By Peter Koutroumpis
RALEIGH, N.C. – Following their third straight win on Saturday, the Carolina Hurricanes still haven’t lit the lamp as much as they want and need to.
Heading into the deeper part of the National Hockey League (NHL) season, the Hurricanes’ current scoring output has been acceptable, but has left much on the table.
With its match-up against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday, part of a historic mile marker for the NHL as a participant in the the ‘Next Century Game’ at Air Canada Centre, Carolina has a chance to put it all together.
Following an effectively-paced, hard-earned win against Columbus, more is possible when you look at the numbers.
Even so, the resilient attitude that both head coach Bill Peters and his players have possessed through the team’s first 32 games illustrates how they are weathering what many observers may consider a frustrating period, even with a winning record.
“We’ve got a lot of experience in that locker room, and they’re very honest,” Peters said.
“There’s some games we’re not happy with the way we’ve played for 60 minutes, and some of those games are where we probably left points on the board. We don’t want to do that anymore.”
Here are the simple numbers to process in terms of goal production from the Canes’ forwards over the last 16 games: Sebastian Aho 6, Elias Lindholm 6, Jordan Staal 5, Justin Williams 5, Victor Rask 4, Derek Ryan 3, Teuvo Teravainen 2, Jeff Skinner 2.
That all translates into 33 goals in 128 games, and over the past five games, Skinner, Teravainen, and Aho have gone without a goal.
Even without those three contributing, particularly Skinner and Teravainen, Carolina has still managed to win thanks to dramatic game-winners from defensemen Jaacob Slavin and Noah Hanifin.
So, how has this group, heralded by many as possessing much offensive talent, dealt with not being able to put it together in as productive a manner as expected?
“What, being cold?” Staal bluntly queried when asked.
“Guys slump, it’s part of the season. You know, if you were scorin’ every game, it would be a fun season. Stuff like that happens. It’s not as fun when everyone on the whole team might be slumpin’ a bit. We’re not creatin’ enough offense, but it’s part of the season, part of the ups and downs. It’s part of learnin’ and to stay with it, and not cheat; not create something out of nothing, and going 1-on-1’s and that stuff to get you going again.”
Winning faceoffs, maintaining puck possession, and then attacking is how Peters likes to play offensively with all four lines producing, on and off the sheet.
Though players may not score when needed, it won’t be due to a lack of effort.
But when it is, “lets talk about it,” Peters pointed out.
“We’re gonna lose some hockey games, but let’s not beat ourselves. Let’s understand the importance of every shift. Every shift matters. When we have that mentality, we’re gonna grind and we’re gonna play hard. We’re in every game – overtime, shootouts, 2-1’s, goalies are in , goalies are out, 5-on-6, 6-on-5 – we practice it all the time, and we need to. We’re in that scenario a lot.”
Sitting four points out of a wildcard spot at 14-11-7 and a minus-8 in goal differential, Carolina can cross the fine line of outscoring opponents by a larger margin more often than not.
If players like Skinner, Teravainen, and even defenseman Justin Faulk, who’ve gone dormant for too long, can just add a little more spark to the mix with a goal here, a goal there, there could be quite an explosion of success to follow.
While many fans and members of the media continue to hold on, waiting for things to heat up, Peters does too.
“There’s 50 games left, that’s a lot of hockey,” he concluded.
“So how high a quality can we play over the next 50? That’s the intriguing and exciting thing for me, and I think we can get to a really high level.”
Peter Koutroumpis: 401-323-8960, @pksport