- Matthew Schweikert
Carolina Hurricanes Quarter Season Review
With their win last night against the Columbus Blue Jackets, the Carolina Hurricanes are officially a quarter of the way through their abbreviated 56 game season. Despite a COVID pause early in the season, the Canes are off to a tremendous start. Through 13 games, they sit at 10-3-0 with 20 points and are tied for second in the Central Division. They are just a point behind the Tampa Bay Lightning for the top spot in the division and are tied for the 5th most points in the entire league. So, what has gone right for the Hurricanes so far this season?
Last season, the Hurricanes struggled to get offensive production outside of their top line of Sebastian Aho, Teuvo Teravainen, and Andrei Svechnikov. Outside of those 3, only defenseman Dougie Hamilton cracked 40 points on the season. The story has been much different so far this season. Captain Jordan Staal is on one of the best offensive hot streaks of his career with 14 points in 11 games. Vincent Trocheck, acquired from Florida at the trade deadline last year, has 13 points in 12 games. Brock McGinn and Nino Niederreiter have 7 goals apiece. Aho and Svechnikov have been producing like their normal selves as well, with 13 points each. This has been a huge boost for the Canes. They now have the depth throughout their lineup that they need to be a true Cup contender.
Clutch Play Late in Games:
Another big key for the Canes this season has been their play late in games. Of their 10 wins, 4 have been decided after regulation, including 3 in a shootout. Netminders James Reimer and Alex Nedeljkovic have combined to allow just 1 goal on 9 attempts in the shootout. The Hurricanes have also played in 6 games that were tied entering the 3rd period. Thanks in part to their prowess in the shootout, the Canes have a 4-2-0 record in those games, compared to a 7-5-3 mark last season. They’re also 3-2-0 in games where their opponent scores first, which thus far is a stark contrast from last season when they were 12-22-3 in those games. It’s a very small sample size, but it shows that at least early on, the Canes are becoming much better at rallying and closing out tight games.
One Area For Improvement:
Despite everything that has gone right for the Hurricanes so far this season, their goaltending still leaves something to be desired, which is largely due to Petr Mrazek’s thumb injury. Mrazek was spectacular early on, with a .955 save percentage, a 0.99 goals against average, and 2 shutouts in his first 4 starts before going down with that thumb injury against Dallas. In Mrazek’s absence, James Reimer has been relied upon as the number one goalie, and while he’s been racking up the wins, the individual results haven’t been great. Reimer has just an .895 save percentage and a 3.10 goals against average in 8 games this season. The results have been similar for Alex Nedeljkovic, who has an .882 save percentage and a 2.92 goals against average in the 2 starts he’s gotten while filling in as the number two netminder. There still hasn’t been an exact timetable released for Mrazek’s return, and if he misses an extended period of time, the Canes may begin to explore their options on the trade market.
All in all, it has been a tremendously successful start to the season for the Hurricanes. They’re getting offensive production up and down the lineup, and they’re doing a much better job of rallying from early deficits and winning close games. Coming into the season, they were viewed by many as a fringe contender, but if they continue to play the way they have so far, they will begin to be viewed as one of the league’s elite teams.