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Blues vs. Hurricanes
Tracking the Storm

Canes Happy with Top-Six Production

Tuesday, 01.29.2013 / 3:00 PM / Tracking the Storm
By Michael Smith
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Canes Happy with Top-Six Production
It has been said ad nauseum, but it’s ultimately an accurate measuring stick of a team’s success: A team’s best players have to be its best players.

Michael Smith
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Statistically speaking, this has been the case for the Hurricanes five games into this compressed season.

Eric Staal leads the team with six points (4g, 2a) and is a plus-6. Jeff Skinner leads the team with five goals, and he extended his goal streak to four games on Monday night, the longest such streak of his career. Jordan Staal leads the team with five assists, and he is riding a four-game assist streak. Alexander Semin has four points (1g, 3a) and is a plus-5.

But, production on the scoresheet doesn’t always translate into success in the standings. Despite the offense turning a corner, the Hurricanes are 2-3 on the season, and, as head coach Kirk Muller said, got a lesson last night on what it takes to play a complete game.

“We’ve managed to score some goals and create some offense, but there are other parts of the game where collectively I think we can get a little bit stronger,” Eric Staal said. “Just the smaller details of the game [like] face-offs for me last night. Special teams could be a little bit sharper, and we’re a big part of that.”

A common denominator around the league thus far is a productive top forward line. Look no further than Patrick Marleau, Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski in San Jose, who have combined for 36 points in just five games. While even the points total of the entire Hurricanes team can’t match those numbers, the top two lines are still developing a chemistry that is leading to timely goals.

“You look at other teams around the league, and you want to be able to match up against them,” Eric Staal said. “We feel like we can do that.”

“We’ve got two lines really going right now,” Muller said. “On the plus side, that’s what we were hoping for.”

On a personal level for Eric Staal, getting off to a hot start statistically does wonders for his confidence. Through five games last season, Staal had two goals and one assist and was a minus-8.

“For me, it’s always less thinking and more playing,” he said. “When you’re in those scoring areas, you’re not thinking about what you’re going to do with it, you’re just executing.”

Helping along his productivity has been the addition of Semin on his right wing, giving him a partner that can match and challenge his elite skill-set. In what has been a crescendo of chemistry, Semin threaded the needle to find Staal skating untouched into the slot last night for the game-tying goal.

“Now we are starting to know some of the areas and some of the tendencies that each other has,” he said. “On my goal yesterday, he makes the read that I’m coming in late, and he makes a great pass. Those are things you develop as you play together.”

But, communally, there needs to be more. Hockey is, in the end, a team game.

“It does feel good to be contributing offensively, but for our team and for any team to win, it takes everybody, a collective effort of 20-plus guys,” Eric Staal said. “We’ve been doing that for stretches but not consistently for 60 minutes, and that’s what we’re trying to get to.”

Muller specifically mentioned needing more production from the team’s third line. The current grouping of Drayson Bowman, Jussi Jokinen and Chad LaRose hasn’t recorded a point and is a combined minus-8.

Following an 0-for-6 performance on the power play last night, Muller said the coaching staff would likely shake up the combinations to make the two units more balanced. As seen last night, effective special teams can be the difference between winning and losing a close, third-period game.

Not impeding the offense, Muller also wants to see the team be stronger defensively. That’s part of the message in practice this week. The offensive production from the team’s best players is beneficial and necessary, but a playing a complete game is crucial to regular success.

“I don’t think we’ll have a problem scoring goals, but we have to continue to be better defensively,” he said. “We had areas last night where we weren’t good enough.

“We asked for three things: That the guys work, focus and do the system,” he continued. “We’re not consistent doing that right now. When we were, we played well.”




1 NYI 47 32 14 1 155 130 65
2 DET 48 28 11 9 144 123 65
3 TBL 49 30 15 4 158 131 64
4 MTL 46 30 13 3 126 108 63
5 PIT 48 27 13 8 143 124 62
6 WSH 48 25 14 9 144 124 59
7 NYR 45 27 14 4 135 110 58
8 BOS 48 25 16 7 126 121 57
9 FLA 45 20 15 10 111 127 50
10 TOR 49 22 23 4 143 152 48
11 OTT 46 19 18 9 126 128 47
12 PHI 49 20 22 7 134 149 47
13 CBJ 46 21 22 3 117 145 45
14 NJD 48 18 22 8 109 135 44
15 CAR 47 17 25 5 102 122 39
16 BUF 48 14 31 3 90 171 31


E. Staal 42 16 14 -6 30
J. Faulk 47 9 19 -13 28
E. Lindholm 47 9 11 -11 20
J. Tlusty 40 12 7 -11 19
J. Skinner 42 10 9 -7 19
R. Nash 47 7 12 -4 19
N. Gerbe 43 5 13 -3 18
V. Rask 47 6 9 -10 15
A. Sekera 45 1 14 -6 15
C. Terry 34 6 3 -3 9
A. Khudobin 6 8 2 .918 2.30
C. Ward 11 17 3 .911 2.45