Now over a third of the way into the season, the Carolina Hurricanes find themselves in a wildcard spot with a difficult schedule ahead. In a young season where the Hurricanes have fallen a bit short of expectations, let’s take a look at some of the early season storylines.
WILL MRAZEK SOLIDIFY HIMSELF AS A LEGITIMATE STARTER?
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the problem with Petr Mrazek has always been consistency– and this year seems to be no different. Mrazek holds just a .903 save percentage through 19 games, which simply isn’t good enough for a starting goalie on a competitive team. He’s had certain games where he’s been great but 'here and there' just doesn't cut it.
I had said in the offseason that acquiring James Reimer could prove to be a great play, based on his ability to play a high number of games if Mrazek if he struggled. Well 29 games into the season with Reimer is already at 11 games and currently holding a .918 save percentage, there’s a real possibility that he could start getting the calls over Mrazek.
When you have an inconsistent starter, a key fix is limiting his workload, which Carolina has done great with. The Hurricanes are tied for second in fewest shots allowed of any team in the NHL, behind just the Los Angeles Kings (really??). As the season continues, this stat needs to as well. It’s not a permanent solution for Mrazek’s play but it’ll sure help.
Dougie Hamilton is having an absolute monster year so far, currently sitting third in points among NHL defensemen. He’s been jumping into the rush and looks more confident than last season.
With Andrei Svechnikov, we knew his increased role this year would mean getting more out of him, but this? Already? He’s been Carolina’s best forward, scoring key goals at key times and his ability from score from his set spot on the power play has been lethal.
While Hamilton and Svechnikov have came out of the gate flying, there are many others who have stumbled. Jordan Staal, who’s been able to produce about 45 points (per 82 GP) every year he’s been with the Hurricanes, is on pace for half of that. Jake Gardiner, who was ideally supposed to substitute for Justin Faulk in terms of offensive abilities, has been poor at best, with just seven points in 29 games and while I know plus/minus is far from a flawless stat, his minus-18 rating is by far the worst on the Hurricanes as well as fourth-worst in the entire NHL.
Nino Niederreiter, who was so good last year after coming to Carolina, has just 10 points himself and hasn’t been anywhere near as dynamic offensively as what we expected. Trevor van Riemsdyk, who was expected to form a solid third pairing with Joel Edmundson coming into the year, seems to be getting phased out in favour of Haydn Fleury as well.
While van Riemsdyk may not be leaned on as a key piece, Gardiner, Niederreiter and Staal are too important to not provide depth offense if the Hurricanes are to have success.
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OTHER HURRICANES ARTICLES FROM DECEMBER
Carolina's schedule is about to get much more difficult
Game Recap (Game 27): CAR @ TBL