Photo Credit: Andy Martin Jr.

Photo Credit: Andy Martin Jr.

Will the real Jiri Tlusty please stand up?

As good as Tlusty and his 23 goals were a season ago, this year he’s been anything but. In the 11 games since being reunited with Eric Staal and Alexander Semin on the Carolina Hurricanes’ top line, Tlusty has recorded 3 goals and 4 assists. Not bad numbers to be sure, but considering that linemates Semin (8G, 3A) and Staal (4G, 6A) have been on fire, it’s a little troubling to see Tlusty not keep pace.

On the year, Tlusty has just 9 goals, tied with defenseman Andrej Sekera for 6th on the team, and just one more than fourth-liner Riley Nash. It may be a stretch for him to match last year’s total, this time, in a (mostly) full slate of games.

The soon-to-be 26-year-old Czech Republic native has had anything but a stable season. He suffered an injury during the preseason that nagged him throughout the early stages, and then had an an emergency appendectomy a few days before Christmas. Happy holidays.

But at the same time, he isn’t the same Tlusty of a year ago. He’s whiffing on chances that he previously buried. Against Winnipeg, Semin set him up just five feet from Ondrej Pavelec, but the puck was sent wide. Blind passes to no one have become uncomfortably common, and have resulted in odd-man rushes the other way.

Defensively, he hasn’t been as sharp against easier competition, despite playing an almost virtually identical role to last year as far as zone starts. He isn’t a liability by any means, but the defensively sound Tlusty seems to be missing.

Are we seeing his true colors, or is he simply in a prolonged slump? Which year is the fluke? The answer lies somewhere in between.

For his career, Tlusty is a 13.1 percent shooter — ironically, a very similar figure to Semin’s. Last year he shot an unsustainably-high 19.7 percent on the heels of a lot of “dirty” goals. This year he’s only converted on 10.1 percent of his chances, his lowest total since he made his Hurricanes’ debut.

Based on career percentage and total shots this year, Tlusty is only about 2 goals behind schedule. But therein lies the problem: he’s shooting far less than he did in 2013-14. In one more game played he’s produced 30 fewer attempts, nearly all of them of the “on goal” variety. Had his totals matched last year’s, he’d have around 15 goals at the moment. But he doesn’t.

The troubling part is that he looks like a different player. He hasn’t gone to the same dirty areas to cash in on easy chances, Friday’s goal against the Florida Panthers notwithstanding. That’s where Tlusty needs to make his living if he’s to continue playing on the top line. He’s a smart player who is able to find a soft spot on the defense, and given Semin’s new-found love of the pass, shouldn’t stray from that simple style of play.

Out of the break, the Hurricanes will journey west and face some difficult possession teams. On the year they’ve gone 2-0-1 against the teams from California, but all have come at PNC arena with the luxury of determining their own matchups. On the road, Tlusty and the ‘Canes will face their toughest challenge yet. It’s make-or-break time for each, and with both an expiring contract and the trade deadline looming, anything can happen upon the return to Carolina.

About The Author

Andrew Luistro graduated from Appalachian State University. An avid sports fan, he began beat writing for the Sunbelt Hockey Journal, part of The Hockey Writers Network, with a focus on the Carolina Hurricanes. Andrew also actively follows the Boston Red Sox and Carolina Panthers, among other teams. Follow him on Twitter @ndrewL7

6 Responses

  1. dabrams2021

    mach2que Canes cannot climb into playoff contention w 3rd line so weak offensively

  2. mach2que

    dabrams2021 They are what we already know…a large collection of 4th line players. #Canes

  3. dabrams2021

    mach2que Gerbe can play on 3rd line, but needs size offset at center & LW; analysis shows the failures at 3rd line; Gerbe/3rd C/Ruutu works

  4. dabrams2021

    mach2que Canes can play Dwyer or Gerbe not both on 3rd line. Not complicated. Easy to see; easy to analyze. Easy to fix.