We all want to see more of this, right?
With a quarter of the season gone, I think it’s pretty unlikely that Hurricanes fans are neutral on this season. Hopes were high for the 2012-2013 season, and they didn’t exactly die when it was settled that the season would be abbreviated. Of course, some people were cynics and assumed the Hurricanes would stumble out of the gate. I will admit to being one of the latter people.
The season, thus far, hasn’t been as good as some of the most hopeful thought; then again, it hasn’t been as bad as I worried it would be, either. It’s been a season marked by inconsistency and, in terms of coaching, a very short leash for players. It’s also been a season marked by the captain’s roaring comeback.
There are some things that don’t need improving. The top line is clicking like no one’s business. Goaltending is adequate (this was not true two weeks ago). The power play is starting to produce.
But oh boy, are there some things that could be better. For starters, the penalty kill has been godawful, these past few games. This is doubly disappointing because Muller is known for his special teams. And, again, the star power-loaded power play has started doing its job. But the penalty kill has, if anything, gotten worse.
Secondary scoring also needs to kick in. Jordan Staal and Jeff Skinner have had a lot of chemistry, but the third line is mediocre at best and the fourth line is laughably bad. Jay Harrison has struck twice to get game-winners, but Justin Faulk has seen production falter. The Canes’ scoring is fine, for now, because the star power is doing what it needs to do; but divisions, even ones like the Southeast, aren’t won with top-heavy scoring. The lower-tier guys need to be doing their jobs better.
And then there’s the problem of the Hurricanes’ slow starts. They’re struggling to score first, and it’s a miracle if they get out of the first period even, much less ahead. Part of this is, again, the abysmal penalty kill. But part of this is a kind of tentativeness that’s harder to pin down. The Hurricanes, simply put, play like a team that expects to get stomped. That’s not the most unreasonable assumption, if you know anything about the Hurricanes’ past, but it’s also not exactly a winning long-term strategy. They came out roaring against the Devils last night, and hopefully will be able to have that trend continue as the year wears on.
The Hurricanes are in playoff contention right now, but a competitive team just can’t depend on the other teams in their division being bad. In fact, that’s pretty much the definition of a non-competitive team. The Panthers and the Lightning, or even the Caps or Jets, could easily get their feet under them and overtake the Hurricanes; the Canes have a margin of two points above the Lightning right now. They need to start playing like a much more cohesive team if they want to make the playoffs.
As for post-regular season play, well. Why borrow trouble? I’ll bother thinking about that if it looks like the Hurricanes are actually going somewhere.