Devils vs. Hurricanes
Tracking the Storm

What's In a Name?

Monday, 03.11.2013 / 2:30 PM ET / Tracking the Storm
By Michael Smith
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What\'s In a Name?
The big three. The top line. The SST line. The STATS line. The international connection.

Michael Smith
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Whatever you want to call the Carolina Hurricanes’ first line of Eric Staal, Alexander Semin and Jiri Tlusty, there is no denying that the three comprise one of the best lines – offensively and defensively – in the NHL.

So, do they have a nickname for themselves?

“No, we don’t,” Tlusty said with a smile. “We are just happy that it’s working for us. That’s all that matters. It’s fun to be on the winning side.”

A simple moniker perhaps isn’t befitting of such an exhilarating, versatile and lethal trio, which has combined for 32 goals and 45 assists (77 points) in 24 games. One of Staal, Tlusty and Semin has scored in all but one of the team’s 14 wins, and the Canes are 13-3-1 when one of those players nets a goal. Staal, who leads the team in points with 30, ranked fourth in the league in game-winning goals with four. Semin leads the team in assists with 19, and Tlusty leads the team in goals with 13.

Conceivably lost in the line’s firepower is its defensive responsibility. Staal, Tlusty and Semin are a collective plus-53, as all three players rank among the top four in the league in plus/minus. It’s a statistic that’s often questioned, but with an entire line firmly in the black, it stands to be an accurate barometer of their all-around play.

“Just from their plus/minus, it’s a good indication of their commitment without the puck,” head coach Kirk Muller said. “They arguably could be the top line in the game right now with their production, but the great thing is their attention to detail of playing well without the puck and respecting the defensive side of it.”

“It’s just saying that we have scored more goals than we have gotten scored on,” Tlusty said of the stat. “It helps the team. We try to be an offensive line, but we don’t want to get scored on, too.”

A sure indicator that Muller trusts the line defensively is when it is the first over the boards near the end of a game in an empty-net situation. The result? Tlusy leads the league in empty-net goals with three.

“I didn’t realize that, no,” Tlusty said, laughing. “That’s pretty funny, though, I’ll take that.”

Muller has also recently paired Staal with Semin on the penalty kill. Staal is averaging just over a minute of shorthanded time per game, and Semin’s average clocks in at about half of that.

“I do [trust them]. Your top players are usually your smartest players,” Muller said. “They react off of the power play. Both of those guys are smart, and they have experience.”

A key factor in the line’s success at both ends of the ice has been the chemistry that exists between the three players. Staal and Tlusty played together for much of the stretch run last season, and Semin has rapidly meshed as an elite playmaker, inconceivably threading the needle to set up Tlusty and Staal.

“We have been playing together for awhile, so we know easily where those guys will be and how to read off of them, how they move and what they do,” said Tlusty, who ranks second in the league in even-strength goals (12). “So you’re kind of expecting things from them more easily.”

“It seems to work now. Of course we want even more, and I think that time will come,” Semin told Dmitry Manakhov of Sovietsky Sport. “It’s more important that the team wins and we are getting points (as a team) and it is less important who’s scoring.”

“When you’ve got your top line playing a good two-way game and capable of playing against any other top line or a defensive line when you go on the road, it’s a nice sign,” Muller said. “They’ve been a great line leading us right now, and it’s a big bonus for our hockey club.”

All three players on the line have skill, speed, great hands and a pinpoint shot. Mix in Muller’s signature attributes of accountability and hard work, and you have the recipe for this yet-to-be-nicknamed top line.

“We all try to play for each other,” Tlusty said. “Everyone makes mistakes, and we’re not perfect, but if one guy makes a mistake, the other two guys try to hustle and make up for it. That’s the success we’ve had. It’s just hard work.”



SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 x - NYR 73 47 19 7 224 168 101
2 MTL 75 46 21 8 197 167 100
3 TBL 75 46 22 7 244 194 99
4 NYI 75 44 26 5 228 208 93
5 PIT 74 40 23 11 204 186 91
6 DET 73 39 22 12 212 201 90
7 WSH 74 40 24 10 215 182 90
8 OTT 73 37 25 11 213 195 85
9 BOS 74 36 25 13 195 193 85
10 FLA 74 34 26 14 184 202 82
11 PHI 75 30 29 16 196 216 76
12 CBJ 74 35 35 4 203 230 74
13 NJD 74 31 31 12 166 189 74
14 CAR 73 27 36 10 170 201 64
15 TOR 75 27 42 6 194 241 60
16 BUF 74 20 46 8 141 249 48

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
E. Staal 68 20 27 -13 47
J. Faulk 73 14 32 -18 46
E. Lindholm 72 16 20 -21 36
J. Skinner 68 18 12 -22 30
V. Rask 71 11 19 -12 30
R. Nash 67 8 17 -10 25
N. Gerbe 69 7 17 -13 24
J. McClement 73 7 13 -3 20
A. Nestrasil 45 7 13 4 20
J. Staal 37 4 15 -9 19
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
C. Ward 19 21 5 .910 2.43
A. Khudobin 8 15 5 .903 2.62