Had it not been for a late-game collapse against the Vancouver Canucks back on January 15, the Carolina Hurricanes would be winners of six consecutive games. That shootout loss does count toward a run of points in six straight games, though, as the Hurricanes have seemingly hit another quality stride.
Naturally, the swell of optimism from the last couple of weeks is now accompanied by more injury issues, with Max Pacioretty out for the year. And now Frederik Andersen, who returned after two months and allowed just seven goals in four starts before leaving after the first period in Dallas, could be slated to miss some time, as well.
Not but a couple of weeks ago, the Hurricanes were patiently waiting for their fourth-place Vezina-voting goalie and all-star goal-scorer to return, but now, they’re both gone again.
Fortunately for the Hurricanes, they have been aided by the red-hot scoring stick of Sebastian Aho. He scored a late goal against Vancouver that originally felt like the game-winner, and he has since netted a hat trick against the New York Islanders and the first goal of their win against the Dallas Stars.
Finnish Connection Returns
The first line featuring Pacioretty was shortlived, which forced Rod Brind’Amour and his staff to go back to Teuvo Teravainen alongside Aho and Seth Jarvis.
Teravainen’s 2022-23 season has been mired by underwhelming production, but things are now starting to flip for the veteran puck-mover. Dating back to January 3, Teravainen has points in seven of his last 10 games, including a two-assist night on Long Island.
He’s averaged 18:00 of ice time per game over his last five games, as well, which is nearly two minutes more than his previous season average. Teravainen has been a factor all over the ice, as well, looking more and more like the player he was in past seasons.
His continued health has been a big plus for Aho, as well. The two have connected for vintage Finnish duo goals, with Teravainen having a particularly innate sense of where his center is on the ice.
Aho and Teravainen’s resurgence has come at an opportune time, with the team’s leading goal-scorer and 2023 All-Star Andrei Svechnikov in the middle of a season-long 11-game goal drought. Martin Necas has also gone through a relatively rough patch, though he did score the game-winning goal in overtime against the Stars.
State of The Blue Line
It’s been a good run for the Hurricanes’ defensemen, as well. Over the team’s last six games, Brent Burns, Brady Skjei, Brett Pesce, Jaccob Slavin, and Jalen Chatfield have combined for 11 goals and 17 points. The bearded Burns and Chatfield both have three goals on their own over that stretch.
Chatfield, in particular, has performed well above expectations as of late. The defenseman went 29 games without recording a point this season, but he has remained in the lineup as a regular because the coaching staff loves how he fits in their system. That patience has paid off to the tune of five goals and eight points over his last 18 games.
The 26-year-old has put up that production with a rotating door of defensive partners, between Calvin de Haan, Dylan Coughlin, and, more recently, some time with Burns. With Jaccob Slavin absent from the last two games, playing with Burns has seemingly continued to do some wonders to Chatfield’s offensive confidence.
The state of the third pairing remains up in the air, though, with Coughlin still struggling to meet expectations. Jaccob Slavin’s eventual return, combined with Chatfield’s newfound offensive impact, could help matters. The upcoming trade deadline presents another option, though, and the same applies to their forward group, particularly with regard to a second-line center.
More Goalie Questions
Andersen went 4-0-0 with a .942 save percentage after missing nearly two months of action, but the veteran goalie got injured again in the first period against Dallas, putting his future availability in question.
Antti Raanta came in and played very well, stopping all 15 shots he saw in the second period, third period, and overtime. Andersen’s health status remains a huge factor in the team’s prospects, though, especially after he returned and experienced as much success as he did.
Pyotr Kochetkov lost four straight starts, including that disappointing Vancouver blunder, before getting sent back to down to AHL Chicago. Originally expected to be a longer-term stay for the young netminder, it now might get shortened dramatically. The 2019 second-round pick has won two of his three AHL starts since the demotion.
The biggest concern at the moment is sheer inconsistency. It’s been a true revolving door in the net, with three guys seemingly rotating on and off the injured list. Kochetkov’s youth and inconsistency have added another variable on top of his relatively recent injury.
When healthy, Andersen has consistently delivered. He and Raanta combined for the William M. Jennings Trophy last season, and the former Maple Leaf and Duck looked tremendous after a long injury absence. Now that he’s injured again, how will that impact the team, and how will it impact his future ahead of unrestricted free agency this summer?
Those answers should come over the next few weeks, with the NHL Trade Deadline looming around the corner on March 3.