Canes need to find offense for big upcoming month
Posted November 7, 2013
There is a saying in college football 'they remember what you do in November'. For the Carolina Hurricanes, November is set up to be the month that determines whether there will be playoff hockey in the Triangle or another long summer.
With a season high nine home games, the franchise has to take advantage of the schedule and find ways to win at the PNC Arena.
To take advantage of the homestretch the Hurricanes have to find the offensive firepower it packed most nights last season.
So far this year, the offense has been missing, averaging just 1.93 goals per game and scoring 1 goal or less in five games. The top line of Eric Staal, Alexander Semin and Jiri Tlusty has not picked up where last season has left off. That line has combined for just eight goals, well behind the 54 goals that the trio scored in the shortened lockout year. The chemistry that was there last season has yet to be duplicated, which explains some of, but not all of, the offensive woes.
Injuries have forced head coach Kirk Muller to change the line up or make in-game alterations on a nightly basis. The Hurricanes have been without top scorer Jeff Skinner for over two weeks with an upper body malady. Skinner was playing on the third line, but was finding his offensive game enough to lead the team in points through the ten games he played. Skinner’s presence helped balance the lines and at home gave Muller a chance to get the line match-ups he wanted. Since Skinner has been off the ice after being injured in Minnesota on October 24th, Carolina has managed to score just six goals in five games.
Nathan Gerbe has been a nice surprise, picked up this off-season he has been a steady player. The blue line has put up 24 points, a nice compliment considering the Hurricanes best offensive defenseman Joni Pitkanen is out for the year with a heel injury. But the NHL is a star driven league and most nights it comes down to the big names filling the stat sheet.
The power play has been an Achilles heel of the team for a few seasons but in the early portion of this year's schedule it has not been terrible. Still, it isn’t in the top half of the league and the struggles of the top line can be linked to the man advantage not operating a higher clip.
There has been a thought that the coaching staff has instituted a more defensive minded system. But Kirk Muller insists that is not the case.
“I hear this right now and it is kind of a misconception, people are saying that we’re playing a defensive style this year," Muller said. "We’re not. I have to get that clear.
“What we are doing is playing better in our zone. We’re working on since day one, of playing well without the puck. That should never hinder or affect your offense. So I think I have to clear that part of it, because offensively our scoring chances are there as much now as last year when we were capitalizing.”
With all the home games there will be pressure to score goals. The home crowd likes to see goals and more important for the paying patrons, see the Hurricanes win. If November continues to be a cold offensive month for Carolina, the opponents net won’t be the only empty thing at the PNC Arena, a lot of the seats will have vacancies.
The other need for the offense to find the goal scoring touch this month, besides making the fans happy, is that it will take the biggest pressure off the organization. That is the increasing pressure on the Hurricanes of another season missing the playoffs in the Triangle.