There is just no way to say it other than this kid is playing out of his skull.
While the rest of the Carolina Hurricanes seem to be in a state of flux, forward Jeff Skinner has entered an entirely new realm of existence and is on a career defining streak. With four goals in as many games, Skinner added another career milestone on Thursday when he scored the overtime game-winner against the Washington Capitals. As if an afterthought, that game-winner sealed his second career hat-trick. The first one was a month ago.
It was clear in November that Skinner was breaking out and taking things into his own hands when he began shooting the puck with total abandon and inhibition. It paid off in spades as Skinner was November’s NHL First Star and became the hottest scorer in the league. Most thought this was what the Hurricanes were going to get out of Skinner and were happy about it. Those people were completely and totally wrong.
In the last five games, Skinner has gone fifty shades of nasty all over anything on the ice. His smooth and deft puck-handling, passing, and most of all shooting proves that he is seeing the rink in Matrix code and this is all automatic for him now. Head coach Kirk Muller said of the young phenom “[Skinner's] an opportunist. He’s finding the holes now, and it’s great because not only is he scoring, but he’s scoring big goals for us.”
That’s the best part of Skinner going all-in. He’s doing it at the most crucial times when the team needs it the most. While some players like Alex Ovechkin can shift into overdrive at will, it makes no difference if it’s at all the wrong times. Skinner has come up huge in the clutch, and this is perfect for a Carolina team who is seemingly content trying to pull one out at the last minute.
The question has been raised repeatedly if Skinner is just in the zone or if he’s had this all along and Muller just gave him carte blanche to fire-at-will. In the end none of that matters because he’s scoring big goals. Streaks being what they are, it’s bound to close out at some time — it just doesn’t look like anytime soon for Skinner.
The kid can play.