John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
Since the Habs haven't played the Hurricanes yet this season, we got together with SB Nation's Hurricanes community, Canes Country, to learn a bit more about the team the Habs face tonight.
So far so good. Jordan Staal uses his big body well. He controls the puck along boards, wins puck battles, and leads the team with 10 assists. Alex Semin is the ultra skilled right winger this team has needed for a long time. He is a tremendous playmaker, has scored big goals, and has played hard at both ends of the rink. Surprisingly to some, he has also been a good teammate and has fit in well. It seems most are very happy with both acquisitions so far.
2) Out here in Montreal we have an obvious interest in your coach, Kirk Muller. When he left Montreal I don't think many people expected him to get an NHL head coaching gig so quickly. How is he doing?
Muller has done a very good job so far this season. He has rotated goalies at the right time, has made adjustments to the lines that work, and seems to have a real sense of how to manage playing time during games. He certainly has the full attention of the room as players are buying into what he has to say. The powerplay and penalty kill still need improvement, but the team has had little practice time to work on special teams. Also impressive is that he is not shy about benching veteran players, if needed. He has healthy scratched Joe Corvo, Jamie McBain, and Chad LaRose in favor of younger, less experienced players at times. He plays who he feels best deserves it.
3) Eric Staal looks unstoppable this season. He's usually pretty unstoppable with his combination of size and skill, but this year it seems like he has an extra jump in his step. Is this perhaps because his brother Jordan is taking more of the defensive assignments that he would have to take, or is it some intangible reason?
Part of the reason is as you mention, his brother helps out with the toughest defensive assignments, but the addition of Semin to his line has been a huge benefit. First off, the Russian is an elite playmaker, as well as shooter. He helps to control the puck longer in the offensive zone and the defense cannot just concentrate on Eric anymore, they must also contain the dangerous presence of Semin. The chemistry between the players is starting to develop and it has been a joy to watch. Staal has never had someone on his line with this much skill and together they are very hard to stop.