Jeff Skinner has emerged as the leader of the team in demonstrating effort and determination and a will to win. The former Calder Trophy winner is not back to old form, but is in fact charting new territory, carving a place in this season that currently seems endless in its potential.
Because of his leadership, the team is doing things it has not done in a while on a consistent basis, namely playing like they can win in every game. Of course they are not winning every game, but Skinner is instilling in his teammates an attitude that believes they can.
Take Tuesday Night for Example
In a wild, zany contest with the Vancouver Canucks, the ‘Canes were facing what seemed to be certain defeat being down 5-2 at the end of the second period. Having scored one goal on a power play in the first period, Skinner bore down in the third and did this:
— Carolina Hurricanes (@NHLCanes) December 14, 2016
The goal sparked what would end up being a Hurricanes’ 8-6 win over the Canucks.
“You could feel that energy climb in the building,” Teammate Derek Ryan said after the game. “That’s hockey right there.”
Skinner’s determination was the match that lit the fuse of a wild comeback win that extended the ‘Canes’ home winning streak to seven games. It’s not just the goal, but the heart and the intensity that goes with Skinner’s current level of play that lifted his team. It’s leadership, plain and simple.
Top of the List
Skinner is leading the Hurricanes tangibly, as well. He is currently at the top of the team’s stat list with 25 points (11 goals and 14 assists). Teammate center Victor Rask has been keeping pace all season, however, and is just one point back with 24 points (10 goals and 14 assists).
I wrote recently that Skinner was skating to the top of the team. At that time, Skinner said things were “clicking pretty well” with the line that included Rask and Lee Stempniak. Since then, Ryan has been added to the Skinner/Rask mix, and things are still clicking pretty well.
It appears that the surrounding cast is not a big factor for Skinner at this point. He is hitting on all cylinders and is ranked in the top 25 points leaders in the league. He is charging the net and playing with a new toughness that can only be described as a determination to play with his whole heart every time he is on the ice.
It’s a winning attitude that, at times, can spread throughout his team and cause a reaction of events like Tuesday night’s wacky 8-6 win.
If Skinner keeps charging, this young group of Hurricanes might just find themselves closer to a playoff spot than anyone might have thought possible.