The Carolina Hurricanes are nothing if not entertaining. One night they go out and look horrible, giving rise to incendiary fan frustration. The next night they go out and play like playoff contenders, giving rise to confusion as to the team’s true identity. It’s the NHL version of Jekyll and Hyde.
No love from Cupid
For example, the Hurricanes went to north over the weekend to play the Minnesota Wild. It was not a loving Valentine’s night. They did not look good at all. Coach Bill Peters said afterwards,
“It was a very bizarre game. It was as bad as we’ve played in a long time.”
That’s a fairly accurate assessment. Jeff Skinner echoed the obvious:
“It’s obviously not the start we wanted. It’s tough when you dig yourself a hole three goals down in the first period.”
Minnesota has been crazy hot and spotting them three goals was not a very good idea.
8-0-2 in its last 10 games, #mnwild has now tied its franchise record for longest point streak in team history (9-0-1, March 8-27, 2007).
— Minnesota Wild PR (@mnwildPR) February 15, 2015
The Hurricanes tried but in the end the Wild just had too much for them, beating them 6-3. It looks like they don’t need Cam Ward after all. The bad Mr. Hyde showed up for sure in Minnesota, as he has many times this season in the personage of the Hurricanes.
Hello there Dr. Jekyll
Monday night, the Hurricanes completed their two-game road trip Canada, facing the Ottawa Senators. They pounded the Sens 6-3. The ‘Canes did not look at all like they did in Minnesota. Andrej Nestrasil had the game summary:
“It was definitely a huge game for us. We played a really good game, strong on the puck, making plays and good in the D-zone, so we really deserved it tonight.”
That is spot on, Andrej, but where was that effort in Minnesota? What happened to you guys between Saturday night and Monday night that made the difference? I’m sure that Coach Peters and legions of Carolina Hurricanes fans would love to know how to capture that effort night in and night out. The team itself would, too.
An exciting bright spot for the Hurricanes came when Michal Jordan scored his first NHL goal.
Fresh off notching his first NHL point in Minnesota, and getting another assist against the Sens, Jordan’s first goal was quite the happy occasion for him and his teammates. The “Big Czech” was named third star of the night:
— Carolina Hurricanes (@Canes) February 17, 2015
Michal Jordan is helping the Hurricanes morph back into the good Dr. Jekyll. The evil Mr. Hyde is gone, but for how long? Which personality will emerge Tuesday night when the ‘Canes face the New York Islanders? The Isles are currently sitting atop the Metropolitan Division with seventy-five points. Carolina will need a full-on Dr. Jekyll repeat performance to skate with New York for sixty minutes.
Skinning Mr. Hyde
Jeff Skinner has come back. Nobody is sure quite where he went, but it is good of him to have returned. “Skins” scored his third goal in as many games in Ottawa:
There have been rumblings among the fans and even in the local media that it might be time for the Carolina Hurricanes and Jeff Skinner to part company. His having suffered several concussions in his young career, including one at the start of this season, has some speculating as to whether or not he still has the scoring skill he has shown since breaking into the NHL.
Mark Jones of Bleacher Report wrote an excellent profile piece on Skinner a couple of weeks ago. He details not only Skinner’s scoring drought, but also the downward trend of his shots per game and shooting percentage. Jeff Skinner’s season has been very much out of character, so much so that even Coach Peters went public:
Peters on Skinner: If not scoring "you've got to have a B-game. Right now his B-game is not good enough to make up for the lack of offense.”
— Michael Smith (@MSmithCanes) February 4, 2015
Fortunately for the Carolina Hurricanes and for Jeff Skinner he has gotten a bit warmed up. Scoring three goals in three games is very good, and fans have to hope that this is the start of the turnaround to Skinner’s season that has long been awaited.
Mark Jones went on to write that the team “has $5.75 million in cap space (per Spotrac.com) tied up in Skinner for four more seasons after this one.” That is a lot of money to have locked up in a player that may have lost his touch. The ‘Canes are seriously hoping that is not the case with Jeff Skinner.
Bonus: Mr. Hyde returns to Raleigh!
Two teams that were both playing the second of back-to-back games squared off in Raleigh Tuesday night. As mentioned above, the New York Islanders were in town, fresh off of a game for the ages where they lost at home to the New York Rangers. The Isles squandered a pair of two-goal leads to eventually lose 6-5.
Both teams had been involved in high scoring games, with a total of 20 goals scored between the two games Monday night. What started out as a question mark regarding which team would gain the early advantage, was answered by the Islanders:
#ISLES GOAL! Anders Lee bangs in a rebound and puts the Islanders up 1-0! PP goal
— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) February 18, 2015
The previously almost impenetrable Carolina Hurricanes penalty kill was penetrated. The ‘Canes penalty kill has been seriously great all season long, Prior to the game against the Islanders, Carolina was ranked second in the league behind the Chicago Blackhawks in the penalty kill. Anders Lee found the net and it appeared that the good Dr. Jekyll would not be making an appearance in Raleigh’s PNC Arena dressed in Hurricanes black.
Brock Nelson made it 2-0 in the second period and it was beginning to be apparent that the ‘Canes were not going to prevail.
It was clearly not to be Anton Khudobin’s night. He has struggled a bit of late, and just did not look crisp in the goal after the first part of the first period went by. He made 26 saves against the Islanders and gave up 3 goals.
His counterpart Chad Johnson gave up 1 goal on 38 shots. The game recap says this about Johnson:
“Chad Johnson hasn’t been great this season. Coming into tonight’s game, he had a 3.33 goals-against average and an .873 save percentage in 15 games. In seven of those games, he surrendered four goals or more.”
Johnson is yet another backup goalie that the Hurricanes could not solve.
Michael Grabner used Anton Khudobin in the third period to seal the deal for the Islanders:
Khudobin probably should not have been hung out to dry, but Grabner is very fast, and showed it on that goal. With the score 3-0 New York, the morphing from Monday night’s Dr. Jekyll into the all too common Mr. Hyde was completed by the Carolina Hurricanes.
— Chucker (@ChuckerCb) February 18, 2015
Jiri Tlusty scored in the third giving hope that there might possibly be a Dr. Jekyll on site after all. But, when Nathan Gerbe’s goal was waved due to a high stick call, hope subsided. Add John Tavares’ empty-net goal for good measure and Dr. Jekyll had definitely left the building.
— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) February 18, 2015
Who’s it going to be?
The Carolina Hurricanes are a curious bunch. Like the character of old, Dr. Jekyll is basically a good guy, but he has a split personality and the evil Mr. Hyde emerges at inopportune times. So go the ‘Canes, sometimes showing signs of being a really good team, and sometimes baring their alter ego that is all too frequently very bad. The team is searching for an identity under Coach Bill Peters. Let’s hope it turns out to be a good one.
Mark lives in the Raleigh, NC area and covers the Carolina Hurricanes.