may make or break Carolina’s run for a playoff berth this season. It’s going to be a heck of a finish if he keeps making plays like these.