Rejoice, Caniacs everywhere: we are fast, we are physical, and we are competitive on the ice this year! The Canes started off the season against 3 Metropolitan division rivals, and took 5 out of 6 possible points, going 2-0-1 to start the year. But there’s something even more important to note about this team full of scrappy veterans and young prospects- they have a great time together on the ice, and it shows when watching.
Sebastian Aho is the best player on this team, and he’s going to have to continue to make strides at the center position in order for the Canes to keep this up. However, when you look at what the Canes have been able to do in their first three games, you can’t help but see something you haven’t in quite some time- which is, a threat to score when any forward line is on the ice. The line of Andrei Svechnikov, Phillip Di Giuseppe/Valentin Zykov and Martin Necas have been dangerous. The line of Lucas Wallmark, Jordan Martinook, and Brock McGinn are playing extremely well, working the body and establishing a good forecheck. The aforementioned Aho paired with Teuvo Teravainen and Micheal Ferland plays faster than any line we’ve seen the Hurricanes have for years, and are always a threat to our numbers on the board. But the best line in the young season is composed of 2 scrappy veterans in Jordan Staal and Justin Williams (oh captain, my captain,) and Warren Foegele. I had higher expectations of Svechnikov and Necas than I did of Foegele; however Warren has developed great chemistry with Staal and Williams and is doing serious damage inside the dots.
Another thing we’ve seen in the past 10 years of Carolina Hurricanes hockey is a reluctance to make mistakes, and to come to the aide of teammates who get involved in scrums. Not this year. We’ve seen players young and old get involved in post-whistle scraps, and it just shows that this team believes in each other, they enjoy playing with each other and will go to bat for one another when called upon.
There are still a few question marks involving this year’s team. First- with the stellar play of Curtis McElhinney, if he keeps playing the way he did against the Columbus Blue Jackets, and Petr Mrazek settles in and starts playing solidly between the pipes, where does that leave Scott Darling when he’s available to come back from injury? The golden rule in hockey is play the hot hand in net, and if these two keep producing wins, hard to fathom Darling jumping either one of them in line to get some game time.
The same question can be raised with Victor Rask, who injured his hand while cutting food in the kitchen. Where does he fit in the Canes forward groups? Right now, everybody is contributing to the success. When Rask returns, Rod Brind’Amour will be forced to make a tough choice. Does he play Rask? If so, who does he substitute at center for Rask? Not Aho, not Staal, so that leaves Rod with deciding whether or not Victor deserves a spot in the lineup over Martin Necas or Lucas Wallmark. Tough choices to make, but depth being a problem is a good problem to have. Haydn Fleury is also waiting in the wings to spare any defensemen when they need rest.
These Hurricanes have given us Caniacs hope. They want to win, they’ll do whatever it takes to win and they play for each other. This is a team with 6 new forwards playing every night and 2 new defensemen playing every night. A lot of new faces, and a quick development of chemistry and coherence was needed for the Hurricanes to come out of the gate this well. But if this team continues to grow together, and become brothers on the ice more and more, the Hurricanes will be in the playoffs for the first time in 10 years. I know it’s early, and a lot can happen; but there’s reason to believe in this team right now.