The puck, now, is just finding the back of the net with regularity.
“I don’t know [why]. If I knew, I probably would have figured it out a month ago,” Skinner reasoned through his trademark smile. “Sometimes, that’s just the way it goes.”
Skinner had just five goals in his first 25 games of the season. In his last six games he has nine goals, and in his last four games he has scored seven times, totals bolstered by two hat tricks. Skinner’s two hat tricks in three games is the first time in franchise history that a player has scored multiple hat tricks in a span of three or fewer team games. The 23-year-old now leads the team with 14 goals.
If not a lucky stick or a new gameday ritual, what has led to the meteoric rise in Skinner’s goal totals?
Some of it is the chemistry he’s found with his linemates, Victor Rask and Phil Di Giuseppe, who, just two weeks ago, earned his first NHL call-up.
“As a line, me, Phil and Rasker have been playing well and generating lots of opportunities. They’ve just been going in,” Skinner said. “When you get a line together that’s playing well … they’re able to feed off each other, and it creates the perfect storm to produce.”
“They’re excellent players, and they read the game well,” Di Giuseppe said. “Skinny is a high-end scorer, and Rasky complements that with a lot of skill and vision. I’m just trying to do my best to work for those two, get them the puck and create space for them.”
“All three guys seem to read off each other quite well,” head coach Bill Peters said. “Phil’s been responsible. He plays with a lot of pace, and he’s been physical on the forecheck in the O-zone. He reloads hard. He’s a good player right now.”
Di Giuseppe has recorded five points (2g, 3a) in his first six games in the NHL. All three assists have come on goals scored by Skinner.
“I think [two] of them I just chipped them off the wall to him, and he was calling for them. He did the rest of the work there,” Di Giuseppe said. “It hasn’t been like I’ve been setting him up point blank, but he’s been open, and I’ve been trying to get him the puck.”
Skinner returned the favor in Arizona, setting up Di Giueppse on a 2-on-1 rush for a shot that the 22-year-old rookie forward roofed.
“That was a nice one,” Di Giuseppe said. “I thought he was going to shoot since he has the hot stick, but he had patience with it and fed me back door.”
It’s also no coincidence that as the Canes offense has gone – the team has scored 23 goals in its last five games – so has Skinner.
“Even as a team, we scored more on that road trip than we have all year,” he said. “Any time that happens, guys are going to have success individually. Hopefully we can keep going as a line and as a team.”
“He was real good in Philly,” Peters said of Skinner. “He scored one on the power play just batting it out of the air inside the blue paint. The next one he’s cutting in. The first goal was a real good individual play using the D-man as a screen. He can score in a variety of ways. He’s a creative offensive mind.”
Some of it is due to Skinner playing a more well-rounded game. Though plus/minus has its faults as a statistic, Skinner is just one of four Hurricanes who are on the plus side of the spectrum this season.
“He’s tenacious on the puck, he’s playing hard, he’s going to the blue paint, and he’s playing well defensively, which leads to some of his offense, for sure,” head coach Bill Peters said.
Some of it is the simple fact that it was bound to happen. A two-time 30-goal scorer already in his career, Skinner possesses natural goal-scoring ability, and he ranks second on the team in shots with 93, behind only Justin Faulk. Shots that hit the post or go just wide one night might find the twine the next.
“It’s frustrating, and you think back to an inch here or there, and it turns out differently,” Skinner said. “You just have to stick with it. Even in the last few games, some of my more ugly chances have gone in.”
“Earlier in the year we were talking about how close he was. Now, instead of hitting the post and going out, they’re going in,” Peters said. “He’s got to ride that wave while he can, and hopefully it lasts a long time.”
The rest boils down to the intangible of confidence. Once a goal-scorer like Skinner gets one and then two and then three, they usually keep on coming.
And that’s a good sign for both Skinner and the Hurricanes.
“All four lines have been going,” Skinner said. “It’s tough to defend a team that has all four lines going. If we keep doing that, we’ll be a tough team to handle.”
is the Web Producer for the Carolina Hurricanes.Email