With a 3-2 overtime win against the Nashville Predators on Tuesday, the Carolina Hurricanes have won 6 straight. Despite injuries and inconsistency, the team keeps plugging on. Here’s how they got here.
Prior to their current streak, the Carolina Hurricanes dropped 3 straight games to the defending Stanley Cup Champion Tampa Bay Lightning. Over those 3 games, Carolina managed just 3 goals while surrendering 10.
Yes, the Lightning are a very talented team, but the Hurricanes won their first two meetings against Tampa Bay. Not only that, each of those 2 contests resulted in shutouts (one for Petr Mrazek, the other went to Alex Nedeljkovic).
Heading into a February 27 game against a Florida Panthers team that had won 7 out of their last 10, there was concern. The game was tight, resulting in a 4-3 shootout win for the Hurricanes.
It’s worth noting here that out of the 25 games that Carolina has played, 8 have gone to overtime (including 4 shootouts); 3 of those overtime games have come during this streak.
Now, Carolina’s offense hasn’t been overwhelming but it has been enough to win. Over their past 6 games, the Hurricanes have averaged just under 4 goals per game.
Vincent Trocheck—in the midst of a career resurgence—has led the way with 4 goals and 4 assists. Sebastian Aho (4g, 3a), Martin Necas (2g, 5a), Dougie Hamilton (7a), and Mr. Captain Jordan Staal (3g, 4a) have all put up 7 points.
Their brush with COVID aside, the Hurricanes have had to deal with injuries to key contributors. Teravainen—coming off of his second consecutive .92 points-per-game season—is having a rough go. Hampered first by the virus and now a concussion, the skilled Finn has been held to just 13 games.
With one of their offensive catalysts sidelined, Carolina could have folded. In years gone by, this team probably would have. This team, however, has held to the next-man-up mindset preached by coach Rod Brind’Amour.
Trocheck, looking to return to All-Star form, has been a revelation. Following two injury-shortened seasons of under 40 points, Trocheck has picked up 13 goals and 11 assists in 24 games. That’s a 44 goal, 38 assist pace over a full 82 schedule.
Aho, while not showing as much of the domination he’s shown in the past, has 10 goals and 14 assists. Staal—operating at the best points-per-game ratio of his career—has 10 goals and 12 assists; he also notched the game-winner in Tuesday night’s game against the Predators.
Andrei Svechnikov, while slightly off of last season’s pace, has 8 goals and 12 assists; Necas keeps improving, his 18 points marking the best points-per-game ratio of his young career.
With Jaccob Slavin missing time with COVID and taking time to get back up to speed, Brett Pesce has stepped up as arguably the Hurricanes’ best defenseman. Not only has he provided the steady, reliable defensive game he’s become known for, but Pesce has also added 13 points from the blueline. The rotation of Jake Bean and Haydn Fleury cannot be overlooked either as both defensemen have provided solid play; Fleury has continued his strong, physical play while Bean has shown the skating and hands that made him such a promising prospect.
Then there’s the goaltending…
When Petr Mrazek went down with a thumb injury in a January 30 game against the Dallas Stars, the Hurricanes were off to a 3-1 start. Much of that early success was due to Mrazek, who carried a 2-1 record, a 0.99 goals against average, and a .955 save percentage. His loss threatened to derail the season before it could gain momentum.
James Reimer came in and secured a win in that game and has since won 8 of his 11 appearances since. While his play hasn’t been phenomenal, Reimer has—more often than not—got the job done.
Mrazek’s injury also opened the door for Alex Nedeljkovic to showcase his talents. In 8 starts, the Parma, Ohio native stands at 5-2-1 with one shutout; his goals-against average (2.21) and save percentage (.926) are nothing to sneeze at, either. Aside from a rough game in his first appearance of the season, Nedeljkovic has been solid, and—as evidenced by his puck handling—his confidence is continuing to grow.
With the halfway mark of the season approaching, the Carolina Hurricanes currently hold 2nd place in the Central Division and 3rd in the league. While it’s true that there are teams nipping at their heels, the Hurricanes are only one win out of the league’s top spot.
In order to maintain this pace, they’ll have to rely on each and every player stepping up, a trait they’ve shown plenty of so far in this strange season. A healthy Teravainen and Mrazek will go a long way towards keeping them atop the standings.
A few more goals from Dougie Hamilton wouldn’t hurt, either.