warning signs canes weekly

Warning signs: Canes Weekly [02/17/2018]

A response to Peters was what the Hurricanes needed and it certainly looked as if though they did. However two tough losses to the New Jersey Devils and the New York Islanders have landed the team one point out of a playoff position. [Both the Devils and the Islanders now hold the Wild Card spots in the East.]  

Good wins and tough losses

The Carolina Hurricanes finished their fifth game in eight days Friday night with a 3-0 loss. Although an expectable outcome for a team playing two back-to-backs in a week, the Canes deserved more. Down 1-0 in the third, Jeff Skinner produced a much-needed goal. Under further review the play was ruled offside and the goal was discredited.

Throughout the game the Canes maintained high energy. Brock McGinn laid a big hit on Matthew Barzal in the first period to get the crowd into it. The Hurricanes held the shot advantage at 45-23. And best of all, Cam Ward once again showed that he wants to be the number one in Carolina.

Thursday night, Carolina took on New Jersey in a critical matchup, one that they wish they could have back. Suffering a 5-2 loss wasn’t what they were looking for. The most disappointing part unfortunately being that of Scott Darling.

In the three other games, the Canes delivered a response that both Peters and all Caniacs were looking for. Producing three or more goals in three straight games alongside very good goaltending play. The Canes even flexed their muscles against one of the best defensive teams in the league as they put up seven goals against the Los Angeles Kings.

Cam delivers and Darling quivers

Canes

(Photo by Gregg Forwerck/NHL via Getty Images)

A few short weeks ago the goaltending situation in Carolina was still up for grabs. That is no longer the case as Cam Ward has proven to

be the starter. Since the All-Star break Cam has allowed three or fewer goals in every game he has started. He recorded his second shutout of the season on February 1. Ward also posts a .938 save percentage and a 4-2-1 record since.

Meanwhile Darling has once again continued his streak of inconsistent play. Having played three games since the break Darling has allowed four or more goals twice. He posts a .878 save percentage and a 1-2-0 record. However, don’t write him off. Darling has the ability to play, but his confidence is at an all-time low. Given that Ward has earned the starting role, Darling may thrive as he once did with the Chicago Blackhawks.

McGinn for the win

Brock McGinn has been the fire and passion the Hurricanes have needed. He has truly stepped into a role that the Canes have longed for. He brings a physical presence that can rile up any crowd. Not to mention he has been producing points more often this season (10-11-21). McGinn has become a crowd favorite and rightfully so.

The most interesting man in the league

Jeff Skinner has continued to impress. Though he has not stayed with the same line at all this season (due to Bill Peters shake-up style), Skinner continues to make plays out of nothing. Skinner’s somewhat miraculous plays often carry this offense. When he is at his best (being creative) the Canes are usually right there as well. With one of the most interesting styles of hockey, Skinner possesses the ability to score at any moment.Just watch this… [CLICK HERE] 

 

Featured image from NHL.com/hurricanes.

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Olympics

No Olympics for you

Competing for your country is something that every athlete dreams of doing. Playing in the Olympics is one of those opportunities that elite athletes have to do so. Not this year.

Bettman opposes Olympics

Gary Bettman, the NHL commissioner, once again sided with the owners rather than the players. His decision to do so is supposedly based on the growth of the game. Bettman and the NHL argue that the cost of traveling and accommodations will take money away from growing the game.

Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly doesn’t see the purpose of the players participating in the Olympics. He suggests that the Olympics do nothing to further hockey or the NHL. In contrast, my own experience speaks volumes against that belief.

Sports’ center stage

The Olympics bring elite athletes, competitive sports and hostile nations together. In a world full of chaos and havoc, the Olympics bring a

sense of hope. Millions and millions of people tune in to the games in anticipation that their country might bring home a medal.

Olympics

(Curtesy of olympics.org)

It becomes the center of the sporting world for two weeks.

The growth of hockey is something that all players, owners, and hockey representatives (NHL, KHL, NCAA, etc.) look for. What better opportunity to introduce the game to those unfamiliar than the Olympics. Suggesting that the games do not grow hockey seems unreasonable, especially at a place like PyeongChang, South Korea.

Personal experience

Being a former college hockey player in Virginia, hockey was not something relished among the other sports. However when the 2014 Winter Olympics came about, hockey became the center of my college dorm. Though most people knew I was on the hockey team beforehand, after the Olympics people were asking for tickets to my games almost every night.

Olympics

(From usa hockey.com)

Being from the USA, I began watching and cheering Team USA on in my room. The most significant game was USA versus Canada in the semifinals. Between 15-20 people showed up for that game to watch with me, most of whom had no interest in hockey until then. (And I will say, though disappointing, it may have been the most exciting 1-0 game I have ever watched.)

Just being able to watch the games online produced 15-20 fans alone. Hockey was always apart of our dorm because I played on the team, but the Olympic hockey games caused life-long fans to be born. Just in that small sample it can be seen how the game is growing. If it can grow like that in a country where hockey is prevalent, hockey can certainly grow in countries not so familiar.

A player’s perspective

Having the opportunity to represent your country is a dream. Many athletes never reach the level of play needed for a chance. Now because of the NHL’s decision, many players will not get the chance to represent their country on the biggest sporting stage in the world.

Many NHLers have expressed their disappointment in not being given the break to participate. Players such as Connor McDavid  and Austin Matthews will not have the opportunity to play in these Olympics. These players are the ones who will grow the game and they are being limited to NHL play only. Their opportunity to win a gold medal at the Olympics has been taken away.

From a player’s perspective, the NHL has let them down. Yes, the games may impact the season in a few different ways, but it is worth it: for the fans and for the players.

Hopeful anyway

As hockey begins at the Olympics, I am hopeful that the players given the opportunity to replace the NHLers will entertain those watching in South Korea and around the world. The hope of game growth is still possible with many good player participating. All the best to them. I will certainly be watching. The US Women’s team began preliminary play Sunday with a 3-1 win and the US Men will begin Wednesday.

 

Featured image by (Gregory Shamus:Getty Images).

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warning signs canes weekly

Warning signs: Canes Weekly [02/10/2018]

The Carolina Hurricanes experienced a difficult week from the top down. It seemed as if the Canes had lost their shot at the playoffs within the week’s time.

However, nothing could be further from the truth as the Canes are one point from a playoff position.

Can’t score, can’t win

warning signs canes weekly

(Photo by James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports)

In three straight games this past week against Detroit, San Jose and Philadelphia, the Canes struggles to score. The team scored just three goals in those three games before scoring four against Vancouver. (one in each since Friday). You cannot win games if you do not score goals (see The “goal” of making the playoffs).

Now the Caniacs are calling for the players’ heads, but honestly, when do they not? Of course the fans want to see goals, but more than goals, they want to see consistency in wins. The Hurricanes have to find ways to put the puck in the net with the players they have.

The team has scored 141 goals in 54 games for a 2.61 goals-per-game average this season. Those stats are good for 25th in the league. Thus, the Canes need someone to step up on the front end.

#Redvolution

warning signs canes weekly

(Photo from nhl.com/hurricanes)

The Hurricanes are known for asking their fans to join the #Redvolution. Yet, there are many fans that are more contaminating than anything else.

Yes, hold the players accountable and give your opinions, but more fans need to be “Caniac Fanatics” than critics. Express some passion and enthusiasm for the team. No one enjoys playing in front of the “haters.” Hence, why home-ice advantage is so important in many cases.

In 2006, the Canes rode the passion of North Carolina to the Cup. When the fan base is present in full, the PNC Arena can be one of the hardest places to play. This team has struggled through a tough week and would love nothing more than a welcoming cheer from their fans.

Has the panic button been pressed?

Coming off three straight wins, the Canes entered the second half of a back-to-back against the Detroit Red Wings. Losing 4 – 1 was tough, but panic set in after a tough loss to the talented San Jose Sharks. Things have unfolded since then, something that may possibly become the turning point in the season.

In reaction to the loss, coach Bill Peters commented, “There are at least three that can go in, and if it’s not those three, there’s a group down in Charlotte, too. You can’t put that group out again after that.”

Not much of a confidence-booster. Of course, Peters might have a right to be upset, but respect the team that has placed you in position for the playoffs.

warning signs canes weekly

(Photo from Getty Images)

Considering the rough start to the season for goalie Scott Darling, this team has played well. That being said, general manager Ron Francis sent fourth line staples, Josh Jooris and Marcus Kruger to their AHL affiliate Charlotte Checkers. Thankfully, the two cleared waivers and the Canes will retain their contracts. Both of these players are not goal-scorers, but are solid fourth line guys who can kill penalties and play tough minutes.

Kruger was a part of two Stanley Cup Championships with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2013 and 2015. This is experience that the Hurricanes need down the stretch of the season. Sending down Jooris is more reasonable, but he is still a player that has played hard and well in the few minutes and games he has been given.

Response time

Whether or not Peters and Francis have caused a panic attack, the players must continue to push for the playoffs. How will they react? Will they be a resilient bunch, or will everything come crashing down? The next few games are critical for this team.

 

Featured image from NHL.com/hurricanes.

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Kucherov

Nikita Kucherov: The sudden superstar

Nikita Kucherov has emerged as one of the NHL’s best. Having the league-lead in points (66) is not something to take lightly. Kucherov has gone from an above-average rookie to a superstar in less than five seasons.

Humble beginnings

Kucherov made his NHL debut with the Tampa Bay Lightning on November 25, 2013. On his first career shot, Kucherov scored his first NHL goal. This was a significant accomplishment, and one that came against the great Henrik Lundqvist. Kucherov couldn’t have dreamed up a better start to his rookie campaign.

As the season went on, the rookie produced eight goals and three assists through his first 27 games. In his final 25 games, the youngster found the back of the net only once while adding six assists. While a respectable outing, this compares nothing to the player he is today.

Is that really Nikita Kucherov?

Kucherov

(Al Bello/Getty Images)

In 2013-2014, Kucherov entered the league with a slightly different image. Yes he was younger, but as a rookie he actually started with the “Bolts” as number 56. No other player wore number 86 on the Lightning, so why 56?

Possible explanations:

  • He couldn’t speak English well and 86 turned into 56
  • As the youngest on the team, Kucherov didn’t get a choice
  • Stamkos was hurt, had a good idea, he got 86 turned to 56

What do you think?  [CLICK HERE] 

I think all of us are grateful that number 56 has turned into the 86 we love to watch. After changing his number to 86, Kucherov has only been better each year. His points-per-game (P/GP) average has sored higher and higher each year.

Kucherov Goals Assists Points Per Game
2013-2014 9 9 .346
2014-2015 29 36 .793
2015-2016 30 36 .857
2016-2017 40 45 1.149
2017-2018 27 39 1.245

The smoothest of them all…

Kucherov has become one of, if not the most valuable assets the Lightning have. The fans love to watch this guy, the players are made better for his presence on the ice, and the opponents fear him. Thus Kucherov has established himself as an elite player, a superstar so coveted in the NHL.

Kucherov is always a “plus”

Everywhere Nikita has gone, he is a “plus” to have on the team. Throughout his whole career he has been a player you want on the ice. In every season of Kucherov’s career he has finished with a plus rating. While he has become a superstar, he has maintained his level of play in his defensive end. Continuing this stunning stat, Kucherov finished out last season at +13. He is currently at +12 a little over halfway through this season. With as many goals as his line scores and the dominance they have shown, look for him to finish in the high 20s.

Proven in the playoffs

Not only is Kucherov elite in the regular season, he has proven to be lethal in the playoffs. In his 45 games of playoff hockey, he has “lit the lamp” 22 times and produced 20 assists.

Only 24, this guy has everything every team dreams of.

There is no limit to how far Nikita can go. It is almost certain that he will lead his team to the Stanley Cup, if not this year than in years to come. Add guys like Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman to his team and there you find the NHL’s best team.

Featured image courtesy of Mike Carlson/Getty Images.

 

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warning signs canes weekly

Warning signs: Canes Weekly [02/03/2018]

The Carolina Hurricanes are in quite the usual position at this point in the season. Coming in a few points short of a playoff position, it will be another nail-biter for the “Caniacs.” Year after year since 2009, the Canes have struggled to contend.

Playoff Hopes

It has been nine seasons since the Hurricanes last made it into the playoffs, doing so in the 2008-09 season led by Eric Staal and Cam Ward. With Staal now leading the Minnesota Wild, the Canes look to a familiar face in Ward.

Goaltending Struggles

With general manager Ron Francis signing Scott Darling to a four-year, $16.6 million contract, it looked like the Canes had found their No. 1 goaltender.

However, Darling got off to a rocky start with some weak goals and inconsistent play. This opened the door for Ward, who has performed well enough to take over the starting role.

Still, neither seems to be the kind of No. 1 goaltender a playoff team needs to this point. Darling has a save percentage of .892 and a goals-against average of 3.06. Ward boasts better numbers at .910 and 2.67 respectively. They have two combined shutouts the whole season (both by Ward).

On Thursday night, Ward played well and earned his second shutout of the year. One of these two will need to step up to the challenge in order for the Canes to reach the playoffs.

Don’t hate the TSA

Carolina Hurricanes Canes weekly

(Photo from FoxSports)

If Carolina is going to make their way into the playoffs, TSA will have to lead the offense. Carolina’s top line consists of Teuvo Teravainen, Jordan Staal and Sebastian Aho.

In the month of January, TSA has been involved in 19 of the 33 goals scored. 14 of those 19 goals were scored by Staal, Teravainen or Aho. When one of these three players records a point, the Hurricanes are 5-3-1 to start 2018. Two of those three losses were given by the top teams in the East, the Boston Bruins and Tampa Bay Lightning. The other was a heartbreaker to the respectable Washington Capitals with two seconds left in the third.

In seven of these nine games, the Canes have scored three or more goals. These two FINs and a CAN have to put up points for Carolina to succeed. TSA put up 29 points through 12 games in January.

Peters’ opportunity to establish himself

Bill Peters’ fourth year as head coach of the Hurricanes presents an opportunity he needs to take advantage of. The Canes don’t have the roster of a serious contender, but they have stuck around.

Peters’ puck-possession system is a great match for the Hurricanes because of their defensive core. However, his often-questionable lineup changes from period to period sometimes make things worse. The players thrive off chemistry, playing together night after night.

Peters has been trying to find the first line, but all the changes might be hurting the team more than helping. Peters committed to his lines for the first two games since the break and the team has won both.

If Peters can coach his team into the playoffs, it will have a lasting impact on his Hurricane legacy. First, he must find a way to deal without a the first line center this team so desperately needs.

Tom Dundon

Carolina Hurricanes Canes weekly

(Photo from NHL.com/hurricanes)

The new owner of the Hurricanes has stepped in and already made some changes. In his short tenure with the Canes, Dundon has made an impression on the fans.

There are many who are excited with what Dundon has already done with fan experience. He has allowed fans to move down to the lower bowl, incorporated the Whalers and improved in-game audio and video.

There are a few season ticket holders who are upset because they are paying more for lower bowl tickets then those who get to move down. Yet, most fans are happy to have changes in the organization.

Recently Dundon offered fans at the Backyard Brawl lower bowl tickets for five dollars, something unheard of in professional sports these days. Dundon is truly trying to change the fan experience and support for the team. He is a welcome change for most Caniacs.

With Dundon taking over new ownership, the roster being young and filled with talent and fans more excited than ever, the Canes might be on their way to becoming an elite team in the NHL. This is an opportunity that needs to be taken as the market may decline should the Canes continue to lose.

 

 

Featured image from NHL.com/hurricanes.

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goal

The “goal” of reaching the NHL playoffs

There are some teams who need a lot of different pieces to become a good team and there are a few who already have what it takes to make the playoffs, but one thing every NHL team needs is another “pure” goal-scorer.

Deformation of the 50-goal mark

Through the All-Star break, there are only 28 players who have reached 20 goals for the season and only one, Alexander Ovechkin, who has surpassed 30. Only seven players have scored 50 or more in the last 10 years (Ovechkin having done it six times) and he only has done it in the last five years (be it three times). On top of that just three players have topped 100 points in the last five seasons (McDavid, Kane and Crosby).

These stats are a tribute to Wayne “the Great One” Gretzky for accomplishing 50 goals in 39 games, a record in which most likely no one will ever break, let alone come close to. That being said, Ovechkin “the Great Eight” has proven to be just that over the course of his regular season career. His scoring has carried the Washington Capitals into the playoffs nine out of the last ten years.

The 63-point club

In the 2017-2018 season there are seven teams who have placed themselves atop the league with 63 or more points through the All-Star break. The St. Louis Blues have played 51 games and only have 63 points so they will be excluded from the Power 6: three from the Eastern Conference and three from the Western Conference. NHL Standings

Team Games Points 20+ Goal-Scorers 10+ Goal-Scorers
Tampa Bay Lightning 49 71 2 6
Vegas Golden Knights 48 68 2 6
Boston Bruins 47 66 3 5
Winnipeg Jets 50 66 1 7
Nashville Predators 47 65 0 6
Washington Capitals* 49 63 1 7
* Ovechkin leads the league with 30 goals

These six teams were the best through the All-Star break because they have what every team needs, goal scorers. Having a guy, or better yet two or three guys who you can rely on to put the puck in the net is a crucial factor in making the playoffs. The league’s best are where they are because of the sustained scoring of one or two players.

Except Nashville…

 

goal

(Photo from Mark Humphrey / AP)

The Nashville Predators are back to the “good ol’ days” with the absence of Filip Forsberg. A strong defense has carried the “Preds” into the playoffs three years straight. The defense solidified and highlighted by the talented All-Star goalie Pekka Rinne. The Preds commonly rely on the backend of their team to do the heavy lifting.

However with the development of Filip Forsberg, the Preds now have a sure-fire goal scorer to rely on. Nashville does not currently have a 20+ goal-scorer because Forsberg has been out of the lineup since late December with an upper-body injury.

Forsberg still leads the team in goals with 15 tied with Viktor Arvidsson and Craig Smith. Once Forsberg returns, don’t be surprised if Kyle Turris and Ryan Johansen begin to score more. Thus this Nashville team could easily prowl their way back into the Stanley Cup Finals.

Score your way into the playoffs

The Columbus Blue Jackets and New Jersey Devils currently hold playoff spots in the Eastern Conference, but neither team currently has a 20+ goal-scorer. Both teams started off the season well, but injuries and lack of scoring have caused both teams to slip.

The Jackets will continue to look for even better play from Panarin. Nevertheless the Blue Jackets must get some production from Alexander Wennberg and Cam Atkinson. These two have shown the potential to become the leaders of this offense. They will need to bring all they have in order to stay afloat in this playoff race.

As Columbus waits for the flair of Sonny Milano, the Devils now face another concussion protocol for Marcus Johansson. Getting Kyle Palmieri back into the line-up should boost the Devils scoring some, but all Devils fans know that Taylor Hall is the man people pay to watch. With his hand injury occurring close to the break, the Devils are hopeful for his return soon. Hall will have to start providing more goals off his own stick for this team to sneak into the playoffs.

goal

Decision Time

Decision Time

Other than the Jackets and Devils, the Los Angeles Kings and Carolina Hurricanes are the only legitimate teams who have a shot at the playoffs without a 20+ goal-scorer. The Kings are missing Jeff Carter and hoping that Marion Gaborik can up his level of play down the stretch. Anze Kopitar is the backbone of this offense and continues to impress.

The Hurricanes on the other hand are stuck in usual territory as the trade deadline comes along. Will they push for the playoffs or rid themselves of their veterans? The Canes lack a scoring threat, a first line center and a true starting goaltender. Cam Ward has stepped in to the role for now. However the Canes need a lot more production upfront to secure a long-awaited spot in the playoffs.

Calling all contenders… let the goals run wild

As for all other contenders, they must continue to rely on their own “pure” scoring forwards to make the playoffs. The NHL has become a league where goals are prized; therefore each team must allow their star goal-scorers to do just that, score goals. Making the playoffs without such a guy is a difficult thing to do.

Featured Image from NHL.com

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