After a week off, we’re back with the latest Category 5 notes package. And why not? It’s a huge weekend for the Hurricanes, with a road game Friday against Columbus followed by an always contentious home game Saturday with Buffalo.
Category 1: Hurricanes goalie Petr Mrazek earned his fourth shutout of the season Monday in Colorado. Mrazek reached that number in just 33 starts, and it’s the most shutouts by a Hurricanes goalie since Cam Ward had five shutouts in 68 starts in 2011-12.
Carolina, with 13 games remaining, now has six total shutouts on the season, with Curtis McElhinney notching two in 27 starts. That is tied for the most combined shutouts by Hurricanes goalies since Arturs Irbe (six) and Trevor Kidd (two) combined for eight in 1998-99.
The other times the team totaled six shutouts were: 2011-12 (Ward 5, Justin Peters 1); 2008-09 (Ward 6); 2003-04 (Kevin Weekes 6); 2000-01 (Irbe 6); and 1999-2000 (Irbe 5, Eric Fichaud 1).
Furthermore, the Hurricanes are one of only two teams, along with Tampa Bay, to have not used two goalies in a game this season. Both Vancouver and Vegas have had to go to their backup just once this year, while Philadelphia — with 11 appearances by their backup in 70 games (15.7 percent) — has the most.
The Hurricanes have chased opposing goaltenders seven times while Tampa is tops with 11.
Category 2: Andrei Svechnikov had two goals Monday, giving him 17 for the season. Despite getting 143:30 of power play ice time this season, Svechnikov has scored all 17 of his goals at even strength (in 862:20 even-strength minutes; one goal per 50:44).
Among rookies, only Elias Pettersson has scored more at even-strength this season, with 18 in 853:55 minutes (one goal per 47:26 at even strength), and Toronto’s Andreas Johnsson also has 17 even-strength goals in just 738:16 (one goal per 43:26 minutes).
There are a couple of caveats to this, one that favors the Carolina rookie and one that doesn’t.
First, Svechnikov is by far the youngest of the three players — he won’t turn 19 until March 26 — while Pettersson is already 20.3 and Johnsson is 24.3. On the other end of it, Svechnikov is among the league leaders with four empty-net goals (teammate Sebastian Aho and Johnsson’s teammate Zach Hyman led the league through Thursday’s games with five). Johnsson has one and Pettersson doesn’t have any.
Category 3: Speaking of doing damage at even strength, Aho is on pace for the most even-strength points in a season since the team relocated to North Carolina. Through 69 games, Aho has 50 even-strength points, behind only Eric Staal (56 in 2005-06) and Ray Whitney (53 in 2006-07) with 13 games to go.
It’s unlikely anyone will ever catch the franchise-record 81 even-strength points Mike Rogers had with the Whalers in 1979-80. Only one player in the NHL this season is averaging more than a point per game at even strength: Chicago’s Patrick Kane, who has 71 in his first 69 games. As for the NHL mark, Wayne Gretzky holds the top seven spots on the even-strength points in a season list, topping out with 147 in 1981-82.
Category 4: It’s happened somewhat quietly, but Carolina’s special teams have moved comfortably to the middle of the pack. Through Thursday’s games, the Hurricanes’ power play is ranked 20th at 17.4 percent, while the penalty kill is sixth at 81.9 percent. When totaled, that’s 99.3 — right around the 100 mark that I would say is the benchmark for acceptable.
Since Feb. 6, the Carolina power play is 11 of 48 (22.9 percent) and the PK has killed 38 of 42 (90.5 percent).
The power play has been led by captain Justin Williams, who has a team-best nine man-advantage goals (tied for the second-most of his career; he had 12 in 2006-07 with Carolina and nine in 2011-12 with the Kings), and Teuvo Teravainen with a career-best seven.
As mentioned previously, second-unit contributor Svechnikov hasn’t scored on the power play and neither has Jordan Staal (who played regularly on the power play before his concussion and has seen a little time there since returning, mostly because of Micheal Ferland’s injury woes).
Aho also has only three of his 30 goals on the power play, though he does have a team-high 19 power play assists.
Category 5: It’s a great weekend for North Carolina sports, starting with Friday’s schedule.
First at 6 p.m., Davidson plays Saint Joseph’s in the Atlantic 10 Tournament quarterfinals. The Hurricanes are in Columbus for a 7 p.m. game that will have huge playoff implications with just weeks left in the regular season. At the same time in Washington, D.C., the Hornets are playing the Wizards in a matchup of two of the four Eastern Conference teams jockeying for the eighth and final playoff spot in the NBA’s Eastern Conference. At 8 p.m., N.C. Central and N.C. A&T will play in Norfolk, Va., for a spot in the MEAC Tournament title game. And finally, Duke and North Carolina will meet for the third time — the Blue Devils will have Zion Williams this go-around — in the ACC Tournament semifinals at 9 p.m. in Charlotte.
The Hurricanes are back at home Saturday to host Jeff Skinner and the struggling Sabres, and at least two of the aforementioned college teams will still be battling for an automatic bid in the NCAA Tournament. Also on tap Saturday are eight high school basketball championship games, with four each at the Dean Dome and Reynolds Coliseum.
The Hornets play again Sunday, at 1 p.m. in Miami, and the NASCAR Cup Series is in California for a 3:30 p.m. race at Auto Club Speedway. Then at 6 p.m., we’ll find out the fates of several North Carolina college basketball teams with the unveiling of the NCAA Tournament brackets on Selection Sunday.