Pyotr Kochetkov’s young NHL career with the Carolina Hurricanes has been a wild ride.
The 23-year-old backstop broke into the league at the tail end of the 2021-22 season and picked up wins in each of his first three regular-season appearances (all of which were on the road against Metropolitan Division clubs).
He then won his first playoff start, got shelled by the Bruins and Rangers in three straight losses, went back to AHL Chicago, and dominated the Springfield Thunderbirds to win the Calder Cup.
This year, he started in Chicago, put together three great performances prior to his call-up, and beat Connor McDavid’s Edmonton Oilers in his season debut. Then, last night, he went back to Chicago again, but this time, it was as an NHLer.
Across the ice from young Pyotr was veteran Petr - Petr Mrazek. He led the Hurricanes to their first playoff run in a decade back in 2019 and tended goal for some of the greatest moments of Rod Brind’Amour’s coaching tenure.
It was only fitting that Kochetkov’s first NHL shutout, a marvelous 27-save effort, happened in Chicago against the one-time goalie of the present and future. It’s hard not to see some similarities between the two goalies who played in last night’s game. They’re almost identical in stature, at least according to what the league has recorded, and they’re both an absolute fever dream in the crease.
Both goalies put their athleticism and desperation in the crease on display last night, but it was Kochetkov who made the incredible, game-deciding saves that were reminiscent of the ones that Mrazek made once upon a time.
There’s no assurance that Kochetkov will be the goalie of the future for the Hurricanes, but his early returns as a pro in North America offer a lot of optimism for his future.
While the Hurricanes set the pace for shots on net and goals last night, Chicago didn’t lack for high-danger chances that put the spotlight on the young goalie. Despite getting outshot 21-18 at 5-on-5, the Blackhawks had nine high-danger chances to the Hurricanes’ two.
Kochetkov was up to the task, making big save after big save and managing a workload that increased in stress as the night went on, especially during Chicago’s four power plays opportunities that saw the home team throw the puck around and create grade-A scoring opportunities.
A couple of big stops from Pyotr Kochetkov during a power play for the Hawks during the opening minutes.— Walt Ruff (@WaltRuff) November 15, 2022
Fantastic to see him on the road to getting in a groove early, once again. pic.twitter.com/4GYGNfZdql
Former Hurricane Max Domi, who is off to a strong start with his new team, was on the receiving end of a centering pass from Jonathan Toews during an early second-period power play, but Kochetkov awkwardly (and effectively) used his stick to take space away from him and made a great save in a 2-0 game.
Most of Chicago’s chances came from right in front of the Carolina net and were the result of weird, broken plays in traffic that required a great deal of improvisation that Kochetkov has proven to have in spades.
Kochetkov juuuuuuust gets a piece of this chance in tight late in the third. The potential cherry on top? pic.twitter.com/b1xHemRlOJ— Walt Ruff (@WaltRuff) November 15, 2022
Pyotr, like Petr before him, is unorthodox in his goaltending style, but when things are going well, we’ve seen just how fun these games can be.
Of course, Rod Brind’Amour would probably prefer something a little tamer, but a win’s a win, and Kochetkov has five of them in as many regular-season NHL outings.
When he’s healthy, Frederik Andersen is this team’s goalie. There’s no debate on that front, but Kochetkov’s first two starts this season have been a fun reminder of what could be in store for the Carolina net in the years to come.
Just Another Night for the Third Line
Injuries and lackluster play have forced the Hurricanes to tinker with their forward combinations, but one thing that hasn’t changed is the performance of the third line.
Jordan Martinook, Jordan Staal, and Jesper Fast all extended their point streaks to three games last night, starting with Martinook’s ice-breaker midway through the first period.
The veteran winger won a board battle behind the Chicago net, threw the puck back to Brent Burns, went to the front of the net, and executed a perfect deflection just under the crossbar for his first of two first-period points.
The second was a secondary assist on a rare Staal snipe from the right circle that beat Mrazek on the short side through a Fast screen. The goal marked Staal’s first three-game goal streak since his four-game run in February 2021.
During a line change in the second period, Fast got on the scoresheet by forcing a turnover from Caleb Jones. The puck landed on the stick of a wide-open Andrei Svechnikov in the slot, a scenario that hasn’t ended well for many teams that Carolina has faced this season, and that trend continued with Svech’s 12th goal of the year.
After the loss in Colorado, Brind’Amour talked about the need for his team to get everybody going and not just rely on one line, but the NHL season is long, and every forward combination will hit a lull that puts pressure on other players to come through. The Staal line has kept the team afloat and competitive over the last few games.
It’s been a great thing to see, and hopefully, it’s something that can happen again when the games and stakes get bigger.
Top Pairing, Top Performance
Jaccob Slavin has had to adapt and get adjusted to new defensive partners several times over the last few seasons.
It started with Dougie Hamilton in 2018, and together they formed one of the best pairings in hockey. He had a year with Tony DeAngelo that produced largely positive results, but now it’s Brent Burns.
All three defensemen are offensively focused, so Slavin’s responsibilities have remained pretty consistent, but it takes time to develop chemistry with new names and faces.
Last night was one of Slavin and Burns’ best games of the season. Burns picked up two primary assists, putting him tied for 12th among all NHL defensemen in points with 12. They led all Hurricanes skaters in corsi-for and expected goals-for percentage, and they were on the ice for two Carolina goals.
Burns also led all skaters with 24:01 of ice time, a few ticks above his season average of 23:29, which is almost one minute more than Slavin. Of course, Burns is almost always on the ice during the power play, but the more that he plays, the better he looks.
That isn’t surprising, considering he averaged 25:31 of ice time from 2015 to the end of last season, but at age 37, it’s pretty remarkable that he is still able to play as much as he does and still be effective.
The Slavin-Burns duo should only continue to get better as time goes on, and they were great last night in the Windy City.