Frederik Andersen’s early bounce back makes Hurricanes scary team
The Carolina Hurricanes took a little bit of a gamble with their goaltending situation this offseason.
They ended the 2020-21 season with the third best team save percentage in the NHL, had a Calder Trophy finalist in Alex Nedeljkovic and two solid veteran performances from James Reimer and Petr Mrazek.
Their response this offseason was to completely overhaul the position. Mrazek and Reimer were let go in free agency while Nedelkjovic, a restricted free agent, was traded to the Detroit Red Wings for draft picks. They were replaced in free agency with veterans Frederik Andersen and Antti Raanta.
A few years ago that would have been an elite goalie duo. But a lot can change in just a couple of years and Andersen and Raanta had their share of questions surrounding them coming into this season. Raanta’s past couple of years have been marred by injury, while Andersen’s play had significantly regressed in his final two years with Toronto. Their performance was going to determine whether or not the Hurricanes could main their status as a Stanley Cup contender, or if they might take a step backwards.
So far, so good.
Andersen was dominant again for the Hurricanes on Sunday in a 2-1 win over the Arizona Coyotes, stopping 22 of 23 shots.
That win helps the Hurricanes improve to a league-best 8-0-0, making them the only team in the league to still have a perfect points percentage earning 16 out of a possible 16 points.
Andersen has been the starting goalie in seven of those games, and following Sunday’s win is sporting a .956 all situations save percentage (and .959 in even-strength situations). He has allowed more than one goal just two times so far and more than two goals just one time. You are going to win a lot of games with that level of goaltending.
Now, he is definitely not going to maintain those numbers all season. No goalie is that good, and there is a regression to the mean lurking at some point in the future here. But the Hurricanes do not need him to be a .960 goalie all season. They just need him to continue having a bounce back season and be closer to what he was between 2016 and 2019 as opposed to what he was the past two seasons.
He does that, the Hurricanes are going to be a fierce team to contend with in the Eastern Conference because they have literally every other ingredient you want to see on a contending team.
Their forward depth is strong with high-level players at the top. Sebastian Aho is a star and Andrei Svechnikov’s breakout season seems to have arrived. They may have lost Dougie Hamilton on defense, but Ethan Bear has been an outstanding addition to that group to help make for it.
Overall the team performance has been great on top of the dominant goaltending. They are a top-10 team across the board in pretty much every underlying possession metric (shot attempts, scoring chances, expected goals) and have a league best 20-7 goal differential during 5-on-5 play. Combine that with strong goaltending and you have a legit Stanley Cup contender.