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Uncertainty Lies Within Optimism

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As the Hurricanes prepare for their season opener against the Nashville Predators, their pre-season numbers show they have some work to do but also have positives going forward.

James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

"It’s just preseason," they say, but as the Carolina Hurricanes finalized their pre-season schedule, they finished 4-2 and defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins 2-1.

When the two teams met for the first time in the pre-season, the Penguins toppled the ‘Canes 7-3 with two goals from the recently acquired Phil Kessel. However, the Hurricanes took advantage of a Penguins team this time around that looked sluggish who usually makes things looks easy.

Cam Ward managed to push a speeding Evgeni Malkin to the outside on a breakaway and flash the glove several times as well. Ward stopped 34 of 35 shots with five of those shots coming from Kessel. After the game, Ward said he was a little "rusty playing the puck, but was stopping the puck."

Throughout the pre-season, the Hurricanes managed to kill 20 of the 23 penalties they were handed. With that in mind, the Hurricanes disallowed any chance for possibly one of the most dominant power plays to be this season to convert on their four power play opportunities. However, the Hurricanes power play converted on a deplorable 6.6% throughout the pre-season.

"We’ve got to address why we’re only getting on the powerplay one or two times a night," head coach Bill Peters stated. "We’re probably going to have to look at doing some different things, or if its not different things so much as different people."

"There still isn’t that rhythm on the bench that I like," Peters also mentioned.

"There isn’t everybody in a roll that suits them and defines our hockey team."

Since 2011-2012, there has been a massive overhaul of the roster. Only four players remain from that team.

One thing Peters emphasized at the end of the season was how the vast majority of the 16 teams who secured a playoff spot were in the top eight of their conference by Thanksgiving. For many seasons it’s been a consistent theme of starting on the high note that the team finished on. Even with the overhaul this team has endured, it is imperative that this team becomes synchronized early.

Going into the season, the Hurricanes north-south game looked to have tremendously improved as well as their net-front presence. Both factors play a major role in helping net goals, which is an area of needed improvement.

Looking at last season’s statistics, the Hurricanes finished with a 2.67 goals against average for the season. However, they only managed to finish with 2.23 goals for. Their issue last season wasn’t getting shots on goal, it was getting shots to go in the goal. With a highly optimistic defensive corps and depth at the goaltender position, this team should be equipped to stop pucks from getting in the net. But the issue here is if this team can’t score goals they aren’t going to win games. The Hurricanes lost 27 one-goal games last season.

"We lost, I believe, 27 one-goal games -- 16 in regulation, seven in the shootout, four in overtime. We lost another seven games that were one-goal games that became two-goal games, because they scored an empty-net goal late. That's 34 of your 41 losses," General Manager Francis said in his post-season availability.

Having Jordan Staal start this season healthy should help alleviate their scoring dilemma with help from Eric Staal, Elias Lindholm, Jeff Skinner, and Victor Rask. Kris Versteeg should add some scoring supplement as well.

It looks like the Hurricanes have finally transitioned to the Bill Peters style of play and with that have a chance at running a better cycle and eliminating the dump-and-chase method.

Goals don’t necessarily always have to be from the top of the slot, garbage goals count too and there weren’t enough of them last season. Let’s see if running the cycle and creating a net front presence pushes this team to a higher level of goal scoring.

Uncertainty surrounds this team in the aspect of will this team make a playoff push? Will it’s franchise cornerstones of Cam Ward and Eric Staal stick around after this season? Or will Ron Francis take this franchise in a completely new direction?