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Quick Whistles: Righting the Ship

The Hurricanes avoided a disastrous week and rose to the occasion in Detroit.

NHL: Colorado Avalanche at Carolina Hurricanes
Rod Brind’Amour looks on from behind the bench against the Avalanche during the third period at PNC Arena.
James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

The head coach Rod Brind’Amour era has been a bit of a rollercoaster for the Carolina Hurricanes through their first nine games.

An opening night 2-1 OTL against an Islanders team that the Hurricanes outshot 46-20 rubbed many people the wrong way. Then, their four consecutive wins got everyone talking about how this will finally be the year that Carolina turns the corner. Then, the latter two games of the Western Conference road trip sparked a three-game losing streak and turned Monday’s tilt in Detroit into a pretty significant game.

Coming off of a loss up in Winnipeg, Carolina’s first game of the week in Tampa Bay was a tough task. While the Canes scored the first goal, the game was quickly taken over and really controlled by the Lightning. It was a tight game at the end, but the Canes made a few too many mistakes and it resulted in a 4-2 loss.

Martin Necas did net his first NHL goal, though. At the time, it was a big goal that tied the game at two.

The next day, Necas and Haydn Fleury were both sent to Charlotte. It was a move that made sense for both of them given how little ice time they were seeing in Raleigh. They are both young players who really shouldn’t be seeing six minutes a night or watching from the press box.

Odds are, they’ll both be back relatively soon.

The Saturday “State Fair game” was a rough go for Carolina. Another game where the shot clock told a different story than what transpired in the game. Ultimately, it was Colorado’s top line that really hurt Carolina - Gabriel Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon, and Mikko Rantanen. McElhinney’s performance was uninspiring, at best, and it was just a very low-energy game from start to finish from the Hurricanes.

Monday in Detroit, Carolina righted a number of wrongs. For starters, they were flying out of the gate after a bit of a lull against the Avs. They pounced all over the Red Wings and recorded 14 shots on goal before Detroit could muster up their first of the night with just under seven minutes to go in the first period.

The special teams finally put a strong game together, as the power play netted two goals and the penalty kill was perfect. That, combined with a strong performance from Petr Mrazek in his old stomping ground and a noticeable desperation in Carolina’s all-around game ended the losing streak before it could have really became a problem.

It was far from a perfect week, but I think they’ll be happy with a 5-3-1 start to the season heading into the final week of October. A season ago, it took the Bill Peters-coached Canes 13 games to get to five wins, and that happened on November 7. This year, it took Brindy’s bunch nine games to accomplish that feat, and they did so on October 22.

And while it could very easily change by Friday, the Canes are currently in first place in the Metropolitan Division. So, that’s fun.

Three Stars of the Week

First Star - Sebastian Aho

It wasn’t a crazy offensive week for Aho, but he has continued to take steps in his game outside of the offensive zone. The defense is coming along quite nicely at the moment. He’s shown another gear in his own end this season. He’s quick to pucks, aggressive, and he isn’t a player you can take lightly in the corners like his height and weight might suggest.

The big note about Aho this week is that he has recorded a point in each of his first nine games. That is a Carolina Hurricanes team record and is only two games short of Ron Francis’ 11-game point streak to start a season in Hartford.

Second Star - Micheal Ferland

You can’t get very far when talking about Aho’s start without also talking about Micheal Ferland’s impact on that top line.

The former Flame has netted goals in four consecutive games and now has six goals in his first nine games of the season. In addition to bringing the sandpaper that Carolina wanted him to supply on that top line, he has displayed his skill set on a nightly basis. He’s a strong puck carrier up the ice, which allows his line mates to use their skating and creativity to find open areas and create chances on the rush.

His promotion to the first power play unit in Detroit was met with the unit scoring twice and breaking their painful special teams drought.

And when the Hurricanes remained flat well into the third period on Saturday, he came off the bench and had a game-changing shift, which led to Carolina getting momentum to go their way (before their rancid power play killed it).

Third Star - Petr Mrazek

This was a really important week for Mrazek. After Curtis McElhinney got claimed off of waivers, there started to be some questions asked about the Canes and what their goalie plans would end up being. I think the Czech backstop’s play certainly helped his case.

He was far from fantastic in Tampa Bay, but I don’t think there was very much he could do about his team, seemingly, just getting outclassed by an excellent hockey team. His game in Detroit was huge, though.

In years past, that game against the Red Wings is a game the Canes would lose very often. They dominated most of the game, especially the first two periods, which led to a pretty small workload for Mrazek. The difference here was that they got the saves they needed. Detroit’s first shot was a wrister from the slot that was taken care of and, just moments later, Justin Abdelkader’s breakaway try was sent aside as well.

If that clear-cut breakaway leads to a goal, that is a huge blow. That was a save that defined Carolina’s night. Just two minutes later, the Canes scored first and never looked back.

In Mrazek’s last three starts, he has a .917 save percentage. McElhinney has a .857 save percentage in his last three. We’ll see what decision the Hurricanes make with the number of goalies they carry once Scott Darling enters the fold, potentially later this week.

Restoring the Power

The power play has been a big problem this season. I know, I’m not telling you anything you didn’t already know, but it has been.

It’s hard to pinpoint what the biggest problem was for the Canes through eight games. They had just one powerplay goal on 29 tries (excluding Teuvo Teravainen’s empty-netter against the Rangers) after the loss to the Avalanche.

It’s really frustrating to see this kind of stuff.

Obviously, there’s a lot of pressure on the this power play unit, at that point, to get a goal. They know how bad it’s been. You’d have to think that kind of stuff comes into play here.

After the faceoff win from Jordan Staal, Aho sends it across to Faulk, and Faulk sends it to Teravainen at the top of the zone. Then, just five seconds into the power play, he rips a one-timer from the blue line with two defenders right in his face.


The result: a blocked shot and a rush the other way for the shorthanded Avalanche.

They did this a lot over the past week. They’ve been really rushing to put shot on net and not taking the time to get high-quality chances that actually have a chance of finding the back of the net. That is why their power play shot totals have been through the roof, but their success rate has been in the basement.

Carolina’s second power play goal in Detroit showed some promise. There was quick, decisive puck moving, a clear plan in place, and a combination of skill sets that made sense.

Aho takes the puck down the left wall after Faulk made a good play at the blue line to keep possession. From there, Valentin Zykov found a soft area down at the goal line, which drew a defender with him. Then, the lane opened for a one-touch pass in front to Ferland, and the first-year Hurricane rifled it top-shelf.

There are still some things that I don’t love about what Rod Brind’Amour and company are doing on the power play, but at least they have gotten on the board and can get some confidence back.

They need their special teams to be way better than it has been up to this point, but Monday night was a good step in the right direction.

Nicolas Roy

After skating in two games with the big club during his first NHL stint, Clark Bishop has been assigned back to Charlotte. Taking his roster spot will be 21-year-old Nicolas Roy.

Roy got off to an amazing start with the Checkers, logging four goals and six points in his first two games en route to being named the AHL player of the week for week one of the 2018-19 season. Since then, he has cooled down a bit, picking up just one goal over his last four games.

Bishop didn’t do much of anything wrong in his first two NHL games. In 15:01 of 5-on-5 ice time, he posted a 73.53% corsi share. Granted, his 5-on-5 minutes were sheltered to the best of the Carolina coaching staff’s ability. He also saw a couple of very brief shorthanded shifts.

While he was serviceable, he currently isn’t anything more than a defense-first guy with very limited offensive talent. At this point, it looks like the Hurricanes want to see if they can generate some more 5-on-5 offense, thus explaining the move to Roy.

The 6’4”, 215-pound forward skated in his first NHL game in the season finale against Tampa Bay in April. His hot start to the AHL season is nothing new for him. In 2015-16, he won the QMJHL goal title. To go with his size and offense, he is a great faceoff taker and a reliable two-way center. He has been a main fixture of Charlotte’s penalty kill, and he won the 2016-17 Guy Carbonneau Trophy for QMJHL defensive forward of the year.

We’ll see how he settles in and what he can bring to the table. The Canes will be looking for a little more depth offense from their bottom-six, and perhaps Roy can help provide that.