By the end of the second period in Carolina on Tuesday night, the Hurricanes had outshot the Boston Bruins by a count of 36-22. Carolina fired 12 shots in the first period and doubled up (24) in the second. The score was tied 2-2 after the Bruins scored a late goal to tie it up. Boston, a Conference contender forged an attack over the third period to score their third and game-winning goal; game over, 3-2 Boston.
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Dougie Hamilton scored his second of the season, a power play marker and the first 5v4 goals on home ice in 2018-19. Fellow ex-Flame Michael Ferland netted his seventh of the season – already a third of the way to his 21 goals career high from last season – emerging a key component to the Hurricanes high danger scoring game.
That, in a nut shell, is the 2018-19 Carolina Hurricanes. Lots of shots, and offensive chances, high event hockey – with questions between the pipes. A young, energetic and fun team to follow – seriously, watch a game for the entertainment value – with a long overdue breakout to becoming playoff bound; goaltending put a spike through that notion. The 2017-18 failed tandem of Cam Ward and Scott Darling compounded over an entire season’s worth of inept netminding that undermined the team’s ability to gain traction, losing points in the standings and then out of the playoff race altogether despite icing a rather talented lineup.
The Carolina goaltending picture is fairly muddied, even this season, with both Ward and Darling posting less than league save averages, and a fairly low high danger save percentage (saved shots from high danger scoring areas) at 5v5. Even average goaltending would have contributed to more on-ice success last season and an improved finish. The Canes picked up Petr Mrazek as an unrestricted free agent and Curtis McElhinney off waivers from Toronto as insurance. They too have struggled.
Coaching and Roster Changes
Head coach Bill Peters was replaced by Rod Brindamour and staff, loosening some on-ice restraints, after some roster overhaul. Jeff Skinner was moved for spare parts in addition to the trade with Calgary and goaltender additions.
Don’t sleep on the acquisition of Jordan Martinook, a noteworthy acquisition in the off season that may not contain the appeal of some of the stars on the club. The former Coyotes forward goes about his business doing yeoman’s work, and the swap for Marcus Kruger is one of the more shrewd trades by the Canes. I’d bet he tops his career highs across the board. With three goals and four points in 11 games, he’s on pace to eclipse 30 points and approach 20 goals – a milestone that would be significant considering his career high is 11.
In 2014, the Canes drafted Warren Foegele, who made his NHL debut last season. With five points in 11 games and stellar underlying metrics, the 22-year old has great potential and seems entrenched with the Hurricanes in 2018-19, and no time with the Checkers. He has an outside chance at the Calder Trophy as well.
The blueline, already solid with the likes of Justin Faulk, and the underrated duo of Jacob Slavin and Brett Pesce – blueprint defensemen of varying type, both defensive and with Pesce exhibiting rover-like qualities. Depth blueliners Trevor van Riemsdyk and Calvin de Haan round up the loose minutes and bring a similar puck moving style. Even youngster Hayden Fleury can move the puck. Adding Dougie Hamilton clearly put them over the top as one of the league’s elite blueline corp.
Heading into Tuesday’s game against the Boston Bruins, the Carolina Hurricanes led the league with the most Corsi For events. Even when adjusting for a per 60 minutes rate, the Hurricanes are league leaders, bringing the high event brand that features exciting offensive skills, and terrifying defensive gaffes.
On an individual basis, the Canes players are shooting rather well early in the season, with scoring luck masking some defensive deficiencies. Seven players carry a shooting percentage over 10% - an unsustainable rate. This effect has changed over the course of the season, due to an individual peak of even strength scoring of late.
One area the Hurricanes can improve is at 5v4. They rank 5th overall in CF/60 – shot attempts per 60 minutes – and 3rd in SF/60, yet haven’t translated those shots into goals, ranking 30th in GF/60. They’ve underperformed their expected goals (xG) at 5v4, based on three goals – all on the road. Heading into the Boston game, Carolina had yet to score a 5v4 power play marker at home. Hamilton finally scored one in the 3-2 loss.
Even at 5v4, where they have struggled to score goals, they are league leaders in shots/60, and among the bottom at goals for/60. A good powerplay should focus on generating good chances from high danger scoring areas, where the Canes are – yes, that’s right, league leaders – and firing 6.58% - the second lowest in the league. Watch out when those percentages flip.
Individual marks early on from the off season trade, sending Noah Hanifin and Elias Lindholm to Calgary for Dougie Hamilton and Michael Ferland. Ferland, a forward leads the team in iHDCF – individual high danger scoring chances, with the early impression with net drive and energy.
Hamilton’s impact is evident early on – leading the Hurricanes at 5v5, individual Corsi For and shots on goal, while on pace to set career highs in both metrics. With one goal and three points at even strength (he scored a power play goal versus Boston), there’s a lag in scoring, but he’s in his element here.
There’s some exciting hockey being played in Raleigh. The record and struggle for a playoff spot is at least providing an entertaining brand of high event hockey. If you like goals and young players stepping up to the challenges, the Hurricanes may be the team you’ve been aching to follow.