Hurricanes miss Staal's scoring prowess
RALEIGH, N.C. — Visibly dejected and seemingly less optimistic following Game 3, Hurricanes center Eric Staal found some solace thinking back to Carolina's resiliency.
The Hurricanes have been down and almost out before.
They have bounced back in the past, giving Staal just a glimmer of hope that the 'Canes could get back into this Eastern Conference final, despite trailing the Penguins, 3-0, in the best-of-seven series.
They'll face possible elimination for the fourth time this postseason Tuesday night in Game 4 at RBC Center.
"If I was to pick a team to be in this spot to try and come back, this would be the one," said Staal, the older brother of Penguins' third-line center Jordan Staal. "We've done it all year. We've done it this playoff."
There's one major difference, though, in that team and this team.
That team was highly influenced and often inspired by Staal's stellar play and consistent scoring. This team is struggling because Staal — goalie Cam Ward hasn't held up his end of the deal, either — is struggling.
It's as simple as this: When Staal scores, the Hurricanes are 7-0 in the postseason. When he doesn't, they are 1-9.
Staal hasn't scored a goal in six games, which marks his longest goal-less streak since December. Even more surprising, Staal is a minus-6 through three games this series.
"If I'm scoring goals and helping offensively, there's a better chance we're going to win the game," Staal said before a 6-2 loss in Game 3 Saturday night. "I know that, but I can't change my game. I can't get frustrated. I can't put extra pressure on myself. I have to play my game."
Staal scored nine goals in the first 11 playoff games to help the Hurricanes eliminate the higher-seeded New Jersey Devils and Boston Bruins, but he has since been shut down. During the current drought, no one has been harder on himself than Staal.
"I'm never going to challenge Eric Staal to the point he challenges himself," Carolina coach Paul Maurice said.
Staal knows the Hurricanes need him to score in order to win games. His teammates know they need him. So does his coach.
"He handles the pressure of being that player for us very, very well, and we think so much of him because he has always elevated his game," Maurice said. "He has always been able to do it as all great players do, so we have confidence in him."
Staal hasn't been able to find his game — the one that pushed the Hurricanes through the first two rounds. If and when he does, it may be too little, too late.
Penguins centers Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby have already taken over the series, while Staal has faded into the background. The Hurricanes' lone offensive star — a 40-goal scorer during the regular season — has been no match for the Penguins' duo, who have combined for eight goals, including six from Malkin this series.
Consequently, the Hurricanes have been no match for the Penguins.
That can change, of course, but Carolina has an arduous and nearly impossible task. Only two teams have come back from a 3-0 deficit.
"Our challenge is that we've got to find a way to beat them once, and then we'll revisit that," Maurice said. "We're not looking at trying to beat Pittsburgh four times in one game."
They are looking for the Eric Staal of old, though.
And they'll likely have to find him to have a chance of getting back into this series.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Penguins not alone in top-heavy approach to salary cap
- Penguins trade Sutter to Canucks, sign free agent center Fehr
- Sutter: Staal effect felt on 3rd line with Penguins
- Rossi: ‘Hockey guy’ Sutter will be missed
- Reliving the moment a decade ago that shifted the Penguins' history
- New Pens winger Fehr ready for defense-first role
- Penguins to appear on national TV 18 times in 2015-16