2021 was a lost season for Teuvo Teravainen due to early season injuries and the inability to get back on track down the stretch after missing most of the year.
While Martin Necas’ development did a lot to make up for the loss of one of Carolina’s most important players, not having Teravainen in the lineup did nothing but hinder the team’s ability to reach its maximum potential.
One offseason later, Teravainen is healthy, and he’s back to being the same player that blossomed into one of the best all-around players in the NHL.
Through four games, Turbo lived up to his nickname. He led all Hurricanes skaters in corsi-for percentage, high-danger corsi-for percentage, and expected goals-for, among other advanced statistical categories.
He had two goals, three primary assists and six total points in the team’s first four games, and every facet of his game has been present, including his dazzling playmaking and vision.
That pass to Sebastian Aho was made in the early moments of the second period in Montreal on Thursday, and it gave the Hurricanes a 1-0 lead. The Canes went on to win the game by a final score of 4-1.
Teravainen is one of the most overlooked forwards in the league, and I think he will continue to put that on display this season, much to the Hurricanes’ benefit.
While they often get overblown, revenge games are a thing, and the Hurricanes had a couple of notable ones this past week.
The main course was Jesperi Kotkaniemi’s return to Montreal had all of the juicy drama you’d want. He was booed constantly; he was at the receiving end of a lot of physical play, and, of course, he scored a damn goal to really rub it in.
Jesperi Kotkaniemi scores his first goal as a Hurricane in his first game back in Montreal. pic.twitter.com/2sGv9wz8qh— Brett Finger (@brettfinger) October 22, 2021
Kotkaniemi’s game in Montreal was probably his best performance as a Hurricane to this point. In addition to logging his only goal and/or point with the team, he had an xGF% of 83.41 (second among Carolina skaters in that game) and was on the ice for four high-danger scoring chances for and zero against.
He followed it up with another strong game against Columbus before regressing to where he was in his first two games on Monday against Toronto.
The early results for him have been very mixed. Despite having a very high offensive zone start rate, he’s ending up back in the defensive zone a whole lot. He, like everyone in Carolina’s lineup, is benefiting from some downright outstanding goalie play, so it hasn’t hurt him or the team as much as it could.
Speaking of downright outstanding goalie play, let’s talk about the source of it.
Frederik Andersen has been phenomenal through his first five starts with the Hurricanes.
He has played in and won all five games the team has played and has a .946 save percentage. His worst start was his first start, wherein Andersen stopped 25 of 28 shots. Since opening night, he has allowed just five goals in four games and has a .959 save percentage.
His revenge game against the Maple Leafs on Monday lived up to the hype as the Hurricanes won 4-1 behind a 24-save effort from Andersen.
HOW did Freddie save this?! pic.twitter.com/k7ruHjb2Va— Carolina Hurricanes (@Canes) October 26, 2021
“I think I’m feeling like I’m in a good spot right now,” Andersen said after the win on Monday. “I’ve got a good groove going. It’s really special when the guys played like they did tonight. Everyone battled for each other, blocking shots and making huge plays.”
That’s a notable quote when contrasted by what his former team is going through at the moment. The Leafs are now 2-4-1 to start the year and have been plagued by tons of questions surrounding their perceived desperation and how they’re battling game in and game out.
“Unfortunately, it’s still not high enough. You’re playing against the Carolina Hurricanes. They set the standard, really, in the league in that regard,” Keefe said. “Playing on the road here in Carolina, it’s a different animal. Something that our team hasn’t really felt in quite a while. So requires a lot more from you, and it’s eye-opening.”
I was firmly in the “we’ll see” camp regarding Carolina going to a brand new goalie tandem, but the early returns on Andersen are excellent. Among the NHL 13 goalies to play in five games, Andersen is first in save percentage. He’s also top-five in the league in goals saved above expected.
We have yet to see what Antti Raanta can bring to the table, and I wouldn’t expect that to change until Friday, the second game of a back-to-back set on home ice. The schedule lines up well for Raanta to face the team he broke into the league with as Corey Crawford’s backup in Chicago.
Again, revenge games are often overblown, but this week, the Hurricanes showed up and exacted some revenge for Kotkaniemi and Andersen.
Numbers behind a fast start
When you’re talking about a 5-0 hockey team, the numbers are going to be impressive and, in many cases, unsustainable.
That being said, there’s a lot of good in Carolina’s early-season results.
The Hurricanes have the second-best goal differential in hockey at +14, one goal behind the Florida Panthers, who have already played their sixth game of the season.
5-0 is tied with 2019-20 for the best start to a season in Carolina franchise history. That year, their goal differential was nearly half of what it is this year at +8. The Canes needed overtime and/or a shootout in each of their first three games of that season. This year, they’ve had just one game decided by one goal (3-2 in at Nashville). The other four games were decided by 3+ goals. Empty-net goals play a factor in some of those outcomes, though.
Of course, the Hurricanes are among the league’s best in shots on goal per game (sixth) and faceoff efficiency (fifth), but special teams have done a lot of the heavy lifting for the team. The Canes rank fifth in the NHL in powerplay (31.6%) and penalty killing (90%). They’ve had the seventh-most power play opportunities per game, and they have taken advantage of it to this point.
At 5-on-5, the underlying numbers haven’t been quite as impressive. The team ranks 15th in expected goals-for and 11th in scoring chances and high-danger shot attempts-for.
Despite that, the Hurricanes have the eighth-best 5-on-5 shooting percentage and the best 5-on-5 save percentage in the league.
This ain’t your father’s Carolina Hurricanes.
The Canes are now outperforming their expectation, and you can thank ultra-talented goal scorers like Andrei Svechnikov and elite goalie play from Andersen for that. This team is so full of talented, high-upside players that they can get by on roughly league-average play at 5-on-5, at least to this point in the very young season.
Rod Brind’Amour has expressed his dissatisfaction with parts of his team’s play so far, so there’s a lot of work that still needs to be done. That is reflected by some of the team’s unspectacular numbers at 5-on-5.
To this point, the numbers reflect what has been evident while watching; Frederik Andersen has been carrying a lot of the weight at 5-on-5, the Hurricanes are taking advantage of their scoring chances, and special teams have been deciding much of the momentum swings in the games.
They aren’t a finished product yet, but they have to like where they’re at. And, hey, they’re 5-0. You can’t do better than that in five games.