Monday marks a growing tradition in local hockey when the University of North Carolina and North Carolina State meet at PNC Arena. The game comes HIGHLY recommended as a way to support local hockey but equally importantly because the game and atmosphere were an absolute blast last year.
The game is Monday at 7pm at PNC Arena. Parking is free as is admission with a suggested $5 donation at the door.
I encourage everyone who can make it work schedule-wise to come out for a fun night of hockey.
We will have check ins/previews for both teams up no later than midday on Monday, so check back in to get the scoop before the game.
With the Hurricanes sitting at 19 games played and just shy of 20 which is already the quarter mark of the season and also with the team surging right now, I thought it might be interesting to take a look at the team and identify things that are better than expected so far. My short list follows, and I look forward to seeing what others have to add to it.
With his three-point game on Sunday, Teuvo Teravainen suddenly has 19 points in 19 games which makes for easy math and a HUGE 82-game point pace. Scoring is up right now, but Teravainen’s 1.00 points per game pace is good enough to tie him for 30th in the entire NHL and puts him atop the Hurricanes scoring ranks. The hope when Teravainen was acquired was that as he matured as a player his offensive production would increase. At only 19 games into the 2017-18, I would not declare this transition complete, but Teravainen has definitely taken strides in that direction in November. Critical for him will be avoiding extended droughts of quiet. As tremendous as Teravainen’s totals are, he really has only been at it for six games which are good for 12 of his 19 points.
Cam Ward as a backup
During the offseason, I made note of the differences between being a backup and a starter. As a player who has not really been a bakup in more than a decade, Ward’s transition to the new role was far from a certainty. In general, the hope when a backup starts is that he be decent and at least give the team a chance to win. Thus far, Ward has far exceeded that target. His 3-2 record is not eye-popping, but he has been a difference-maker in all three of the wins and each and every one was a game where he needed to be on top of his game for his team to win. The Canes were outplayed by Edmonton with Ward being peppered by more than 50 shots and holding the fort. His win against Columbus similarly required strong play to net a win. And yesterday against the Islanders, the defense in front of him had their share of issues, but he erased the vast majority of them. Entering the season, I hoped for ‘good enough’ from Ward as a backup. He has been significantly better than that thus far.
Jordan Staal’s scoring
I would not say that Jordan Staal has exceeded expectations in terms of his two-way play. That is not to say that he has not been good in that regard. Rather, it is to say that this core strength of Staal’s game is taken for granted at this point. But his current 65-point pace is a full 20 points higher than his 2016-17 total.
When he received a one-way contract, he figured to be somewhere on the Hurricanes 2017-18 depth chart likely either on the fourth line or as an extra at #13. In terms of slot, that is where he has spent a good chunk of the 2017-18 season, but his scoring total thus far surpasses that level. His current 5 goals and 5 assists projects to roughly 40 points for the season despite the fact that he has not played every game, is averaging a modest 12:39 of ice time and only recently received a small helping of power play ice time. McGinn’s scoring thus far significantly exceeds his role and opportunity.
After a strong first year as a professional with the Charlotte Checkers for the 2016-17 season, the hope and expectation was that Haydn Fleury was ready for an NHL role. General Manager Ron Francis left a slot accordingly when he added only Trevor van Riemsdyk to the mix on the blue line.
Fleury has only four assists (and no goals) to his credit through 18 games, but he has adapted quickly to the NHL game and though he does make occasional mistakes, he has been better than expected. The team is winning when he is on the ice at even strength, and he is also a regular on the penalty kill. He has been solid in a third pairing role but more recently has been elevated into the top 4 at times and performed pretty well doing so. At this point, Fleury has exceeded reasonable expectations for where he would be just 19 games into his rookie season.
What say you Canes fans?
1) What else would you add to my “better than expected” list for the start of the 2017-18 season?
2) How would you rank the five that I came up with?