Five things we’ve learned about the Carolina Hurricanes

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Chip Alexander
·4 min read
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Five things we’ve learned about the Carolina Hurricanes, who are 12-6-1 after their first 19 games, fourth in the Central Division and now on a three-game losing streak:

‘Canes need Teravainen, Mrazek

A no-brainer, yes? All teams will deal with injuries in this condensed season and a lot have had COVID issues, but forward Teuvo Teravainen and goalie Petr Mrazek have been missed.

Teravainen, sidelined indefinitely with a concussion, has been called the Canes’ quiet MVP by coach Rod Brind’Amour. He led the team in assists last season, but also in power-play assists and power-play points. Think the Canes could have used him on the power play Thursday when they were 0-for-5 in the 3-1 loss to the Lightning.

Mrazek led the NHL in goals-against average and save percentage in the early going, with a 1-0 shutout of Tampa Bay, before his collision with teammate Max McCormick. He’s coming off thumb surgery, has missed 14 games and will need time to regain his form and timing. He must do it quickly.

Dougie of old, where are you?

Defenseman Dougie Hamilton was playing as well as any defenseman in the league last season when he suffered a broken leg in mid-January. Selected as an NHL All-Star, he was an offensive force and the perfect counterpart on the Canes’ top defensive pairing with a more defensive-oriented Jaccob Slavin.

Hamilton had nine goals in the first 19 games last season. He has one goal in 19 this season, on 57 shots. Brind’Amour, asked Thursday about Hamilton, said it would be difficult for Hamilton to replicate last season but added Hamilton has had a “ton” of chances this year. “Those will start to go in,” the coach said. He also would like to see the 6-6, 229-pound D-man more physically engaged.

Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Dougie Hamilton (19) and Detroit Red Wings center Sam Gagner (89) fight in the second period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Dougie Hamilton (19) and Detroit Red Wings center Sam Gagner (89) fight in the second period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Goaltending too soft at times

With Mrazek out, the Canes have gone with James Reimer and Alex Nedeljkovic in a season, as Brind’Amour put it, where the games keep on coming. Both are capable. Neither is elite.

Goaltending was the chief cause of the Canes’ three-game slide, on both sides. Tampa Bay’s Andrei Vasilevskiy is an elite goalie and beat the Canes twice. Curtis McElhinney, who stole a few games as the backup for the Canes two years ago, did it again Thursday for the Lightning.

Both Reimer and Nedeljkovic have allowed a few soft goals. It happens. It also can be the difference in close games. The Canes need Mrazek back and being that feisty, competitive Petr Mrazek again.

Carolina Hurricanes’ Andrei Svechnikov (37) shoots the puck past Dallas Stars goaltender Anton Khudobin (35) for a goal during the second period of an NHL hockey game in Raleigh, N.C., Saturday, Jan. 30, 2021. (AP Photo/Karl B DeBlaker)
Carolina Hurricanes’ Andrei Svechnikov (37) shoots the puck past Dallas Stars goaltender Anton Khudobin (35) for a goal during the second period of an NHL hockey game in Raleigh, N.C., Saturday, Jan. 30, 2021. (AP Photo/Karl B DeBlaker)

“Svech” must be consistently dynamic

Andrei Svechnikov, now in his third season, has been called a star in the making by nearly everyone who has seen the power forward play. But after scoring six goals in his first eight games, he has one in the past 11, and that was an empty netter.

Svechnikov has six assists and 24 shots in those 11 games, and Brind’Amour says much the same about the 20-year-old as he does about Hamilton: the offensive chances are there, it’s a matter of time. But a couple of goals by Svechnikov might have changed the three-game skid against Tampa Bay -- he hit the post Thursday with an early backhander. Svechnikov can be dynamic but is still seeking more consistency.

This is a solid hockey team

There have been times in the past when the Canes entered a season with a few too many holes -- on the lines, on the back end, in net. This year’s team, with a healthy Teravainen and Mrazek, has a good, solid feel to it. There’s experience and depth and talent. It’s strong up the middle. The Canes have been good five on five, good in overtimes and shootouts. After playoff disappointment the past two years, there should be hunger.

The grind of a 56-game regular season squeezed into a tight scheduling window, within the specter of the pandemic, makes it a matter of attrition and a test of conditioning and perseverance to get to the playoffs. The NHL only made it tougher for the Canes last week by sliding in another Tampa Bay game, meaning four in a row against the 2020 Stanley Cup champion before their two games with the Central Division-leading Florida Panthers. Their strength of schedule is second in the NHL.

“We just focus on today,” Brind’Amour said Thursday. “We’re big on going 1-0 and focusing on today. It’s what are we going to do today to win and be good.”

And when they get back to Raleigh, the Canes will find something different about PNC Arena: Some fans will be allowed in the building for their games. Talk about a pick-me-up.

Hurricanes at Florida Panthers

When: Saturday, 7 p.m.

Where: BB&T Center, Sunrise, Fla.

TV: FSCR