Found February 01, 2013 on Shutdown Line:
Stanley_cup_finals_1c0d
One of the reasons why the Hurricanes acquired Jordan Staal this summer is because he is the type of player who can make the rest of your roster better. We've been over this hundreds of times before, but J. Staal's ability to drive the play and create offense despite playing the toughest minutes on the team allows Kirk Muller to free up some of his other lines to easier minutes. We've seen Muller utilize this strategy by giving Jordan Staal's line the majority of tough minutes while Eric Staal's line has gotten easier zone starts against secondary competition and the third line of Jussi Jokinen, Chad LaRose and Drayson Bowman have gotten some of the "easiest" assignments on the team. In theory, this strategy makes a lot of sense because the Staal brothers are good enough to handle the toughs and Jokinen was able to efficiently move the puck forward last year in a similar, protected role. So far, one side of this plan has worked out well as Eric Staal's line has done a marvelous job of creating offense and scoring chances but the third line has struggled. One would think that Jokinen, LaRose and Bowman should be able to thrive in a third line role where they aren't being matched up the best that the opposing team has to offer but they haven't been getting the job done. No one on this line has a point yet this season and all three are on the losing end of the scoring chance battle at even strength. The most alarming thing about their performance thus far is the fact that they haven't been able to push the play forward despite the easier assignments they've been receiving. That and they've been pretty brutal at both ends of the ice in terms of creating and preventing scoring chances. Player TOI 5v5 CF/60 5v5 CA/60 CD/60 OZ% Start OZ% Fin Drayson Bowman 55.85 3.76 5.1 -1.34 60 46.2 Chad LaRose 48.93 3.37 5.82 -2.45 62.2 46.7 Jussi Jokinen 52.64 3.76 5.1 -1.34 66.7 54.8 I don't want to be too harsh since this is only five games, but these three should be able to produce way more scoring chances than they have thus far, especially since all of them have started 60% of their 5v5 shifts in the offensive zone. Adding to that, they shouldn't be giving up more than five scoring chances per 60 minutes with assignments like that either. Their inability to keep the puck in the offensive zone is also really hurting this team right now. With both Staal lines handling most of the tough sledding, all this line is counted on for is to produce offense, forecheck hard and provide secondary scoring and up to this point, they are doing a very poor job in all three areas. The fact that they are struggling is mystery to me because given their track record, all three should be able to thrive in this kind of role. LaRose was successful playing tougher minutes last year, Jokinen played well in a similar role to this (albeit with stronger linemates) and Bowman showed signs of being a solid third-liner in the 37 games he played with the big club last year. These three have shown the ability to succeed as third-liners before but for whatever reason, it hasn't been working out this year. Individually, these are good players and can help the team so it's possible that chemistry is an issue and it may take some time for things to gel. Unfortunately, the Hurricanes need more immediate help and probably can't wait for them to start clicking so we will probably see some line shuffling within the next few games if they continue to struggle. The question is who will be demoted and who will take his place on this line? All three are playing poorly right now, but we can dive a little deeper to see who the "weakest link" is. One way to do that is to look at their performance in the neutral zone.  A team's play in the neutral zone is very important because it is often what leads to them getting zone time, creating offense and in turn, winning more games. Studies done by other hockey bloggers and statisticians have shown that carrying the puck into the offensive zone has a greater chance at leading to a shot on goal as opposed to simply dumping the puck in and "getting it deep." So those who are carrying the puck into the offensive zone are winning the neutral zone battle and creating more offense. Using this method, we can reveal some interesting things about the Hurricanes third line. Player 5v5 TOI Entries Controlled Controlled% Entires/15 Controlled/15 Bowman 55.85 18 12 66.7% 4.8 3.2 LaRose 48.93 11 5 45.5% 3.4 1.5 Jokinen 52.64 15 9 60.0% 4.3 2.6 Going by this, Bowman has been the best member of this line. He is getting the puck into offensive zone more often and when he does, he has control of the puck and is more likely to produce offense than his two linemates. Jokinen's numbers aren't bad either but they could be a lot better since he has less than 10 controlled entries. LaRose, however, has been very poor in the neutral zone this year. He doesn't have many entries and he has resorted to dumping the puck in more often than his linemates. I find it hard to believe that he's bringing the whole line down but his inability to get the puck in the offensive zone could explain why his numbers are so poor this year. It's worth noting that none of these players have been particularly "great" when it comes to neutral zone play but going by these numbers, it appears that LaRose has been the weak link while Bowman has been playing the strongest. That sort of confirms the eye-test since I think Bowman has looked good this season. So if anyone is going to get demoted to the fourth line, LaRose might be the best candidate but who should go in his spot? One player who comes to mind is Andreas Nodl, who was just recalled from the AHL and can easily slide in to one of the winger spots. However, if Carolina is looking for someone who could potentially be a better neutral zone player, promoting Patrick Dwyer to the third line may not be a bad option. Here are his numbers from this year: Player 5v5 TOI Entries Controlled Controlled% Entires/15 Controlled/15 Dwyer 38.54 18 12 66.7% 7.0 4.7 Despite getting fourth line minutes, Dwyer has been able to get the puck into the offensive zone often and he has done it with control of the puck over 65% of the time. I know Dwyer's offensive upside is limited but he has a very good skillset that could possibly help the third line. As the best defensive forward on the team, he can definitely help this unit prevent scoring chances against and possibly spend more time on the attack if he continues to play well in the neutral zone. I know that Dwyer isn't known for his scoring touch but he is a very good skater and can at least help Carolina's third line become stronger territorially. Who knows? Maybe he will pitch in with some more secondary scoring than we normally expect from him? With how poorly the current third line has played, I say that using him there is worth a shot.  
THE BACKYARD
BEST OF MAXIM
RELATED ARTICLES

A new start for Zach Boychuk

The development of former Carolina Hurricanes first round pick Zach Boychuk has been scrutinized heavily in recent seasons. This is his fifth year in the organization and in that time, he has been able to succeed in the AHL but that hasn't translated to success at the next level as Boychuk has played only 73 games in the NHL, scoring seven goals and 18 points during that span...

Gritty win gives Canes boost before long trip

RALEIGH, NC --- As the Carolina Hurricanes embark on a six-game road swing that won't bring them back for another home game until Valentine's Day, they can do so knowing they're capable of handling any style. Carolina is built to score and play fast, but on Friday night at PNC Arena, the only goal scored was by Hurricanes' star center Eric Staal in the first period...

Penguins Claim Zach Boychuk On Waivers From Hurricanes

From the Carolina Hurricanes: RALEIGH, NC – Jim Rutherford, President and General Manager of the National Hockey League’s Carolina Hurricanes, today announced that the Pittsburgh Penguins have claimed forward Zach Boychuk on waivers. Boychuk, 23, appeared in Carolina’s season opener against the Florida Panthers and was a healthy extra for four games. The Airdrie, Alb...

Zach Boychuk claimed by the Pittsburgh Penguins

You probably already know this already, but the Pens have claimed Zach Boychuck off of waivers from Carolina. He's a former first-round pick. There's some speculation that he may be given a shot alongside Malkin and Neal. Boychuck has seven goals and 11 assists in 73 career NHL games. He wears number 11, which is probably why Carolina didn't want him any longer...

Hurricanes 1, Senators 0

Dan Ellis made 33 saves for his first shutout in more than two years and Eric Staal scored to lead the Carolina Hurricanes to a 1-0 victory over the Ottawa Senators on Friday night. Ellis, making only his second start of the season in place of Cam Ward, earned his 13th career shutout and first since Nov. 9, 2010, against Toronto when he was with Tampa Bay. Carolina improved to...

Ellis shuts down Senators

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Goalie Dan Ellis has given the Carolina Hurricanes something to think about with their goalie rotation. Ellis, making his second start of the season, stopped 33 shots and Eric Staal's first-period goal held up as the Hurricanes defeated the Ottawa Senators 1-0 Friday night at PNC Arena. "We were able to get some good habits and that's something to...

Carolina's bad starts

Jamie McBain's goal on Monday night's game against the Boston Bruins was a bit of a milestone for the Hurricanes. Not only was it the young defenseman's first goal of the season, but it was also the first time all year that the Hurricanes scored in the first period. That's right, it took five games into the year for the Hurricanes to finally score in the first period...

Penguins Claim 2008 1st Round Pick Zack Boychuk from Carolina

The Penguins picked 23 year old Carolina Hurricanes Left Winger Zack Boychuk off of waivers today.  Boychuk was a first round 14th overall pick in the 2008 entry draft. Boychuk saw on average 9 minutes playing time in the 16 games he played for Carolina last year and got to play all of 1 game with them this year.  My guess is that Dustin Jeffrey who was about to see time on Malkin’s...

Game 6 Preview: Ottawa Senators at Carolina Hurricanes

Ottawa Senators at Carolina Hurricanes PNC Arena, 7 p.m. TV: FS-Carolinas, Sportsnet-East The sense of optimism in Raleigh after their back-to-back sweep of the Buffalo Sabres didn't last long as the feelings of gloom and doom returned after the Hurricanes 5-3 loss to the Boston Bruins on Monday night. A bad third period performance is usually a good way to lose confidence...
Hurricanes News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.