We are a little over one month into the season, and after 19 games, the state of the Hurricanes remains unclear. One night they play to their potential and look like a bonafide contender, and, on another, their offense looks bare and the powerplay sucks the life out of the team.
Taking a look at what’s gone right, been underwhelming, and looked straight-up rotten so far in the season is important to evaluate the team’s play. However, all conclusions need to be taken with a pinch of salt knowing the season remains young.
The Young Guns
The most noticeable positive has been the play of Martin Necas, Andrei Svechnikov, and Sebastian Aho. Martin Necas has been a pleasant surprise to start the season. Although I’ve been high on Necas, I never imagined a start like this. Necas has 23 points in 19 games and looks like a rejuvenated player.
The points, of course, are great but Necas’ overall game has improved significantly. The biggest difference seems to be his confidence on the ice, a change that allows him to fully utilize his speed and unique playmaking ability.
Andrei Svechnikov had a strong season last year recording 30 goals and 69 points. This year, however, Andrei seems to be aiming for 40 and could surpass that mark at his current pace. With two hat tricks, both against the Edmonton Oilers, he now has 13 goals in 19 games, which is the 4th most in the league, behind Jason Robertson, Bo Horvat, and Connor McDavid.
Finally, Sebastian Aho’s point-per-game pace is a sign of another premium talent producing on the Hurricanes’ offense. All three of these young players are producing at a star level, and, if the rest of the team can catch up, it will be tough to prevent the Canes from finding the back of the net.
The Hurricanes continue to suppress chances and make life easy for their goaltenders. Their 25.3 shots against per game average is second-best in the league.
Jalen Chatfield has been better than expected to start the season and is doing the most with his first crack at an NHL roster. Jalen has used his speed and aggressiveness to challenge the opposition and been a key player in the Canes’ transition game.
The Hurricanes started the season with strong play after the end of regulation going 3-1 in extra time, and 2-0 in shootouts before November 18th. They’ve since struggled with two OT losses against the Avalanche and Jets, but the Canes’ shootout record remains undefeated.
Frederik Andersen and Antti Raanta’s play last season won them the Williams Jennings Trophy and cemented the tandem as one of the best in the league. This year, however, both goaltenders have hovered around adequacy and lacked show-stealing performances. Andersen also suffered a lower-body injury and hasn’t played since November 6th.
Before the injury, Andersen’s start was already disheartening, to say the least. While he has not been bad enough to straight-up lose the Canes a game, he has allowed multiple soft goals go. Overall, he’s lacked the look of the Freddie of old. His current injured doesn’t bode well for his season, either.
Raanta has been fine, but with Andersen out, the Hurricanes need more from Antti. Rookie Pyotr Kochetkov has seen limited action but looked comfortable in the games he’s started, earning his first career shutout against Chicago on Monday. While goaltending will likely even itself, the start has not been very promising.
Past the big three, the Canes’ roster lacks consistent scoring throughout. For starters, Teuvo Teravainen and Seth Jarvis have had very disappointing starts to the season. Jarvis had a seven-game pointless streak from 11/6-11/19 and has lost the confidence he played with throughout his rookie year.
Teravainen was unfortunately injured on November 10th and placed on injured reserve, but his play prior was practically invisible. He had 7 assists and 0 goals through 14 games, and only 1 point on the powerplay. Hopefully, Teravainen will recover quickly as this offense cannot run smoothly without his contributions.
Jesperi Kotkaniemi has looked strong as the Canes’ second-line center, but his absence from the scoresheet is concerning. The Hurricanes will need a lot more than 3 points if he wants to keep his job at 2C.
Aside from Jordan Martinook, it’s fair to say the bottom six has been disappointing offensively overall, although the third line is starting to heat up. Even if the bottom six is reserved more for checking and defense, they need to contribute more offense. Paul Stastny is a prime example, as he has failed to show any of his offensive ability for the Canes this season. He has been the definition of a non-factor and a healthy scratch.
The secondary scoring as a whole needs to improve, and that’s not just for the forwards.
On defense, Brent Burns has settled in, and, although he needs to be a little better at even strength, 13 points in 19 games is very good. Brady Skjei‘s 7 points and is also solid. Past those two, the blue line is incredibly bare. The Hurricanes have historically relied on points from the back end, but this year that has not been the case. We’ve seen that Jaccob Slavin and Brett Pesce have a lot more to give, and if the Canes want to establish more consistent scoring it needs to start with the blue line.
Where to even start? The current performance of the penalty kill and powerplay is unacceptable. The Hurricanes had the best PK% in the league last year, a strength that has suddenly looked more like a weakness. They sit 18th in the league with a 78.8% rate, 10% lower than last season. As a highly-penalized team, the Canes are at a huge disadvantage with a poor PK.
The powerplay might be even worse. The Canes have the league’s 30th-worst powerplay at 14.3%, an embarrassing feat when you consider the talent on the Canes’ 5-man unit. The powerplay’s personnel is more than capable, but the problem lies in their inability to do anything once set up due to poor puck movement and shooting. In addition, the powerplay has allowed 3 shorthanded goals.
If these trends of special team failure continue, especially into the playoffs, some assistant coaches’ jobs may be on the line.
The Hurricanes are still a good team despite their underwhelming start and sit second in the Metro with a record of 10-5-4. At the very least, we can take solace in the fact other than the New Jersey Devils, no one else in the Metropolitan has looked too good either. Once the Hurricanes heal up and the likes of Teuvo Tervainen and Frederik Andersen return to the lineup, as well as Max Pacioretty‘s debut, they will be fine.
Fans of the Hurricanes have been spoiled by the strong starts of the last three seasons. Hopefully, this year’s slower start prepares the Canes to peak at the right time and saves them from a playoff flame-out. Although it hasn’t always been pretty, there is a lot to look forward to as a Canes fan.