Tracking the Storm

Ruutu Playing to his Strengths

Wednesday, 01.5.2011 / 10:30 AM ET / Tracking the Storm
By Paul Branecky
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Ruutu Playing to his Strengths
Scoring binges don’t come much more quietly than the one Tuomo Ruutu recently enjoyed. That’s exactly the way he and his coach like it.

Paul Branecky
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In the Hurricanes’ last five games, Ruutu’s 8 points (2 goals, 6 assists) rank first on the team. That stretch includes a four-point performance on New Year’s Day against New Jersey and only one game in which he did not record a point - the Canes’ most recent contest against Florida.

What one might notice about that streak, or perhaps didn’t notice, was that flashy plays were few and far between. There were no end-to-end rushes or fancy dekes. Only fervent fans of cycling down low and strong presence around the net would be deeply moved by any of the Finnish forward’s recent scoring plays.

While he may not be earning style points, it seems that a rededication to his bread and butter is what’s allowed Ruutu to resume putting up points where it matters.

“He has to trust himself to just do simple things as fast as he can, and when he does that he’s got a good little set of finishing hands,” said Hurricanes’ coach Paul Maurice. “He can make good plays at the end, but where he gets in trouble sometimes is when he tries to make them at the beginning of the play. He just needs both strength and speed, which is what he has.”

Ruutu’s 28 points now rank tied with Jeff Skinner for second on the team behind captain Eric Staal, but he had not been scoring nearly as consistently early in the season. He had just 2 points in the team’s first eight games and had another dry spell in late November and early December in which he scored no goals and logged just 2 assists over a six-game period.

“I thought there was a lot of overly-creative, low-payoff stuff that he was trying,” said Maurice.

In order to help Ruutu get back to what makes him most successful, Maurice had to send a different message than he normally uses with scorers that are struggling to score.

“That’s the difficulty when you get a guy like that,” he said. “Most guys you bring them in and say that the simple reason that you’re not producing is you’re not working hard enough. With him, that’s never the case. It’s a matter of simplifying what he does with the puck.” 

“I’m not the type of player that can do things by myself,” agreed Ruutu. “Skinner and Staal are guys that can do damage on their own like that, but I’m playing my best game when my linemates are using each other.”

That seems to be the case at the moment, with Maurice calling Ruutu’s line with Skinner and Chad LaRose the team’s best in the win over New Jersey for their patient work down low and usage of the points to create shots and traffic in front of the net.

“On that line now, we’ve got a little bit of everything,” said Maurice. “Ruutie is a big banger, Rosie can control the puck and hang onto it and Skinner can make plays and score.”

Speaking of physical play, Ruutu posted a game-high eight hits against Florida, showing he can still make an impact in the recently rare occasions that he does not register a point.

Ruutu’s scoring run would seem to at least partially coincide with a move back to the right wing position that he’s occupied for the vast majority of his 416-game NHL career, save for the beginning of his rookie season with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2003-04 and a handful of games this season.

He says he’s comfortable either way, but feels that playing on the wing allows him to get where he’s most comfortable and where almost all of his recent points have come – in front of the net.

“I feel like I get better chances to score when I’m on the wing and can go straight to the net because I’m not the first guy coming into the zone,” he said. “At center you come in with more speed, so that’s good too.”


SCHEDULE

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AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 p - NYR 82 53 22 7 248 187 113
2 y - MTL 82 50 22 10 214 184 110
3 x - TBL 82 50 24 8 259 206 108
4 x - WSH 82 45 26 11 237 199 101
5 x - NYI 82 47 28 7 245 224 101
6 x - DET 82 43 25 14 231 211 100
7 x - OTT 82 43 26 13 232 208 99
8 x - PIT 82 43 27 12 217 204 98
9 BOS 82 41 27 14 209 201 96
10 FLA 82 38 29 15 198 213 91
11 CBJ 82 42 35 5 227 248 89
12 PHI 82 33 31 18 212 223 84
13 NJD 82 32 36 14 176 209 78
14 CAR 82 30 41 11 183 219 71
15 TOR 82 30 44 8 206 257 68
16 BUF 82 23 51 8 153 269 54

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
E. Staal 77 23 31 -13 54
J. Faulk 82 15 34 -19 49
E. Lindholm 81 17 22 -23 39
V. Rask 80 11 22 -14 33
J. Skinner 77 18 13 -24 31
N. Gerbe 78 10 18 -14 28
R. Nash 68 8 17 -10 25
J. Staal 46 6 18 -6 24
J. Liles 57 2 20 -9 22
J. McClement 82 7 14 -7 21
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
C. Ward 22 24 5 .910 2.40
A. Khudobin 8 17 6 .900 2.72