Hurricanes’ stagnant power play worrisome

calexander@newsobserver.comMarch 20, 2013 

— On paper, it makes no sense.

Look at the Carolina Hurricanes’ roster: Eric Staal, Alexander Semin, Jeff Skinner, Jiri Tlusty, Jordan Staal, Jussi Jokinen.

Now look at the Canes’ power-play statistics: 14 goals on 107 total chances through 29 games.

That’s 13.1 percent. That ranks 29th in the NHL, and reflects an ever-so-slight improvement after Jordan Staal scored a power-play goal on Tuesday in the Canes’ 4-1 loss to Florida.

While the Hurricanes have fared well five-on-five this season, their struggles on the power play are bit baffling. And it won’t help that defenseman Justin Faulk, who usually mans one of the points on the power play, will miss two to four weeks with a sprained knee.

“At the end of the day ... I think you have to just let it ride out,” Canes coach Kirk Muller said Tuesday. “You’ve just got to let them sort through it. They’re pressing, they’re too predictable, but they’re trying to make it work out.”

Jordan Staal’s power-play goal against the Panthers came with 2:33 left in regulation, while the Canes trailed 3-0. A much bigger opportunity for Carolina came in the second period, when the game was scoreless.

The Canes had four minutes of power-play time after Panthers forward Scottie Upshall cut defenseman Tim Gleason with a high stick. But the home team couldn’t convert.

Skinner and Jordan Staal had shots blocked. Semin and defenseman Jamie McBain had passes tipped away. Semin had a good look but missed the net, then had a shot blocked. Eric Staal nearly scored, forcing goalie Jacob Markstrom to make a tough save, but then sent another attempt high.

The best scoring chance during the four minutes belonged to the Panthers. Marcel Goc had a shorthanded breakaway that Canes goalie Dan Ellis snuffed out.

“Things like that can frustrate guys, especially guys on the power play,” Jordan Staal said. “The biggest thing is when it’s not gaining momentum for your team, it’s hurting you. If our power play is not moving and getting momentum for our team, it makes it tough for everyone to keep going.”

The Canes’ problems aren’t hard to spot. They’re hesitating on passes or trying to make the extra pass. They have trouble finding open shooting lanes. When they do get pucks to the net, then can’t get to rebounds. They can’t break out and set up quickly – and certainly not smoothly – in the offensive zone.

“Sometimes it’s like we get too cute,” defenseman Joe Corvo said recently. “We’ve got too many playmakers and not enough guys thinking, ‘I’m going to get it and I’m going to shoot.’”

Jordan Staal’s power-play goal Tuesday was almost a one-man show. He carried the puck nearly end-to-end, rushing in and beating Markstrom with a quick short-side shot.

The Canes’ top forwards have more than 230 career power-play goals between them. Eric Staal has 95 goals and has always been a proven power-play threat. Semin has 58 career goals and Jokinen 45.

Carolina is getting the chances. Through Tuesday’s games, it ranked 15th in the NHL in power-play opportunities. It’s all about execution.

Faulk and Corvo, who has a lower-body injury, are out of the lineup, although Corvo could return within a week. Both are effective at the points and have heavy shots.

While Muller stressed patience, time is running short. The Canes have 19 games remaining in the regular season and are winless in their last four heading into Thursday’s game against the New Jersey Devils at PNC Arena.

The Hurricanes are no longer in the Southeast Division lead. They’re chasing the Winnipeg Jets while also keeping an eye on the playoff cutoff in the Eastern Conference.

And a solution to the power-play shortage?

“Keeping working at it,” Muller said.

Alexander: 919-829-8945

News & Observer is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service