The 2021 NHL season is finally underway for the Carolina Hurricanes, who beat Detroit 3-0 Thursday night in Little Caesars Arena to kick off the season in the win column.
The Canes got on the board early thanks to Nino Niederreiter, and got a late goal from Ryan Dzingel and an empty netter from Andrei Svechnikov to seal the deal. Carolina fully commanded the game, out-shooting Detroit 43-14.
Top-line Nino Niederreiter
There was a lot of preseason talk surrounding the Hurricanes’ lines, as always, specifically Rod Brind’Amour’s decision to spread the wealth and break up the Svechnikov-Sebastian Aho-Teuvo Teravainen line that was lights out when it played together last year.
With Svechnikov moving off the top line, it was Niederreiter who stepped up to play alongside the dynamic duo of Aho and Teravainen, and Thursday night he was fantastic. Niederreiter had a pretty down season in 2019-20 after making a splash with the Canes in 2018-19, and the Hurricanes are going to need that first-season form back if he’s playing on the top line.
He opened up the Canes’ scoring for the new season just 3:38 into Thursday night’s game, slotting a great finish past Thomas Greiss off an exceptional pass from Aho.
First goal of the season goes to Nino Niederreiter. Sebastian Aho sheds the defender and finds Niederreiter wide open. Great finish, 1-0 Hurricanes. pic.twitter.com/2NMgtZJ7DV— Brett Finger (@brettfinger) January 15, 2021
In total, Niederreiter finished with three shots on goal, challenging Greiss with two deflections on back-to-back trips down the ice in the second period. Niederreiter was engaged and active from start to finish, putting in really good shifts on the top line.
If Carolina can get production and effort like that out of Niederreiter, then certainly he deserves his spot alongside Aho and Teravainen.
Physicality out of the gate
While there was obviously some rust to shake off and precision to find in a season opener that came after no preseason games and a shortened training camp, there wasn’t any need to find the physicality early for the Hurricanes.
The Canes were hitting hard and often from the jump, finishing the game up 27-19 in the hit column. Jesper Fast, Svechnikov, Dzingel, Jordan Staal, Warren Foegele, Dougie Hamilton and Brady Skjei all finished with multiple hits, with Skjei delivering a crushing blow early in the first period.
Carolina played a really strong first period, and the physicality was a big part of that. Hamilton even got into a rare fight, standing up for a hit delivered to Staal near the benches.
Dougie Hamilton and Sam Gagner drop the gloves.— Brett Finger (@brettfinger) January 15, 2021
Yes, you read that correctly.
Gagner laid a big hit on Jordan Staal in front of the Canes bench, and Hamilton intervened. pic.twitter.com/YyJMofFujh
Defensive effort was good
Obviously Petr Mrazek posted a shutout in net, but it was an all-around great defensive effort that got the job done. It seemed every defensive pairing was engaged, and a lot of forwards made some really good plays on that end of the ice, including a diving block by Teravainen.
The Hurricanes gave up just 14 shots on goal to Detroit. In 68 games last season, Carolina only gave up less than 15 shots on net once. There was no questioning the effort and hustle plays that guys all over the ice were making. The defensive effort was completely there in game one in front of no fans.
It wasn’t a perfect first outing. There were certainly things to be cleaned up, and the Canes were far from clinical. And sure, the Hurricanes were the benefactor of getting to start against Detroit.
But still, Carolina won in a game where it really commanded things from start to finish, controlling the puck and the opportunities. That’s all you can ask for; to be in the win column after game one.