Through four games in the 2019-20 NHL season, the Carolina Hurricanes are a perfect 4-0 for the first time since landing in North Carolina. The team is playing well obviously, and though the Canes will obviously not go 82-0, I do think the strong start is an indicator of the quality of the team. At a high level, what stands out most are two things. First, the team has a newfound ‘can do’ attitude that was missing for most of the past decade. By virtue of 2018-19’s success, the team seems to suddenly be on the right side of always finding a way to win or a way to lose. Second, I think this team has more scoring options than any team in recent Canes history which gives it the ability to outrun a mistake or two or just sprint to a win some nights even if the other team is good too. Only time will tell, but I think both of those things will carry forward to some degree.
But what follows is an attempt to identify a few imperfections and possible upsides. To be clear, the aim is not at all to predict doom and gloom but rather just to pinpoint a few areas where this good hockey team can still be better.
One Achilles’ heel early this season has been a propensity to take too many unnecessary penalties. The closest the Hurricanes came to losing in my opinion was the Capitals game. In that game, the Hurricanes were down two goals in the second period and proceeded to take a run of penalties that could easily have seen the Capitals tack on another goal or two and run away. I think this one is just a matter of driving home the need to avoid unnecessary penalties as the season wears on.
The first scoring line
Teuvo Teravainen and Sebastian Aho (an empty-netter) did crack the goal column in Tuesday’s win, but in total that top scoring line which is currently Niederreiter/Aho/Teravainen has been very quiet through four games. The biggest thing here is just patience. Teravainen especially is playing great hockey but with most of his production on the power play. Aho and Niederreiter have shown flashes, so I do not think their games are that far off.
The first (now second?) power play unit
With the power play having scored five goals (plus another shortly after a power play ended) in only four games, many talk about the power play generically as a single entity when in fact there are two separate units. Of the Canes five power play goals, only the first one was scored by sort of a mixed unit (have not checked if maybe it was a partial change or if unit was just different then). The four most recent goals have been scored by what would originally have been called the second unit with Haula-Dzingel-Svechnikov-Hamilton-Teravainen. That group has thrived while the other unit has not. So there is still upside to be had on the power play if it can get more of a contribution from the other unit.
Sloppiness with the puck in the defensive zone
Through four games a significant percentage of the goals against have come courtesy of bad defensive zone turnovers that have a tendency to pretty quickly find the back of the net. While perfection is an impossibility in this regard, I do think there that the team has the potential to tighten things up as it plays its way into a regular season rhythm.
That is a pretty short list of imperfections with possible upside. Here is hoping that the team keeps winning and keeps these to a minimum.
What say you Canes fans?
1) Does anyone have additional imperfections with room for improvement despite the team’s strong start?
2) Of the ones that I listed, which do think is most critical to resolve to sustain success as the season wears on?