Sunday, December 2, 2007

Walking Through A Hurricane

How appropriate! The winds are howling up here well past tropical storm force. It kind of feels like a hurricane out there at times. So what better time to do a report on the Hurricanes...than NOW! The Canes are standing at 14-9-3....they did beat the Washington Capitals 4-3 last night behind 31 saves from Cam Ward. What can be said is the Canes are much improved from last year...though they have been .500 since their hot start. So what has gone right and what has gone wrong? Well away we go!!

The offensive MVP'S have to be Rod Brindamour and Cory Stillman. Both have 13 goals and 18 assists for a total of 31 points. Both have multiple game winning goals and Stillman's four leads the team. To think Stillman was kind of tossed out like yesterday's trash by the Lightning. He has probably been the Canes' best player so far. Even Eric Staal has contributed with 14 goals...and though he is not quite at a point per game, he is close enough leading many to think that last year's Sophomore slump is over. I think his stats will heat up as the season does. Hell Ray Whitney has 26 points in 26 is like the ageless wonders of this team are keeping it upright offensively....quite amazing.

Defensively....this group is fairly steady. However, they do not produce much in the way of points. Bret Hedican leads the corps with just 6 points (2 goals, 4 assists). The unit itself hasn't even produced 1 single power play goal. The physicality really isn't where it needs to be at times either with this group...but they do play hard. Their cohesiveness helps them overcome their lack of physical play which is very apparent against bigger teams. Commodore and Gleason are close to physical presences but Commodore has been injured of late and Gleason well doesn't always play enough to make an impact. GM Jim Rutherford may have to go the trade route to get an enforcer and an offensive defenseman perhaps or something in the middle because the D as it stands now is not good enough.

Goaltending didn't seem like much of an issue early on....but kind of has become one. I mean, Cam Ward, could not keep up that hot start...but he slumped for a good bit since. The first 10 games...Ward had a GAA of 1.93...the last ten Ward has been well over a GAA of 3. That has dropped his save percentage down to .909. Just to think, Ward basically has little protection in front of the net and most of his forwards are he needs to be on top of his game every night. There is little margin for error. His backup, John Grahame tries hard but face it, is no Ward and it shows. His 3.17 GAA is a testament to that..and his .891 save percentage prove why he is not a very capable 2nd netminder but he is serviceable at least. So until something develops in the Carolina system...this is what Rutherford has chosen to ride...not too bad really.

So what do the Canes really need? They do need some younger offensive depth. Will the older forwards be able to keep up like this? Sure but for how long? Ward with his lighter weight can keep the Canes in it for much longer now. His style is similar to Martin Brodeur's but his consistency is just starting to show slowly. The Canes can do well with a stud like this in net...but they turned back the clock to the run of 2006. Sometimes turning back the clock can be bad but so far it has been pretty good. This team knows work needs to be done and they need to play better and I think they me they look like the Southeast Division
champions this season.

Now what do you think....make your voices and opinions known if your a fan of Carolina or just a fan of the NHL right at The NHL Arena.

~ stevens8204