Today marks the first matchup where Jordan Staal will face his old mates from Pittsburgh. Jordan Staal was 1/3 of the best center grouping in the NHL for the past 6 years. With a 10 year 60M deal on the table from Ray Shero last summer Staal chose to pass on signing. His reason was that by signing that contract he would never have the opportunity to play with his older brother. Also driving that decision was the opportunity in Carolina to play more minutes in offensive situations. You would be hard pressed to find anybody who has hard feelings about Jordan Staal’s decision. The trade that moved him from Pittsburgh to Carolina was a good hockey deal for both teams and the family dynamic made it a no brainer for Staal to sign an identical extension in Carolina immediately following the conclusion of the trade.
Now that Jordan Staal is free to play in a true top 6 role with the Hurricanes, has he seen tangible improvements in his stats? The answer is yes. In his career with Pittsburgh he played in 431 games with 120 goals 128 assists for 248 points. That averages out to 0.58 points per game. In his short time with Carolina he has played in 18 games and has 4 goals 11 assists for 15 points. He currently has a 0.83 points per game ratio with the Hurricanes. I find that impressive because his offensive zone start % is still lower than 50% with Carolina. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Staal’s offensive stats grow even more if they ever get around to giving him a more advantageous offensive zone starting percentage.
Given that tonight is the first Pittsburgh/Carolina matchup since the trade I am looking very forward to the potential Staal vs. Crosby battle that is more than likely to take place tonight. Normally I would think that the Canes would want the big bodied Staal to take on a shutdown role against the Malkin line. With Malkin out with a concussion that leaves Sidney Crosby as the most dangerous offensive player for Staal to mark up against. The Hurricanes are home and have the last change so if that is the matchup they want, it is the one they will get.
Staal's gap control, wing span, and physicality vs Crosby's hockey IQ, raw speed, and lightning agility in tight spaces.
Great matchup. Two guys who are amongst the best at what they do. I very much look forward to what transpires this evening.
The aforementioned Evgeni Malkin skated for 30 minutes yesterday back in Pittsburgh. He has been void of concussion symptoms.
If you blinked you may have missed the Kings scratching back into the playoff picture trying to reclaim their crown from last season as the NHL’s best team. The Kings have rattled off a 5 game winning streak and have won 7 of their last 8 games.
On February 18 before the Kings went on their 5 game winning streak they were in 12th place in the Western Conference 4 points out of a playoff spot. They now sit 5th overall in the conference.
Why have the Kings been able to make this climb in the standings? One reason has been Anze Kopitar’s improved play. In the 7 games the Kings have lost with Kopitar in the lineup the Slovenian has 1 goal and 2 assists. In the 10 games the Kings have won Kopitar has 5 goals and 9 assists, including a very impressive GWG against Detroit last night. Kopitar has 2 goals and 6 assists during the current 5 game winning streak. I don’t think it’s a surprise that the Kings record and Kopitar’s production are correlated.
The other main reason for the Kings sudden turnaround is their ability to hold opponents scoring to a minimal level. In the past 7 Kings wins their opponents have only scored 1 goal 6 times and 2 goals once.
The Philadelphia Flyers are another team who has started off slower than many pundits predicted before the start of the season. The Flyers captain Claude Giroux was off to a slow start, as was the team.
Recently Giroux has caught fire and that has resulted in better results for the Flyers. Giroux is averaging 2 points per game in last 6 games with 4 goals and 2 assists. The Flyers as a team are 4-2 during that stretch and now find themselves in the 8th seed of the Eastern Conference. They were 2-3-1 in their previous 6 games. In those 6 games Giroux had 0 goals and 4 assists.
Helping with Claude Giroux’s recent statistical improvement has been Scott Hartnell’s return to the lineup. Giroux played 16 games without Hartnell this year and had 3 goals and 11 assists. In the 6 games Hartnell has played Giroux has 4 goals and 4 assists.
Enjoy the slate of 11 games tonight.
Thanks for reading!