After sitting out a 3-0 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets as a healthy scratch, there was no doubting that the onus was placed on Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Ryan Murphy to step up, and he responded in great fashion.
Throughout the Hurricanes 2-0 loss to the Calgary Flames on Monday night, the 20-year-old defender was assured on the puck, showing the skating ability and well-tempered manner that earns him consistent praise. Sure, Carolina didn’t get the win, but it was utterly clear that Murphy deserved to play 19:34 during the game and should continue to garner top minutes on the back line moving forward.
Heading into the game against the Flames, the defender had garnered an average ice time per game of 18:25, which while impressive, does not tell the real story of what has happened in recent weeks. Prior to becoming a healthy scratch, Murphy had only topped 16:00 on the ice in one of the previous five games, and in the other four games, he sat between 13:14 and 14:32 on the ice per game.
Certainly the status as a healthy scratch was the final warning from Carolina head coach Kirk Muller that the youngster needs to play with consistency, but one must wonder why he singled him out. When looking around the Hurricanes’ roster, it is clear that other guys, such as second line duo Ron Hainsey and Brett Bellemore, have lacked in consistency at times this season, but they have felt no repercussions of any kind. Of course, these two are all a bit older and more developed, but the case can reasonably be made that they do not bring the dynamism of Murphy, and by extension, do not offer the same value on the ice.
On Tuesday night, it was shown that he has great chemistry with John-Michael Liles, and although they are clearly more adept at the offensive side of the puck than defensive, there is no doubting that the Hurricanes need a jolt from the back end. For the entirety of the current season, the team has averaged a lowly 2.3 goals per game and 14.7 percent conversion rate on the power play, which indicates their problem is scoring goals, not stopping them.
Moving forward, Murphy can provide just the jolt the team needs from the back end, and at 20 years old, he will very likely become a pillar of the team moving forward. Aiding this development with close to 20 minutes per game will prove to be beneficial in both the short and long term, and very well could be just what the Hurricanes need to sneak into the playoffs this season.