There was a time that the Carolina Hurricanes were able to point somewhere and say “Hey, we’re not as bad as them!”
It’s always nice to do that when the team is a ‘traditional market’ team. The Philadelphia Flyers began the year as a complete train wreck. It was so bad in fact, that they pink-slipped coach Peter Laviolette less than a month into the season. That’s not the way things are anymore.
Currently, the Flyers are sitting at third place in the Metropolitan Division and are 25-19-6 on the season. This is a far cry from the Flyers of earlier in the season. Where it gets weird is that Carolina hasn’t played them since Nov. 5 in what was a 2-1 overtime win. In fact, the Flyers have yet to beat Carolina, having also fallen to them 2-1 in regulation on Oct. 6.
The game plan is entirely different for Carolina and it needs to be.
Philadelphia goaltender Steve Mason is 19-11-5 and running around with a 2.56 GAA. While not the 2.11 GAA Boston Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask can boast, 2.56 is respectable. Mason is human, though.
With the Hurricanes finally learning how to put traffic on net and pepper a goaltender, they’re averaging 37 shots on goal in the last five games. This includes the 51 SOG they threw on Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Ben Bishop. While the strategy didn’t crack Bishop, it sure took down future Hall of Famer Tim Thomas in the 3-2 win over the Florida Panthers. Should Mason start, the law of averages will catch up with him provided Carolina throws upwards of 30 shots on goal.
No matter who head coach Kirk Muller throws in goal — Anton Khudobin or the embattled Justin Peters — that isn’t the issue. So long as the big guns like Alexander Semin and Jeff Skinner keep bringing the pain, all that needs to happen is for the back end to start playing like they’ve been here before. The Carolina defense has been struggling to find their stride despite the recent addition John-Michael Liles who is plus-10 in the last eight games. Olympic bid or not, Justin Faulk needs to answer for his atrocious performance against Tampa Bay by getting chummy with the bench for a little bit.
While the Flyers feel like Carolina might be an easy win after the Tampa Bay situation, so long as pucks are raining on Mason and the defense remembers their job description there’s no reason for the Hurricanes to not move one game closer to the season sweep of Philadelphia.