In the first twelve games, the Carolina Hurricanes have certainly come out of the cage clawing and fighting. Despite their record 5-7-0, it’s better than last season’s start to say the least.
For another straight year, this team looks like it should be fighting for the top of the Metropolitan division every night – on paper. This team is getting better every game, but they still have kinks to work out.
Thing One: Compete Level
Something I’ve preached over the past several years during my tenure at Canes Country was the teams’ need to play more consistently, and so far head coach Bill Peters believes that is not one of their issues.
"I think we’ve competed at a real consistent level," Peters said.
Without having their results remain consistent, however, they were able to manage three straight wins only to have their streak halted by the Tampa Bay Lightning.
This team has shown to be much more aggressive and their board play is on a different level compared to last season.
Carolina is also managing 29.6 shots per game but are only converting 7.32% of the time- a drawback prominent since last season. However, despite their results, they’re outshooting their opponents by 3.7 shots per game, which is only .2 more than last season.
Thing Two: Young Wolves Lead the Pack
Once Brock McGinn was called up from the Charlotte Checkers – he should have made the opening night roster- he has been a game changer. He’s brought a lot of energy a team that certainly needs it. Each time he scored first for the Hurricanes, they ended up winning that game.
Noah Hanifin and Brett Pesce have taken their opportunities on the blueline showcasing their potential. Hanifin has two assist in nine games as well as 14 shots on goal with 16:15 minutes of ice time per game.
Pesce recorded his first NHL assist against the Colorado Avalanche in his second appearance for the Hurricanes. Pesce had three points in three games for the Charlotte Checkers and has had 19 minutes per game since being recalled.
"You want guys to go down there with the right attitude and work hard, and when they get their chance, to come up and take advantage of it," General Manager Ron Francis said of McGinn and Pesce. "They’ve certainly done that."
Victor Rask is certainly coming off of an impressive rookie campaign and continued his impact scoring two important goals on the road to help catapult the Hurricanes’ momentum going into their home stand. Rask is tied for the team high of four goals while also having one of the best shot percentages of the squad with 14.80 on 27 shots.
Jeff Skinner has show flashes of being that star player we’re used to seeing but there are still some offensive lapses. Having him on a line with Andrej Nestrasil and Jordan Staal could work wonders with his smaller stature with two guys who are well over 6-foot. But he’s shown the ability to work on the little parts of the game and has had chances to score, but hasn’t been able to convert as much as he may like.
Thing Three: Special Teams
Last season, the Hurricanes penalty kill was one of the best in the league at one point and finished the season at 13 with a 97.9%. This season has been somewhat of a struggle, as they’ve only started off killing 79.3%, 17th in the league.
"Last year, our special teams were really good," Francis said. "I think we’ve kind of struggled here in the first bit of the season."
Coming into the season in just the pre-season, Carolina only had a 6% power play percentage and had trouble even getting on the power play. So far in 12 games they’ve obtained the ninth most power play opportunities with 43 and have only converted on 11.6 of those opportunities with Justin Faulk’s 4 power play goals lead all blue liners. With the 31-year-old goaltender going into a contract year, he’s certainly shown early on he is still worth a good bit of money.
Other Positives: Kris Versteeg and Cam Ward have started the season well. Ward, after a ‘resurgent’ season has seemed rejuvenated with a skip in his skates. Unfortunately, when a team isn’t playing well the goalie gets exposed. He has started off with a .907 save percentage and 2.44 goals against in 10 starts.
Kris Versteeg has made a nice transition after being traded from the Stanley Cup winning Chicago Blackhawks. Versteeg leads the team in points and assists with 2 goals and 8 assists with a plus-3 rating.
Justin Faulk is on pace to have another great year leading the team in shots with 47 and is seventh among defenseman in time on ice per game with 25:05. Faulk has 4 goals and 3 assist for 7 points
Other Negatives: Production from the top guys isn’t happening and the squad is looking to the depth to produce. Eric, Jordan, and Jeff Skinner need to get points on the board if this team wants to finish with a respectable record.