So far this season, we have seen the best and worst hockey of Victor Rask’s career with the Carolina Hurricanes.
There have been a lot of positive parts to the Carolina Hurricanes season at the half way point. The off-season acquisitions have all been welcomed additions. The defense and penalty kill remain extremely strong. Jeff Skinner looks like his old self again. For the first quarter of this season, it looked as though Victor Rask was part of this positivity. Over the last couple weeks however, the tape tells a different tale.
Back on December 13th, Rask was still a centerpiece of the Canes offense. That night, he blitzed the Vancouver Canucks for 3 points, including 1 goal. He was an important part of the incredible 8-6 victory over the Canucks. It looked like that win was going to be a launching point for the team and Rask’s season. It hasn’t been.
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Since that crazy night, Rask has been pedestrian at best. The Swede has only racked up 2 assists in the last 8 games. That includes the 5 game pointless streak he is currently riding. To give some perspective, Jay McClement has as many points, and he’s even scored a goal, over that stretch. So, yes, this is a bad stretch of hockey for Rask.
The center is seeing his role slowly diminish as well. With he, and Skinner to a lesser extent, slumping, their once dynamic line is becoming an offensive after thought. Combined with the recent surge of Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen, the top line now feels like an out of sync, patchwork 3rd line.
Something just isn’t clicking as it was in October and November. While never a great skater, Rask looks a step slow right now. Throw in some lackluster shot attempts and poor stick work and his game is really showing some holes.
It is definitely tough to see, especially because its not for effort. In last night’s game against New Jersey, Rask was still throwing his body around, chasing down pucks, and working hard on the forecheck. Despite his continuing work ethic, his hands and feet aren’t as fluid as earlier this season.
So what’s to be done?
Since it is hard to fault Rask’s effort, you have to just hope he regains offensive confidence. That could come from a couple of places. For starters, the team as a whole (excluding Aho) has scored a grand total of 0 times in the last 120 minutes. One would think that once the team gets their shooting grove, so too might Rask.
The other way is for Rask to keep feeding Skinner as much as possible. If Skinner is anything, he’s streaky. So, if Rask can be centering a line with a hot handed Jeff Skinner, all talk of stalled offensive output goes away. So far this season, when Rask has been at his best, Skinner has been as well. It would benefit the two of them to keep on chugging offensively, because those goals are out there for the two of them.