When 2018 ended, the Carolina Hurricanes were 16-17-5. The team had just wrapped up an abysmal 4-8-1 December and seemed to be racing rapidly for another early playoff contention exit. Then, starting with a win over the Flyers on New Year’s Eve, the Hurricanes seemed to suddenly do a 180. After first, the wins seemed like a bit of a hot streak, but now 10 weeks later it increasingly looks more simply like the Hurricanes are just a good hockey team.
Today’s Daily Cup of Joe offers a quick tour of some numbers since the rebound started.
Arguably the single greatest contributor to the turnaround is the team’s ability to turn things around on the road. Heading into January, the Hurricanes struggled to a 6-10-1 road record. Since the start of the new year, the Hurricanes are an astounding 14-3-2 on the road which is even better than the team’s 8-4-0 home record.
Since the addition of Nino Niederreiter in mid-January just before the streak started, the Hurricanes are 15-5-2 (119-point pace). Niederreiter has 11 goals and 21 points playing on a top line with Sebastian Aho.
“League average goaltending” …and then some
Petr Mrazek keeps trending up. His record was a solid 4-2-1 in January, and his play was generally good. But his save percentage in January was .880. That increased to .932 in February and sits at .943 through three starts in March.
Not to be outdone, Curtis McElhinney posted only a .879 save percentage in January but followed it up with a scintillating .950 in February. His March numbers are inflated by the 8-1 drubbing by Winnipeg, but he too seems to be trending upward minus the outlier.
Blue line scoring boost
Blue line scoring has also been a positive factor in the turnaround. Dougie Hamilton had three goals through December and now has 10 more since the start of January. Brett Pesce has 14 of his 22 points in the 31 games since January 1. Justin Faulk has six of his eight goals since the start of 2019.
13 of Williams’ 20 goals have come since the start of January. In addition, all four of Williams’ game-winners have come during the winning run. His leadership has obviously played a huge role too, but his production also rose when the team really needed it.
Greg McKegg played his first regular season game in a Carolina Hurricanes uniform on January 4 which means that the turnaround started pretty close to when he came into the picture. Saku Maenalanen played one game with the Hurricanes in early December but was then recalled on January 3, also coinciding with the team’s turnaround. Though Niederreiter rightfully gets the headlines of the newcomers, I think McKegg and Maenalanen made a huge contribution toward improbably stabilizing and making deeper the forward lineup when Jordan Staal was out due to his concussion. Further, I think that four-line depth has been integral to the team’s road success. With a deep blue line, the forward depth made it so that opposing coach’s could not prey on weaknesses for easy wins as was the case in 2017-18.
Notably missing from my list are team leaders Sebastian Aho, Teuvo Teravainen and Jaccob Slavin. All three have contributed significantly to the team’s 2019 success, but the trio has been pretty steady through the 2018-19 campaign such they were not so much 2019 spikes.
What say you Canes fans?
1) In your opinion, which of the turnarounds noted above has been most significant in the team’s rise in the standings?
2) Who has other 2019 turnarounds/statistics that should be added to such a list?