by Kate Shefte
Carolina doesn’t really have an offensive juggernaut on their blue line like Zdeno Chara (a little off his usual point production this year, but he’ll figure it out soon enough) Tomas Kaberle, Andrei Markov or Sheldon Souray, and last year it showed. Even though the team was by no means starved for goals, having the defense jump in on the rush couldn’t have hurt.
Last year, the Hurricanes’ defensive scoring neared the last in the league. This year so far, the defense has produced a large portion of the ‘Canes’ scoring.
Last year, the ‘Canes had 113 points by nine different defensemen, a few of them call-ups. This year, nearly a fifth of the way through the season, they’re on pace to score 216. The defense have already scored eight goals, on a pace far outstripping last year’s 15. Plus, they have been without both power play point man Frank Kaberle and Joni Pitkanen, acquired over the summer for his offensive ability, for over half of the young season.
Coach Peter Laviolette praised the defense’s willingness to jump into the fray after tonight’s game against the Senators.
“Even guys like Nicky (Wallin) are moving really well out there,” Laviolette said. “It would be nice to get a couple of guys healthy and get a little more depth in the line-up, but the guys that are in there right now are doing a tremendous job.”
It’s a very good thing that the defense is chipping in early, as the Hurricanes’ marquee players are not scoring consistently. Players like Joe Corvo, who has the potential to be the “that guy,” has three goals and in one of the season’s biggest surprises thus far, former odd man out Dennis Seidenberg has been tearing it up offensively. Both players scored tonight versus Ottawa.
“The two guys that scored the goals tonight can shoot the puck,” Laviolette said. “That’s one of their strengths, I think.”
I’m not trying to count chickens here, and those projections are in no way accurate. But tonight, without the defense, the Hurricanes would have been shut out. It’s comforting for a coach to know that when his Staals and your Whitneys are having an off night, the supporting cast can step up and give the team a win - an escape clause that the team did not have last year.