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Recapping the Carolina Hurricanes Regular Season: March

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The pivotal month of the season was cut short just four games in and with the Carolina Hurricanes on a three-game win streak.

NHL: MAR 08 Hurricanes at Penguins Photo by Jeanine Leech/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Month Record:

3-1-0

H: 0-0-0

A: 3-1-0

Top Scorers:

Justin Williams (5-0—5)

Jake Gardiner (4-1—5)

Morgan Geekie (3-1—4)

Sebastian Aho (2-2—4)

Special Teams:

PK – 87.5%

PP – 38.5%


The Month

March was set to be a grind with 16 games in 31 days including four back-to-back sets, one every weekend. The start of the month would also see the Canes continue a road trip started in February, with five straight road games to start the month.

It wasn’t going to be easy for the Hurricanes who faced a lot of questions coming into the month. They lost two top four defensemen and the top two goalies to injuries at the end of February and had to break in new players from an active trade deadline.

We all know what would happen in the month of March. The Canes would only play four games before the season would suspend the season on March 12. The Canes last game of the season would come on March 10th against the Detroit Red Wings.

With the loss of the rest of March and April the Canes would maintain their playoff position but lose valuable time for new players like Brady Skjei and Vincent Trocheck.

Carolina Hurricanes v New York Islanders Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The Canes would start the month continuing their mini slump, losing their fourth game in a row. The outlook was grim after losing Petr Mrazek and James Reimer in Toronto, and without Dougie Hamilton and Brett Pesce, it didn’t seem like the Canes were going to be able to hold up defensively after giving up 15 goals in just four games including a 4-1 loss to the Flyers to open March.

The downturn wouldn’t last forever, however, the Canes would turn it around. Anton Forsberg would pick up his first win of the season on March 7 against the New York Islanders in a 3-2 overtime win. The game was a back and forth affair with the Isles answering each of the Canes two regulation goals.

The game featured big contributions from the new team additions. Anton Forsberg stopped 24 of 26 total shots faced including a breakaway. Trocheck created multiple high-danger chances and also scored the game winning goal in overtime on the power play. However, the Canes would lose another player to injury, this time forward Ryan Dzingel went down with an upper body injury.

The win against the Isles helped the Canes regain their confidence, and it showed in the very next night in Pittsburgh. This time Nedelkjovic would get the crease to start. The Canes had a sloppy start to the game going into the first intermission down 2-1 but would never look back going on to score five unanswered goals.

The theme again would be big things from new additions, and this time an unlikely source, Morgan Geekie. Geekie was recalled after the injury to Dzingel and made an immediate impact. He would score two goals and get one assist in his first NHL game.

But not only did he show up on the scoresheet, he was very impressive in winning important faceoffs and getting a net front presence that led to additional goals and scoring chances. Nedelkjovic finally seemed to settle in, stopping 28 of 30 total shots and only letting up one goal at even strength.

The Canes’ final game before the suspension of the season would come against Detroit. Detroit was the worst team this season by far, but the game was hugely important to the Canes because it saw Mrazek return to the ice.

It can be a tricky thing for a goalie to come back after time away, but Mrazek settled in quick only letting up two goals, neither of which were really his fault. One was a double deflection in the crease and the other was an uncovered redirect at the back post. The legend of Morgan Geekie who scored another goal early into the game, continued.

The game also served as a huge confidence booster to special teams; it would have been great to see what they could have built on after scoring on three of their four power plays and scoring a shorthanded goal while killing off all five of their penalties. But it wasn’t meant to be as the season would close its doors before the Canes could play another game.

Under the Radar

Justin Williams would end the season on a five-game goal streak with six goals in his last five games. Five of these goals would come in March with a multi-goal game in Pittsburgh. He had just two goals in his other 15 games. It was great seeing him get his hockey legs back and see him produce consistently.

This streak was under the radar because only one of his March goals came in a game determined by a single goal. The other games were one-sided blowouts, so goals just seem to mix in together. He also didn’t have a single flashy goal in this streak; they were all front of the net scores.

Williams brought much needed net front presence to the Canes. All five of his March goals were deflections or rebounds in front of the goal. Carolina has the talent to score from the wing and blue line, but needs more people willing to get in front of the net and into the crease to score.

New Additions fitting in

Like noted above, new additions were huge in the Canes’ three wins of the month. Trocheck had just two points in the month, but his only goal was the overtime game winner. He also worked on the power play and was huge in increasing puck movement with the man advantage.

Brady Skjei also saw power play time but made his greatest impact at even strength. With a new team he was immediately put into a top-four role averaging over 20:00 of ice time. This is a system that requires defensemen to play defense first but allows them to play offense after they learn the system. You can see that with Jake Gardiner’s production: eight points from October through December and 17 points from January on.

Morgan Geekie was very impressive in his first two NHL games. Normally with rookies, and specifically centers you see a real struggle in their two-way game. They must be the forwards to go into the dirty areas and have more defensive responsibilities. This is of course on top of face-offs, but he didn’t look out of place in any facet of the game.

He had a 54.5% success rate in the circle, and this included some important draws. He also knew exactly where to go after winning the draw. His first goal came off of his win and he goes right to the net to deflect the puck past Tristan Jarry. His second goal in that game also showed that he can win physical battels as he fought off a Penguin to get favorable position in front of the net to bury his second goal.

He has made a very big case even through a small sample size to be in the lineup when play resumes next week.