It’s been a rough start to the 2011-12 season in Raleigh, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot to be thankful for. Let’s take an optimistic look at the Hurricanes:
1. Young talent
The Hurricanes have a lot of promising prospects waiting in the wings. Justin Faulk, who was just recalled to the big club, has been logging a lot of minutes the past few games and has played extremely well. Victor Rask, who made a strong case for a roster spot during training camp, is tearing up the WHL with the Calgary Hitmen, scoring 11 goals in his first 23 games of the season. Ryan Murphy, the team’s 2011 first round pick, had an impressive preseason stint with the ‘Canes and is recovering from a severe brain injury sustained in a game with the Kitchener Rangers earlier in the month. While this season hasn’t gone as planned, make no mistake: the future is bright in Carolina.
2. Three game point streak
Carolina got off to a miserable start this season and hit rock bottom last week, losing seven of eight games. Fortunately, they may have turned a corner; after beating the Leafs on Friday, they traveled to Philadelphia the next day and defeated the Flyers — a team that has owned the ‘Canes in recent history — in convincing fashion. The ‘Canes fell to the Canadiens on Wednesday in a shootout but earned their fifth point in three games. Carolina has a good chance to continue their hot streak on Friday when the lowly Jets come to town.
3. Cam Ward
While Ward hasn’t been as sharp this season as in the past, he’s still been able to withstand the constant onslaught that comes with being Carolina’s netminder. While his 3.10 GAA is far from ideal, he has the second most saves in the league, a testament to the ridiculous amount of shots he faces every game. Along with the rest of the team, Ward has been a lot better the past three games with a 2.33 GAA and a .923 save percentage.
4. Jeff Skinner
Now in his second year in the NHL, Jeff Skinner is the best player on Carolina’s roster. Between the absence of Erik Cole, the poor play of Eric Staal and the general mediocrity of Carolina’s forwards, Skinner has been the one consistently good player up front. He currently leads the ‘Canes in goals, assists and game winning goals and has contributed to 37.5% of Carolina’s total offense. resh off a stellar rookie performance, the reigning Calder Memorial Trophy winner has only gotten better, effectively avoiding the dreaded sophomore slump. In fact, he’s avoided virtually any slump whatsoever; Skinner has only gone four games in a row without a point once in his career, and that happened just over a month into his rookie year.
5. New investors
Last month, the Hurricanes announced that they have added 10 new minority investors to the team, nine of which are based locally. Carolina currently has one of the lowest payrolls in the league, and the added financial stability can only mean good things for the ‘Canes and their fans. While GM Jim Rutherford — who is one of the new investors — does not anticipate the team will overspend during free agency, this move will undoubtedly raise the team’s payroll in the near future.
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