Following up on an article from last week, where I compared the Carolina Hurricanes’ current forward lineup to the one they iced during the playoffs last year, this article will look at how the Hurricanes’ defense and goaltending compares to last season.
Here’s what Carolina’s pairings looked like last year in the first round against the Washington Capitals:
Slavin - Hamilton
Pesce - Faulk
de Haan - van Riemsdyk
Here’s a potential lineup for the qualifying round:
Obviously, with Hamilton and Pesce in the lineup, this wouldn’t even be close in terms of picking the better lineup. But as of now, the Hurricanes are missing two of their top three defensemen and while they have more depth on defense than probably any team in the league, it’s still a huge blow to the team. It’s likely that four of the six defensemen starting for the Hurricanes will be players who weren’t with the team for last year’s series against the Capitals.
Not including injured players, the major losses from last season’s defense group are Justin Faulk and Calvin de Haan. In turn, the Hurricanes have added Joel Edmundson, Jake Gardiner, Brady Skjei and Sami Vatanen, which, when you break it down, is actually quite significant. That’s amplified when we consider that Edmundson, Skjei and Vatanen are likely to make up three players of Carolina’s top-four defense group.
Despite this, the top-four, as it stands in the projection, isn’t as strong as last year. Vatanen isn’t a better top-pairing defenseman than Hamilton, Edmundson isn’t as strong defensively as Pesce and Skjei doesn’t provide as much offensive upside as Faulk. Even the bottom pairing is a bit iffy, as Haydn Fleury has a lack of NHL playoff experience and Jake Gardiner is a wild card every time he has the puck.
Meanwhile in net, Petr Mrazek returned as a starter and Carolina substituted Curtis McElhinney for James Reimer as a backup. McElhinney was good last season for the Hurricanes and Reimer’s been pretty decent this year as well, making the situation in goal pretty similar to last season.
With Hamilton and Pesce in the lineup, there’s obviously not a doubt that Carolina’s defense is better now than last year. However, factoring in the injuries, the Hurricanes are actually likely weaker defensively than they were last season and are in a pretty similar situation in net.
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Here’s today’s poll question (results and discussion will be posted in a future article):
Factoring in the injuries to Hamilton/Pesce, Carolina's defense is: