You take the good, you take the bad, you take them both and there you have Carolina Hurricanes hockey. Last night’s statement win over the Philadelphia Flyers was a good that fans will want to hang on to for when the bad starts.
After two games, one of them a tough break against the Detroit Red Wings, it’s clear the young season is going to unfold the way nobody predicted it would.
While many were heralding Eric Staal, his kid brother Jordan, and Alexander Semin to come powering out of the gates holding the flag, this has not entirely been the case. The top line players are producing nicely, but it’s been Nathan Gerbe and Radek Dvorak who have gone into beast mode and dominated the screen.
Dvorak is on a two-game goal streak and co-leads the team in plus/minus, as well as shooting at an even 50 percent. Let nobody forget Dvorak is 36-years-old and after 1,200-plus NHL games in his career, still had to fight for a contract in camp.
Recent acquisition Gerbe, currently leads the team in shots on goal with 9, and has displayed those intangibles that make coaches raise their coffee mug and wink. The most important thing to note about Gerbe is how much he smiles on the bench. This is a big deal that many forget to look at. He’s providing the most important component to successful team chemistry: Gerbe is having fun.
He genuinely is enjoying his new teammates and clicks with them on the ice. You can’t teach that at camp, and head coach Kirk Muller would be wise to capitalize upon it.
The young forward Jeff Skinner, was expected to break out more this season, and he has. Leading the team in points and tied for the plus/minus lead, Skinner needs to simply keep doing that, and stay healthy.
Help is coming from some other odd places. Jiri Tlusty has ramped up the already prominent physicality of his game. Leading the team in hits with nine and always finding himself in the proper scuffles, he will work wonders for team morale and chemistry. Tlusty needs only to remember to put pucks on net, which is easy to forget as a defensive-minded forward.
Muller is not without his screws to turn. The Hurricanes’ defense still is a work in progress. With elder statesman Tim Gleason still out with a concussion, it has fallen to Justin Faulk and Jay Harrison to lead the back end.
While Faulk has been getting that big buildup from the Hurricanes’ PR department and Fox Sports, none of it seems to be making its way to the stats sheet. He is making his presence known, and is in no way the shaky player he used to be. However, despite all the accolades, Faulk is still skating at a -2, has zero goals and a pair of assists; and despite leading the team in ice time last night, he is still in the minus.
A player of Faulk’s talents coming up empty on most statistics in a 33-shift game while leading a defense with an “A” on the team’s sweater should not be tolerated. Again, Faulk is a fantastic defenseman; he needs to be told this — often. In the absence of Gleason, it comes down to him and not Harrison to lead the defense. He’s doing well, but needs to be doing much better.
The Hurricanes would be wise also to demand more from Andrej Sekera. He and Faulk have become fast friends, and his defensive-minded play was all the rage against Philadelphia. He and Faulk could easily snatch the torch from Gleason and make the Hurricanes’ blue line something to be feared again.
New pickup Eilias Lindholm has been playing his mind out, but gave fans and coaches a scare by getting shaken up late in the game against the Flyers. He returned to the bench later in the third period, however. Keeping this guy healthy should be a top priority as the Canes are nowhere near to seeing what he’s capable of.
The Hurricanes have what it takes to make a massive statement in the Metropolitan Division. Once the players expected to shine start shining as brightly as the surprises, the sky is the limit for Carolina.