Through the first two games of their season, the Carolina Hurricanes showed how much the extended offseason and lack of training camp had effected their team.
They held the bizarre (though auspicious) statistical trait of being first in the NHL in shots taken… and dead last in goals scored.
Individually, the Canes didn’t look particularly bad in the first two games. Players were finding good shots, taking them, but coming up empty.
Defense was shaky, and Cam Ward was given no help as Florida’s two teams—the Florida Panthers, and the Tampa Bay Lightning—romped the Hurricanes 5-1 and 4-1 respectively.
The offseason additions of Jordan Staal and Alexander Semin were virtually nowhere to be seen on a statistical level, and it was easy to be depressed by the start of the season.
But after two games against a very good Buffalo Sabres team, the Hurricanes are giving fans a reason to be excited again. Jordan Staal hasn’t scored as a Hurricane yet, but he’s dishing out plenty of assists… four so far this season.
Semin is a notoriously streaky player, but he has managed a couple of good games in a row with the Hurricanes against the Sabres, netting his first goal in the second of back-to-back games against Buffalo.
Adding those two weapons to the returning offensive stalwarts of Eric Staal, who had a hat trick in the first game (January 24th) against Buffalo, and Jeff Skinner, who has now scored four goals in his last three games, is proving to be effective.
The Canes even got a hugely impressive start out of back-up goalie Dan Ellis in the second game against Buffalo. The 30 year old journeyman collected 40 saves in 41 shot attempts, keeping the hard-hitting Sabres without a goal until the third period.
Don’t rush to throw out your Cam Ward jerseys… he’s not going anywhere, and is still a top-shelf goalie. His first three starts were shaky, but he’ll find his groove before long. That doesn’t mean having an extremely competent back-up goalie in Ellis won’t be useful.
Long story short, things looked scary for Canes fans in the first two games… but the additions of J. Staal, Semin, and Ellis are all proving to be fruitful.
Once they’ve played together more as a team, this will be one of the best offenses in the NHL. The January 24th and 25th games against the Buffalo Sabres were an exciting peak at how good they can be.
The big takeaway of the first week of play is that there are going to be games when the Canes get blown out, and there are going to be games where this prolific offense just doesn’t click. Carolina didn’t have the luxury of having a team built through years of chemistry, and they didn’t have a training camp to build any semblance of unity.
But those games aren’t going to define this team. Things are just fine in Raleigh, and it’s going to be an exciting season.