After 40 – Carolina Hurricanes offensive production, goaltending sets them atop the Metropolitan Division

Team figures things out, puts together record-setting streak

Peter Koutroumpis, Triangle Sports Network

Peter Koutroumpis (@pksport)

RALEIGH, NC – Despite being winless in three games coming out of last weekend, the Carolina Hurricanes were sitting where they needed to be after 40 games – on top of the Metropolitan Division.

After reaching the quarter mark of the season at 10-6-4 with an even goal differential, following a 4-3 shootout loss in Columbus on Saturday, the Hurricanes were only one of three teams league-wide sitting with single-digit losses, holding a 25-8-7 ledger line with 57 points and a plus-19 goal differential.

In the Metro, they led the New Jersey Devils by four points (53) and the New York Rangers by six,(51), while sitting in second in the Eastern Conference, still trailing the Boston Bruins.

Looking at comps

In comparison to 2021-2022, after 40 games, the Hurricanes sat with a 29-9-2 record (60 points, +47), tied for 1st in the Metro with the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Rangers, and tied for 3rd in the Eastern Conference behind the Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning.

Similar overall results, but scoring depth requires a focus of attention this season.

No doubt the second quarter presented quite an about-face stretch, the Hurricanes’ last 20 games resulted in a 15-2-3 record-setting stretch that returned Carolina to the front of the pack, and emerging from the middle of it.

What’s been the difference?

Well, obviously scoring goals, combined with exceptional goaltending resulted in winning games and tallying multiple points to climb up in the standings.

Putting pucks to the net has helped, and that has consistently been a strength of this team in recent years.

This won’t change any time soon either – nor should it.

Carolina leads the league with 1434 SOGs to date, but like its most recent 67-shot barrage on Nashville goalie Jusse Saros, outshooting the opposition doesn’t always result in a win.

However, it does a majority of the time as the Hurricanes hold a 22-6-4 line when letting the pucks fly while goaltenders Pyotr Kochetkov and Antti Raanta are making stops, and as a result, winning games.

Both keepers earned league recognition accordingly for their exceptional performances recently.

Special teams effective

The power play improved by six percentage points while the penalty kill remained steady.

Stefan Noesen has been pivotal in that regard, leading the team with six power play goals.

Andrei Svechnikov still leads the team in goals (19), followed by Martin Necas (17) and Sebastian Aho (12) – the Big Three.

While Aho was injured and missed seven games, Svechnikov and Necas carried a lot of the load and tallied nine and eight goals, respectively in 20 games.

That production, plus more depth contributions helped to win games.

Captain Jordan Staal went on a scoring tear, posting seven goals with linemate Jordan Martinook impressively potting five himself.

From the back end, Brady Skjei emerged as the team’s leading backline scorer with eight goals to-date.

Since coming back from injury, Teuvo Teravainen has been working back into form in setting up plays, but still needs to provide more.

Jesperi Kotkaniemi has also provided a little more offensively, but along with Seth Jarvis, sitting at six goals each, hold totals that need to be built upon.

With four holding double-digit goal production totals (Svechnikov, Necas, Aho, Staal), depth scoring has been growing with seven sitting with at least five goals apiece.

That will be critical to future success.

Where do we go now?

So, now leading the Metro, albeit by a slim margin, in a similar spot to last season, is scoring still a concern for the Hurricanes?

To place it in the proper perspective – goal production can always increase, but becomes tougher as the season progresses.

Opposing team defenses are tighter to create seams to pass and shoot through, so special teams play at both ends becomes more critical.

That open real estate is valuable and must be taken advantage of.

During their recent winning streak and during the recent 20-game stretch, Carolina’s power play was relevant, and improved to raise its extra-man production to connect at a 20% rate (28-142).

Commendable, yet not dominating, sitting 23rd in the league, but enough to pull out a number of one-goal wins when needed.

The penalty kill was steady, at mid-league level, and holding at 79% (141-29).

Cruising along

Though its winning momentum has been slowed recently, Carolina has put itself in the position it needed to be in at the midpoint of the season.

While the Big Three maintain the team’s identity offensively, the increased scoring contribution from the depth positions has provided that uncertainty opposing teams must plan for and play against.

Feeling more comfortable in producing at a three-plus goal pace, the key to success for Carolina will lie in defensive play and goaltending.

The main difference at the 40-game mark comparing this season to last is that the margin between offensive production and defensive consistency is much closer coming into each game, and will be so moving forward.

Expect to see this team embark on a roller coaster ride of short streaks – win and losses – for the next 20 games, and likely the remainder of the season.

In doing so, it will be both most interesting and difficult to determine what finite elements are identifiable and responsible for the cause and effect of each win and loss as it comes.

The term ‘puck luck’ will likely be used more often in such conversation.

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