The Carolina Hurricanes had a monster off-season last year, adding a pair of impact players in Jordan Staal and Alex Semin. Now this year they've rocketed up to the top of the South East division. How good has Carolina become this year?
Jokinen -J.Staal- Dwyer
Opening on second line due to Skinner going down to injury goes to Jussi Jokinen who was replacing Sutter as their 3rd centerman. Tim Brent apparently was injured in practice meaning the Hurricanes have to bring in two fresh bodies to center their bottom lines.
Carolina boasts strong top six based around Staal brothers at center. Semin is one of the leagues' greatest ES wingers in Washington, is going strong on Eric Staal's wing in Carolina even if he's only got one goal 5 on 5 (3.33% shooting percentage). Staal and Semin are a solid 53.8% on corsi together and Semin has been one of their team's best with a 55.1% scoring chance% while getting pretty close to 60% zone starts
Carolina uses the elder Staal's line to dominate play at even strength, getting an offensive zone start boost which they exploit to create territorial dominance. This union of a top center and top winger is a pretty dangerous one for even strength play on paper and they have largely lived up to that promise. The younger Staal's line is used to gain possession off of defensive situations, taking the share of defensive zone draws the 1st unit is exempted from (46.2%) and turning out in the black in chances and puck possesion. Skinner was the offensive specialist of that line but is replaced by Jokinen. Dwyer is a defensive specialist while J. Staal is the line's two-way core.
Carolina's former third line with Bowman and Wallace was getting beat with Jokinen in scoring chances (45.1%) but respectably average on shot differentials, and had to replace their best player with an AHLer. Bowman is decent depth scoring but otherwise this line screams vulnerability.
Nodl and LaRose are respectable bottom six wingers but Welsh is an unknown quantity, I wouldn't see them as much of a danger either. Tim Brent seems to be a big loss as he was a major plus player in possession and chances in a depth role.
Basically the Canes tonight have two strong top lines and questionable depth.
The Hurricanes are out two top 4 defenders in Pitkanen and Gleason. Gleason was their defensive specialist, being something of a Gorges comparable while Pitkanen a good but not dominant defender who has been Carolina's top guy by default for many years. Their defense has been generally in the black across the board, pointing to a pretty decent all round group when healthy but without standout talents. Faulk is their PK Subban, a young emerging defenseman who very well at pushing the play forward. McBain and Corvo are offensive specialists, hard to say how well they will do in thinner defensive group. Corvo in particular is a managed minutes defender who might crass and burn when asked to do more. Sanguinetti and Jordan are AHL reinforcements of no particular distinction. They should be vulnerable. I'd respect their full lineup but this injury raddled group seems a little soft to me. This could end up being a disaster for the Hurricanes.
Tim Brent played the point on the power play with Faulk and Pitikenen is out of the lineup, how the PP adjusts is uncertain, but I imagine McBain will see more minutes. Likewise a PP mainstay in Skinner is also missing from action. E. Staal and Semin have seen above average results this year as they have historically but Tlusty and LaRose have been weak. J Staal has been pretty good also on the 'Canes PP although he's historically a poor PP forward. Overall this has been an above average PP team but how they react to the loss of Pikanen, Skinner and Brent is an open question.
Two of the Canes regular PKing defensemen are out, as is one of their top PK forwards in Brent.
This group has been pretty bad across the board although McBain has been decent in limited minutes. Their top unit has been getting killed and their 2nd unit not much better and they are out 3 bodies from their regular units. This general failure seems to be systemic rather than individual poor play and given the lack of defensive talent on the blueline and lack of proven forwards after J. Staal, I'd say they are very vulnerable when down a man.
In their injury weakend state, the Canes are likely to live and die off of what Eric Staal and Alex Semin can do together. Plekanec and Company should be on them like white on rice. The other threat is Jordan Staal who should be matched against Pacioretty-Desharnais-Eller. Then Galchenyuk and Cole should run rampant against the Canes bottom six, which should be a good opportunity to get some offense for the slumping Cole against his old team. Expect Markov-Emelin against Eric Staal as well, that really should be a job for Gorges-Subban but with Subban sick his lesser usage should be fine. I'd imagine Kirk Muller will try and get Faulk to push back against Plekanec's line. This is a classic depth versus concentrated strength matchup, the game revolving on how well the Habs handle a trio of very dangerous forwards.
Carolina is about average on Fenwick close% (50.36) and getting .921 save% so far 5 on 5. They are 9th in the league for PP shots for per hour (50.5) and worst in the league at preventing shots on the PK (67.0) and goals (11.04 per hour) somewhat mitigated by being the best at creating 4 on 5 shots (14.2 per hour). They look to be very vulnerable on the penalty kill, but respectable on even strength and the power play. Carolina looks to be an average team with severe injury problems right now, suggesting a below average opponent.