The Carolina Hurricanes/Chicago Wolves hybrid seems unstoppable as they’ve once again put up five goals in a win, this time defeating the LA Kings 5-1 Saturday night at PNC Arena.
Players are stepping up and embracing the bigger roles they’ve been handed — namely Jesper Fast, Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Jack Drury — special teams are rolling, and Frederik Andersen is heating back up.
And with their next two games postponed — Nashville Predators on Sunday and Boston Bruins on Tuesday — Carolina will have some more time to get players closer to returning.
But let’s take a look back at last night:
Depth Pays Off
Coming into the season, one of the biggest praises for the Carolina Hurricanes’ offseason was the amount of organizational depth that was added.
Last night, the Hurricanes had five players play who had been signed at or around league minimum during the offseason simply as depth pieces: Brendan Smith, Josh Leivo, Stefan Noesen, C.J. Smith and Andrew Poturalski.
So despite the absence of a true taxi squad for this season, the Hurricanes essentially still have one and have now been able to navigate the early stages of a COVID outbreak successfully thanks to it.
“Yeah, it’s pretty impressive,” Kotkaniemi said on the call-ups. “In the situation we are, guys come up and play on that level, it’s just crazy. That tells you about this organization and how good it is. We can trust those guys every night. It’s been great.”
And that’s on a front office that’s smart enough to know the importance of depth.
The depth could now be tested again, however, after Martin Necas took a big hit last night and would not return due to an upper-body injury.
The penalty kill is good.
So, so good.
They haven’t allowed a power play goal against in five games and have now killed off their last 15 penalties in a row.
The Canes are guaranteed to take about three penalties per game, so the penalty kill’s excellence (88.7%) has been a necessity for their success.
And now the power play is also converting again, so the Hurricanes are enjoying the best of both worlds.
Not just one, but two power play goals last night helped spearhead Carolina to the win and all while they are missing most of their top power play guys.
When you win the special teams battle, you usually win the game.
“That’s always a big part of the game,” said Rod Brind’Amour after the win. “If you don’t watch the game and you want to look at the score and see what happened, you look at special teams and whoever was the plus in that is the team that generally wins. Our penalty kill I thought was really good. The power play got a couple nice ones. Considering all the guys we have out on our power play, it’s actually looking pretty good. I might have to rethink all of that. That was a big part of the game.”
As if the team hadn’t already been good enough, the fact that every facet is finding success is truly impressive.
Heating Up At The Right Times
When you are missing your top scorers, you are going to need some other players to step up and that’s exactly what Kotkaniemi and Fast have done.
Kotkaniemi is on a three-game point streak with two goals and five points in that span and Fast had back-to-back multi-point outings for the first time in his career. Amazing what a little more ice time and opportunity will do for you.
Another player with an impressive outing was Andersen who turned aside 32 shots and — according to MoneyPuck.com — saved 1.64 goals above expected.
Andersen had a slight dip in play, expected after his amazing October, but he has ramped up his play as of late and has won each of his last five starts.
The Canes gambled on the goaltending and, so far, it has been one of best offseason moves.