The Carolina Hurricanes have taken major steps over the last few seasons to become a top team in the league. Back in the offseason, however, I had pointed out that the Hurricanes had two areas of need to address in order to become legitimate Stanley Cup contenders: better goaltending and improved secondary scoring. Surprisingly though, it seems as though Carolina has managed to address both of these issues internally.
In net, Petr Mrazek and James Reimer didn’t cut it. However, the addition (or I suppose, call up) of Alex Nedeljkovic has been massive for the team’s situation in goal. Nedeljkovic has played in 22 games with the Hurricanes this season, managing an impressive 15-4-3 record and a .932 save percentage, which is the highest of any goaltender in the league who’s played more than 10 games this season.
It’s nice to know that the Hurricanes also have depth, with Mrazek playing well this year, despite a small sample size. He has yet to lose in regulation since returning from injury and has a .934 save percentage overall this year. Even James Reimer is certainly capable of picking up wins for the Hurricanes if called upon. So it certainly seems as though Carolina is in a good spot in net heading into the playoffs, which isn’t something I thought I’d be saying without the team making any additions.
When it comes to secondary scoring, once again, the Hurricanes have seemingly solved their issues internally. Spreading out scoring certainly helped for a good chunk of the year and while the top line has been on fire since Teuvo Teravainen’s return, secondary scoring has remained consistent. Warren Foegele, Martin Necas, Nino Niederreiter, Jordan Staal and Vincent Trocheck have combined for an impressive 76 goals this year. The group of forwards has played a key role in the Hurricanes ranking ninth in the league in goals for per game. Staal and Trocheck have been especially important to Carolina’s power play success, with the Hurricanes ranking second in the league with the man advantage.
Of the forwards mentioned above, four have seen a huge spike in production. Here are their goals and points per 82 game paces compared to last year:
Necas (2019-20): 21 G/82 and 46 P/82
Necas (2020-21): 21 G/82 and 66 P/82
Niederreiter (2019-20): 13 G/82 and 35 P/82
Niederreiter (2020-21): 31 G/82 and 53 P/82
Staal (2019-20): 10 G/82 and 33 P/82
Staal (2020-21): 26 G/82 and 61 P/82
Trocheck (2019-20): 15G/82 and 50 P/82
Trocheck (2020-21): 32G/82 and 80 P/82
Some of this can be attributed to who some of these players have played with this year and an increased shooting percentage (with some being more sustainable than others). However, something else worth noting is that each forward has increased their shots per game average from last year, which has been a difference-maker.
So while it seemed as though these two areas would need to be solved by adding players, the Hurricanes have managed to improve their goaltending and up their secondary scoring internally. With the improvements, the Hurricanes look like legitimate Stanley Cup contenders heading into the playoffs this year.
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Which area are you more surprised that the Hurricanes were able to solve internally?