RALEIGH — It hasn’t been exactly an ideal start to the 2023-24 NHL season for the Carolina Hurricanes. But despite a rocky six weeks that had coach Rod Brind’Amour questioning the team’s consistency and captain Jordan Staal wondering if the whole team has “bought in” to the team’s style of play, Carolina is 10-7-0 and a wild card playoff spot.
The Hurricanes have even won seven of their last 10 games heading into Wednesday’s game against the Oilers at PNC Arena, the third of a stretch of seven in eight at home.
Games like Carolina’s 4-0 win at Tampa Bay or Saturday’s 4-2 victory over the visiting Penguins have offered glimpses of the team that has won three straight division titles. But losses at Florida and against the Flyers at home offered up a different team, one that often looked lost defensively and listless with the puck.
What comes next? There are still 65 games left to figure that out. But here are a few things we’ve learned about the Hurricanes through the first 17 games.
Teuvo Teravainen has never had more than 23 goals in a season, but right now he’s on pace for 43. The 29-year-old has a team-high nine goals on the season, good timing for a player in a contract year. Teravainen won’t continue to score on more than 24% of his shots, but he’s already well on his way to a bounce-back season after a disappointing 2022-23.
On paper, the Hurricanes’ defense looked like perhaps the best assembled in the salary cap era. The addition of Dmitry Orlov — arguably the top player in the free agent pool this summer — added to the stable of blue liners that was already the envy of the league.
Carolina also brought back Tony DeAngelo, who revived his career two years ago with the Hurricanes, to join Brent Burns, Jaccob Slavin, Brett Pesce, Brady Skjei and Jalen Chatfield.
Having seven defensemen capable of playing top-four minutes is a nice problem to have, right? Not so fast.
Brind’Amour finally seemed to concede Saturday that the pairing of Orlov and DeAngelo — on the ice for three goals for and nine goals against at 5-on-5 this season — isn’t working, breaking up his top four of Slavin-Burns and Skjei-Pesce to try to find something that works.
Whether that means Brind’Amour will reorganize his pairings as he did Saturday — Burns and Slavin stayed together, but Pesce was paired with Orlov while Skjei and DeAngelo teamed up — or reinsert Chatfield into the lineup remains to be seen.
Losing Frederik Andersen to a medical ailment — the team deemed it a “blood clotting issue” — was an early-season blow. Andersen has struggled to stay healthy in recent seasons, missing the playoffs in 2022 after a Vezina-caliber regular season and struggling with injury and inconsistency last year until breaking through in the postseason. But no one could have predicted this.
That leaves Carolina with two primary options for now: Antti Raanta and Pyotr Kochetkov. Raanta, like the team, has had an up-and-down start to the season, but he continues to thrive at PNC Arena. His win over Pittsburgh on Saturday was his 13th straight in Raleigh. Kochetkov is still trying to establish himself as a full-time NHL goalie, and his play has been inconsistent.
Grading special teams
Carolina’s penalty kill was dreadful to start the season, allowing 10 power play goals in the first seven games. It’s settled into its normal groove since, killing off 24 of 26 (92.3%) since. That stretch has the Hurricanes back in the top half of the league and closing in on 80%.
Carolina has also had success on the power play, converting 24.6% of its opportunities. The Hurricanes have scored with the man advantage in 12 of 17 games. Eight different players have a power play goal — led by Seth Jarvis’ five — and five more have registered at least one point with an opponent in the box.
Here are a few stats that might surprise even those who have watched Carolina all season (entering Monday’s games): Slavin leads the team with 46 shots and is on pace for 222 — 57 more than his career high. … The Hurricanes have been outscored in the first period (22-14) and second (17-14) but have outpaced opponents 24-15 in third periods and 3-0 in overtime. … Carolina is 4-0-0 when leading after one or two periods, and the Hurricanes are 5-5-0 when trailing after a period and 3-6-0 when trailing after 40 minutes. … The Hurricanes rank 31st in hits with 219, ahead of only Dallas (201).