Carolina Hurricanes, 14-13-7, third place in the Metropolitan Division

Last week (1-1-2):
12/9: @Vancouver 2, Carolina 0
12/10: @Edmonton 5, Carolina 4 (OT)
12/12: @Calgary 2, Carolina 1 (OT)
12/14: Carolina 3, @Phoenix 1

This week: 12/20 Washington; 12/21 @Tampa Bay; 12/23 Columbus

Wins are harder to come by out west. Western Conference teams, for a few seasons now, are bigger, faster and, well, better than their eastern foes. The interleague record is an embarrassment for teams in our time zone.

Its a gratuitous holiday cheerleaders shot. Youre welcome.

So, if you’re a glass-half-full person, the four points that the Hurricanes got out of a four-game, six-night road trip out west are pretty sweet.

The Canucks shut out the Canes, 2-0, but Carolina deserved more than nothing for the work, missing a last-minute chance to tie matters with the empty net behind them when a shot destined for the Vancouver goal caromed instead off Eric Staal’s leg.

Matters in Edmonton could have been different, too, if the officials had chosen to call any of several blatant high-stick penalties against the Oilers. Tim Gleason’s mug was raked in a first period dominated by the home team, and then Jeff Skinner took sticks twice—including in the final minute of regulation after he’d just tied the game. But Edmonton was given a power play in overtime on an iffy boarding call on Justin Faulk and took the extra point to cap a fast-paced 5-4 win.

Skinner then had a chance to put Carolina ahead with a penalty shot with just five minutes left in regulation in Calgary, but goalie Karri Ramo closed the five-hole. In overtime, Calgary avoided the shootout by scoring with just four seconds on the clock.

Now let’s talk glass-half-empty.

Good teams find a way to get the Vancouver game to overtime, and figure out how to beat the Edmonton goalie a fifth time for the outright win. Leaving a point on the ice each night, the Canes aren’t a good team. They’re an almost-good team. Fortunately the rest of the Metropolitan Division has been as mediocre, so Carolina’s in play for one of the playoff seeds that goes to the top three finishers.


Skinner’s hot: Goals in three straight. Eight in the last seven games. That swagger. Those moves. That smile on the bench. And he’s got Eric Staal all over the scoresheet too (2G, 3A in 3 games). Stand next to Jeff Skinner right now and something good will happen to you.

More than any other Canes player, Skinner fascinates me. It’s like he’s a battle between good and evil unto himself. Since it’s his fourth season already, you can forget that he’s only been of legal drinking age since May. After 31 goals his rookie year, he started getting roughed up his sophomore season, notched some concussions, and set aside the joy of that first season for a kind of anger last year. A lot of jawing at opponents around the faceoff circle, retaliatory penalties, benchings for not backchecking. Anger corrupted his game—he was a -21 in just 42 games.

He’s missed time with injuries this year, too, but he’s in plus territory and is almost a point-a-game player. He must have summered in Mordor and dropped the Ring into the river of fire.

Shorties galore: Although their penalty kill is around the league average, the Canes are tied with the Flames for the most shorthanded goals with six. Weirdly, Carolina has scored all of those on the road. Eric Staal and Pat Dwyer each have two shorties so far.

Worth watching again: Eric Staal’s shorthanded semi-breakaway early in the third period in Edmonton was a beaut. Bursting down the wing, he pump-faked his shot to get Devan Dubnyk to go down. Then Staal simply slung the puck over the goalie like tossing your jacket on the bed at the end of a long day. Smooth as all the liquor they advertise during game broadcasts.

YouTube video