Happy New Year, Caniacs and what better way to bring in 2012 than to recap the Canes performance from the final week? They closed out 2011 with a 2-2-0 record which included a thrilling overtime win and two stinkers against Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay, although the latter was not as bad as the score indicates. The only time they got shellacked was against Pittsburgh where they were outchanced 21-9 at even strength and it led to them having a 47.6% scoring chacne ratio at even strength for the week. The Canes did not have one "full 60-minute" effort this week and that's a problem which has been plaguing them all season long, but there were some good performances this week. Their effort against the Devils was very good and so was their game against the Leafs and we'll see them win more games if they can put together more performances like that. The problem is that they seem to make one mistake that leads to them giving up consecutive goals. I expect things like that to happen with a rebuilding team, though and hopefully they will grow out of it soon.
Still, a 2-2-0 record is not too bad of a note to close out the year even if they are struggling against good teams (i.e. Pittsburgh). Seven out of their 12 games in January are at home so that should help things a little bit.
More after the jump
We're finally starting to see some changes with the OZ "Coke" chart which is probably due to the injuries of big-minute players and recent call-ups. You can see that Bryan Allen's slowly getting easier minutes and has been facing weaker competition than Tim Gleason, but he is still seeing much thougher assignments than the rest of the defense corps. Jussi Jokinen, Tuomo Ruutu and Alexei Ponikarovsky have also seen their assignments get easier with Ruutu drifting into "soft" territory. That helps explain his recent offensive outburst a little bit. This is more of the way I wanted this line to be used, though. With Jeff Skinner on the IR and Eric Staal finding this game, this frees up the second line to easier minutes and considering that two of the team's top scorers play on it, freeing them up to easier minutes makes sense.
Here's something people will have a hard time believing; Jiri Tlusty has become a "tough minutes forward" He is starting roughtly 45% of his draws in his own zone and is fourth in quality of competition. That might sound like a shocker to those who look at his draft position and failures with the Leafs, but he has been playing on the first and third lines in Carolina so this isn't too much of a surprise if you've been watching the team all year. Tlusty might be a draft "bust" but he has become a somewhat useful player in Carolina's system. Although, I do think that he's getting some help from his linemates because Staal, LaRose, Sutter & Dwyer are not slouches.
Andreas Nodl is settling into his position on this team as he's taking on tougher assignments but is still starting more draws in the offensive zone than not. For a guy who is more known for his defensive skills, I'm not sure if this is the correct way to use him but there's still time to fix that. On the flip side, we have Drayson Bowman playing tougher minutes than one would expect a call-up to play but we're dealing with a small sample size here.
The protected players on this team are pretty obvious (Brent, Stewart, Dalpe, Spacek) and it's obvious why they are put in those positions. Stewart and Brent are fourth liners who need the benefit of protection to do well (and they are still struggling despite that) while Dalpe is a rookie and Spacek is a third-pairing defenseman.
Eric Staal: Staal had five points all of October and he had that many this past week. I don't know if that shows how horrible he was at the start of the year or that he's turned things around now. Much of his earlier struggles were related to bad luck so a point outburst like this was bound to happen. He also led forwards in chance differential and powerplay chances this week and had 11 points in December. I predicted a huge month for him and while 11 points isn't exactly "huge," it's a huge improvement for him.
Tuomo Ruutu: May have had his six-game goal streak snapped but he still scored two goals and had a positive scoring chance rating, which has been the norm for him lately.
Brandon Sutter: He may have a negative rating in scoring chances (mostly due to the Pitt game) but I can't discredit what he did against Toronto and New Jersey against their top lines. He shut them down completely and contributed offensively with two goals. He gets a positive vote from me.
Drayson Bowman: Was a +3 in chances, got to play on the "shutdown line" with Sutter and Tlusty and added two assists to his total. Not a bad week for him.
Chad LaRose: I have different expectations for different players and while LaRose did not have that bad of a week and got incredibly unlucky (zero goals or points on 11 shots), he was negative in scoring chances again, which is disappointing and earns him a spot here.
Andreas Nodl: I said earlier here that someone who is praised for their defense shouldn't be getting softer assignments. However, the Canes have only 38% of the scoring chances going in their favor when Nodl is on the ice. When you consider that is with easy minutes, that isn't a good performance at all.
Tim Gleason: Him and McBain were taken off the shutdown pair in favor of Jay Harrison and Justin Faulk and he was a -8 in scoring chances despite that. The two points are nice but Gleason's play in his own end was spotty at best this week.
Justin Peters: Had his first start of the year and had to face 52 shots...he stopped 47 of them. I was considering putting him in the top performers category but he still gave up five goals. You can't overlook the workload he faced, though.
Alexei Ponikarovsky: Poni might be the unluckiest player on the team. 13 shots on goal and no goals to show for it and if that wasn't bad enough, he was one of the team's best possession players. If he could finish his chances/didn't have such rotten luck, he would be an excellent contributor to the second line.
Jaro Spacek: Was the only positive rated defenseman but if you look at the "OZ Coke" chart, you'll see that he had the easiest assignments by a longshot. In other words, he's playing his role just fine. No points, unfortunately.
Jay Harrison/Justin Faulk: They were promoted to the team's top defense pairing this week and finished negative in chances, but not that bad when you take their workload into consideration. Also scored a powerplay goal a piece. Who knows if they'll stay on the top pairing, but it's nice to see them outplaying their expectations for now.
Tim Brent: Scored a goal and had three points despite finishing at the bottom of just about every other possession category. The only category he is near the top at is shooting percentage...which explains the point production.
Cam Ward: .876 save percentage over three games for him and only one quality start. Definitely could be better for him and it's making me wonder when he'll get out of this funk.
Anthony Stewart: Stewart scored a goal against New Jersey and is doing better possession-wise. Still finishing on the negative side of the leger but he is playing slightly better than he was earlier in the year.
Jussi Jokinen: Uneventful week for him other than finishing negative in scoring chances and recording a point. Only player on the second line to finish negative in scoring chances, actually.