After the Carolina Hurricanes began the new season with a less-than-stellar start (opening with a 0-2-1 record), they have managed to get back on track, winning each of their previous three games. What’s more remarkable than the Canes’ current string of success — which includes two victories against the reigning Stanley Cup Champion Boston Bruins — is the way they are winning.
Cam Ward has been solid in net; that hasn’t changed. What has changed are the players that are providing offense. Eric Staal and Jeff Skinner each have just one goal during the current win streak, neither of which came at even strength. The scoring has come from unlikely sources, and the emergence of Carolina’s depth couldn’t have come at a better time.
The Hurricanes’ third line, fourth line and defense have picked up offensive slack, scoring seven of the team’s 11 goals in the past three games. Joni Pitkanen has been a point-per-game player so far this year, contributing offense in all of the Canes’ victories, including a goal and two assists last Tuesday. Anthony Stewart has two goals during this stretch, and Tim Brent has added three points.
“(Secondary scoring) is really important,” head coach Paul Maurice said last week. “Teams are going to key on our first two lines. If we get comfortable to have four lines to play, we’re going to be in every game.”
Without a heavy dose of secondary scoring, the Hurricanes would be in a lot of trouble just six games into the 2011-12 campaign. Instead, they now possess a winning record and have the confidence needed to succeed moving forward. At the end of the season, we may look back at this win streak and realize just how important it was. Had Carolina continued to lose like they did in the beginning of the year, there’s no telling how far they would’ve sunk.
Skinner and Staal are going to start producing at the level Hurricanes fans expect–that isn’t a concern. At this juncture, I find it more encouraging that Carolina’s role players are putting the puck in the net. The Canes lack star power compared to the higher echelon teams in this league, and it’s important for them to get consistent offense from those other than their top-six forwards. If the past few games are any indication, that won’t be a problem this year.