For the second time ever, the Carolina Hurricanes have started a season 3-0-0. It’s taken extra hockey in all three affairs, but the Canes find themselves in the NHL lead with six points following the season’s first weekend.
Carolina once again had to come from behind to beat the Lightning Sunday, as a 3-1 first-period deficit was erased and became a 4-3 overtime win thanks to the game ender from Jaccob Slavin. That’s apparently the new normal for this Canes team though, one that seems to really enjoy that overtime rush. Whatever, we’ll take as much hockey as we can get.
Shoot Your Shot
The takeaway from Sunday’s win that jumps off the page at you is the shot disparity, as the Hurricanes out-shot the Lightning by a staggering 44-13 margin. Tampa Bay fired on goal 11 times in the first period, before hanging a zero in the shot column for period two, the first time since 2004 that the Hurricanes have held an opponent without a shot in an entire period. The Lightning bounced back in the third, though, challenging Petr Mrazek in net a whopping two times.
On the other side of the ice, the Hurricanes peppered former teammate Curtis McElhinney with shots all night. McElhinney was mostly great in his return to PNC Arena, but the Canes still managed to get four goals past him thanks to some great energy on the offensive end.
Carolina looked dangerous in its attack all night, and if not for some highlight-reel saves from McElhinney, really could have put even more than four away. The Hurricanes have been known to tally up empty shots over the past couple of years, but on Sunday they found some quality with the quantity.
However, any successful hockey team is still going to benefit from some friendly bounces, and that’s exactly what happened on the Canes first tally. Brett Pesce fired from the point and got his first goal of the season off a defenseman’s skate, showing the good that can come from keeping the energy up and getting shots on the net.
The Canes did also show some more clinical finishes, as Erik Haula and Dougie Hamilton both tallied on great fundamental hockey plays to get Carolina back into it. Jaccob Slavin ended the game with a beautiful shot off an even better pass from Jordan Staal.
The Hurricanes played with the energy and fervor of a team that didn’t look like it was coming off of a back-to-back, and it eventually wore the Lightning down.
A Competent Power Play
Carolina seems to have been plagued by an under-performing power-play unit for as long as most Canes fans can remember, but so far this season that appears to be changing. Sunday night the Hurricanes went 2 for 5 on the power play, with Haula and Hamilton tallying to get the Canes back into the game.
With the two power-play goals, the Hurricanes are now 4 for 12 on the year, good for a 33 percent conversion rate. Obviously, the Canes won’t keep that pace up, but so far, Carolina has looked much more dangerous with a man advantage than it has in years past.
You have to go back to the 2014-15 season to find a year where the Hurricanes were in the top half of the league in power-play percentage, and even that year they finished in 15th with a conversion of 18.75 percent. Since then, the Canes’ best league ranking came last year, when they finished 20th.
If Carolina can continue to play well on the power play, it will make the Hurricanes all that more dangerous as the season moves along. The unit of Hamilton, Andrei Svechnikov, Haula, Teuvo Teravainen and Ryan Dzingel was on the ice for both power-play goals, starting with this textbook net-front work from Haula.
That unit struck again to tie the game up, as Hamilton fired one from long range that whistled past McElhinney.
The Cardiac Canes
Listen, this whole come-from-behind to win in overtime thing has been fun for Canes fans, but it may not be the most sustainable thing in the world. The Hurricanes once again entered the third period of a game needing a goal to get back into things, and they did just that.
However, you can’t rely on a comeback every night, and the Canes are going to have to start getting off to better starts. The Hurricanes have been outscored 8-4 over the first two periods so far this year, and have twice now seen early 1-0 leads erased in a matter of minutes.
The Cardiac Canes are fun and exciting, but for a team with serious ambitions to compete this year, that method of winning games isn’t entirely viable. We’re just three games into the season, all of which the Hurricanes have won, so any criticism may be a slight overreaction. However, if there’s one thing that Carolina needs to fix, it’s not falling behind and needing an overtime comeback to get two points.
Top Line Scoring
The Hurricanes are 3-0-0, and they’ve done it without a single goal from their top-two forward lines. Svechnikov, Staal, Brock McGinn, Nino Niederreiter, Sebastian Aho and Teravainen all sit without a goal, yet the Canes have six points and lead the entire NHL in that category.
That’s a good sign for the depth and versatility of the Canes, who got three of their four goals from defensemen Sunday, but it is also maybe a bit concerning that the top players aren’t producing quite yet.
Svechnikov and Teravainen are top of the class when it comes to assists for the Canes, with four and three, respectively, but apart from those apples there hasn’t been a ton of production from any of Carolina’s star forwards.
There isn’t much question that Aho, Teravainen and company will find their goals as the season progresses, but it isn’t a great sign, even early, that all six guys on the top two lines haven’t found the net. You can only count on so many goals from the blue liners, who stole the show Sunday, and Carolina’s top guys are going to need to start finding the net if this team wants to keep winning games.
Any real criticism of a 3-0-0 team feels nitpicky, because the Hurricanes are getting the job done after all. Haula has been a wonderful spark for the Canes through three games, as Rod Brind’Amour’s squad seems to have not missed a beat at the start of this new season.
Already high preseason expectations for Carolina have to be even higher after a hot start for the Canes, who will now hit the road to take on the Florida Panthers Tuesday night.