The Nashville Predators (16-5-2) make their way to Raleigh, North Carolina tonight to take on the Carolina Hurricanes (7-13-3).
The Predators have won their last four games while the Hurricanes dropped their last game in a 3-2 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
We caught up with the fine folks at Cardiac Cane to step behind enemy lines and take a look at the Hurricanes and get a few thoughts on the Predators from a different viewpoint.
Q: The Canes have struggled for the better half of the season so far. Where exactly are the struggles stemming from in your opinion?
A: The biggest problem for the Carolina Hurricanes has been inconsistency. The team has struggled to play well over extended periods of time. The team was winless in the month of October (0-6-2), then they won 5 of 6 to start November, and they are 2-7-0 since November 13. The Canes have been very streaky this year, and they won’t be anywhere close to competitive until they can straighten that out.
Q: Looking at statistics, I think it’s safe to say Carolina’s net minders are having a rough go of it. What is the solution?
A: The month of October was rough for everyone in Carolina, goalies included. November was very different for one goalie, and that goalie was Cam Ward. Ward’s record in November was 7-5-0, which is impressive when you consider the team in front of him was 7-7-1 in that month. Ward had a .927 save percentage and 2.09 goals against average last month, which puts him near the very top of the league in those categories for the month of November. The play of the goalies in Carolina is trending upward behind the stellar play of Cam Ward, and hopefully that continues in December and beyond.
Q: Alexander Semin has been a healthy scratch a few games this season. He had 42 points last season. What’s going on there? Looking to move him?
A: The Alexander Semin situation in Carolina is ugly. He has played slightly better as of late, but this year has been lackluster for him and the team. He has just 5 points this year and zero goals. For $7 million, it is fair to expect much, much more out of him. Making him a healthy scratch has not really worked at all, so you have to wonder if there is anything that could actually kick-start his play. And with Alex Semin, the effort and commitment has always been a big question mark, and it definitely has been an issue for him this season.
For that reason, no GM in the league would ever trade for him at this point. Nobody wants a trouble player with not much going for him at $7 mill per year for the next four seasons. If Semin is still struggling in a few weeks, sending him through waivers and to the Charlotte Checkers in the AHL would be the next step. If the season ends and Semin makes no improvement, expect Ron Francis, GM and Executive VP of the Hurricanes, to buy out the remainder of his contract. Things do not look good for Semin, and it is up to him to turn it around. The blame is all on him at this point.
Q: Who has been the Canes MVP at this point of the season?
A: Amongst the wreckage in Carolina, there have been a few bright spots. Cam Ward has been fantastic over the past month, so he is certainly a player that has been very valuable to the team, but I’d say the MVP of the season so far is Justin Faulk. Faulk has been a leader in every sense of the word. In November, the 22-year-old defenseman tallied 13 points in 15 games played while proving to be the present and future number one defenseman for the Hurricanes. He was the anchor of the team, and his impact was felt every single night.
Q: What has stood out for you when looking at the Predators this season?
A: Two players have stood out to me the most in Nashville, and it is pretty obvious who they are. Pekka Rinne and Filip Forsberg. They have been outstanding. Rinne is certainly the Vezina front-runner, as he leads all NHL goalies with at least 10 starts in wins, goals against average and save percentage. He has been the biggest part of Nashville’s big time success this year. Forsberg has led that offensive charge. The young Swede leads the team in goals, assists, and points, which is remarkable considering how young he is. His +20 plus/minus also leads the league, so he has definitely been a player who stands out to me in Nashville.
A: I, being a hopeful Hurricanes fan, think that the Canes can rally around goalie Cam Ward and use the special teams to their advantage tonight and pull out a narrow 3-2 win. Jeff Skinner also netted a hat trick last year against the Preds, which is worth noting, even though these teams are very different this time around. More realistically, I see the Preds coming out with a 2-0 win. The Canes offense has struggled to do much this year, and running into Pekka Rinne and the Nashville defense will not help. Special teams will be the key to the game, in my opinion.
The puck is set to drop at 6 p.m. CST and can be watched on FS-TN.