The Carolina Hurricanes have started the season by going 5-1-0 and currently sit at the top of the Eastern Conference standings. The Hurricanes’ strong start isn’t to be a shock, though. The team has always played a high-quality hockey game, it’s just the results that are finally reflecting the play. And while the Hurricanes always had a strong roster, this team seems to be that much better than it has been in the past. To see why the Hurricanes are able to have this much early success, their team and play will have to be broken down.
Dissecting The Hurricanes Hot Start
Quality of Play from New Acquisitions
The Hurricanes made a few incredibly smart acquisitions this off-season. The first was the trade for Erik Haula from the cap-strapped Vegas Golden Knights. Shortly after they signed unrestricted free agent Ryan Dzingel. Haula and Dzingel have been doing exactly what the Hurricanes acquired them to do.
Last season the Hurricanes scored less actual GF at 5v5 than their xGF predicted. According to Evolving Hockey, the Canes had an xGF/60 of 3.01 (246.82 over a full 82 game period), but only averaged 2.41 GF/60 (197.62 over 82 games). This shows that one of two things happened last year for the Hurricanes. Either they were unlucky in scoring goals, or they lacked the type of players that finish plays and produce points.
Considering the Hurricanes have had this problem for years, it’s safe to assume it was the latter. With the Haula acquisition and Dzingel signing, the Hurricanes get two players that aren’t the best at driving play. What they can do is finish chances and put up raw point totals for the team. With five goals in six games, Haula has been doing just that. Dzingel, while not as productive in the first few games, has still been great for the Hurricanes with two goals and three assists. It’s been a fantastic fit for both the players and the team early on in the season.
The other big acquisition was the signing of Jake Gardiner late into the off-season. Gardiner takes the role of former Hurricane Justin Faulk but is an upgrade over what Faulk provided the team. Jake Gardiner came in with the ability to help out the powerplay, where he is currently slotted in on the top unit. Gardiner has helped out on offence, as seen in his overtime goal against the Washington Capitals.
The Emergence of Andrei Svechnikov
With eight points in the first six games of the season, it shouldn’t shock anyone that Svechnikov is quickly turning into an offensive weapon. With 20 goals last season, it was an excellent year for an 18-year-old in the NHL. However, that’s just scratching the surface of what Svechnikov can do. Svechnikov is a large part of the Carolina Hurricanes’ strong start. While he has only scored one goal this season Svechnikov is still producing quality chances for the Hurricanes. Once Svechnikov’s shooting percentage regresses as well, he will be even more dangerous for the Hurricanes.
It’s widely considered that the Hurricanes have the best defence in the NHL, and it’s coming through early for them this season. They currently have four players ranking in the top 20 for xGF%. With Brett Pesce ranking third with 68.85%, Joel Edmundson at seventh with 67.42%, and Jake Gardiner and Dougie Hamilton ranking at 12th and 17th respectively according to Corsica Hockey, their D have been excellent at both ends of the ice. While it is an extremely small sample in just six games, it is to be expected from a D core of this quality.
Even from a raw production standpoint, the Hurricanes defencemen have been putting up points. Hamilton is tied for the team lead with eight points and second on the team in goals with four. Slavin isn’t too far behind with five points in six games played. The quality of defencemen is really showing for the Hurricanes through this early season run.
The biggest struggle for the Hurricanes over the last few seasons is to find goaltending. It’s been said over and over again that if the Hurricanes finally were to get just league average goaltending, they would be able to do great things. Well, it seems James Reimer and Petr Mrazek are finally those league average goalies they needed. Both have three games apiece, and it has gotten the job done for the Hurricanes. Reimer having a 3.26 GSAA and 0.72 GSAx in all situations is better than Mrazek’s -1.57 GSAA and -1.43 GSAx. At 5v5, however, the two goalies are a lot closer in production and are both very average goaltenders. While they might not be incredible, the two of them have been exactly what the Hurricanes need thus far.
Moving Forward for the Hurricanes
While the Carolina Hurricanes’ strong start has been impressive, it is just six games into the season. However, it seems like they very well will be the best team in the Metro division this season. If the goaltending tandem continues to provide at very least league average goaltending, and the defence continues to play at the quality they are capable of, this trajectory they are on could keep them towards the top of the league. Sebastian Aho, Svechnikov, and other forwards will surely see an improvement in their goal scoring as their currently low shooting percentages regress towards the mean.
Embed from Getty Images