UNIONDALE, NY- OCTOBER 21: Eric Staal #12 of the Carolina Hurricanes waits for the puck to drop on a faceoff against the New York Islanders during the game on October 21, 2009 at in Uniondale, NY. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
Most of the talk surrounding the Carolina Hurricanes right now is centered around how well some of their top forwards are playing right now. Eric Staal is off to his best start in quite some time, Alexander Semin has been producing well and so have both Jordan Staal and Jeff Skinner. The fact that these four are providing most of the offense is a good thing because the Hurricanes need them to produce if they are going to have a chance at the playoffs. They can't be the only ones producing, though because they are going to have off-nights and that's where the rest of the team needs to pitch in. So far, that hasn't been happening.
I mentioned a couple weeks ago that the Buffalo Sabres were going to run into trouble because they had one line doing basically all the work. The Hurricanes aren't too far off from being in that territory as their top-six has been on-ice for all but one even strength goal and their first line has produced about 36% of their total goals on the season. Again, it's good to see the top-six doing their job but not having much scoring depth is going to hurt the team eventually.
I made a few pie-graphs to show just how skewed Carolina's offense has been this year and it really illustrates how much the top-six is being leaned on, especially the first line.
The top-six takes up more than half of this graph while the defensemen have actually scored a higher percentage of goals than anyone from the bottom-six. This graph is actually a bit generous because I included Patrick Dwyer as part of the bottom-six and he has all three goals they have scored. Dwyer was playing on Jordan Staal's line on two of his three goals, so things would look even more skewed had I excluded him. If I did that, the third line wouldn't even be visible in the chart.
Even Strength Goals
Once again, the top-six accounts for over 65% of the scoring and the first line is doing the bulk of the work. The bottom-six has scored a total of two even strength goals and both of them are from Dwyer. The defense is actually outscoring them with three total goals.
The second line has accounted for more of the Hurricanes points which is probably due to Jordan Staal's seven assists but the overall point remains with the top-six doing the majority of the scoring. Jeff Skinner also has two powerplay goals along with a pair of helpers with the man-advantage, which makes the second line look a lot better here. Patrick Dwyer and Tim Brent's five combined points are all the production the Hurricanes have gotten from their bottom-two lines. Brent's point also came on the powerplay, which provides a nice transition into the final chart.
Pretty much the same story only the first line looks a lot better because they have been producing more at even strength. The Hurricanes haven't exaxctly been receiving balanced scoring in this young season and it could hurt them if/when their top-lines goes through a dry spell. On the other hand, they could actually be getting more out of their first line when you consider that neither Alexander Semin or Jiri Tlusty have scored an even strength goal this year and it's mostly due to them having some terribly poor shooting luck. Their is definitely some untapped potential there, but the Canes still need to have some more scoring depth.
This all boils down to their third line playing better than they have this year. Chad LaRose, Jussi Jokinen and Drayson Bowman have yet to get on the scoresheet and haven't even been on-ice for one Carolina goal this season. They are also posting some brutal underlying numbers on top of that. It looked like things would pick up after Dwyer was promoted to this line last Friday but that all ended once Zac Dalpe was sent to Charlotte and Dwyer was promoted to the top-six, returning the third-line back to its original state. The third line's talent level is better than they've shown thus far, but the Canes are going to need the rest of their lineup to pick it up if they want to establish some scoring depth.