Keys to the Hurricanes’ 5-0-0 Start

Following comeback wins over the Montreal Canadiens, Washington Capitals, and Tampa Bay Lightning, the Carolina Hurricanes had wire-to-wire victories over the Florida Panthers and the New York Islanders and did something the franchise has never done before: start a season with five straight wins. Even when the Hurricanes were playing in Hartford in those well-known and extremely appealing green jerseys, a 5-0-0 start was never accomplished. To get to 6-0-0, the Hurricanes face the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday night in Raleigh, NC, but now it’s time to recap how the Hurricanes got off to this historic start and how they can keep it going.

Carolina Hurricanes versus the Tampa Bay Lightning (AP Photo/Karl B DeBlaker)

Offseason Signings

All Caniacs know that this offseason was monumental as the front office filled in the vulnerabilities that the Boston Bruins exploited in last season’s Eastern Conference Final. However, not many people expected these free agent signings to contribute to this extent, this early in the season.

First and foremost, forward Ryan Dzingel has been an essential piece in the Hurricanes’ early-season success. He had a huge contribution to the team’s 6-3 victory over the Panthers on Tuesday. He scored his first two goals in a Carolina jersey on only three shots during a short 11:45 of ice time. His first goal capped off Carolina’s dominating first period as the Hurricanes were leading 4-0 after the first period. On opening night, Dzingel had a satisfactory debut for the Hurricanes, logging one assist. After going pointless versus the Capitals, he earned another assist against the the Lightning, leading to his current point total of four: two goals and two assists.

Additionally, left winger Erik Haula has looked like the real deal over his first five games. He started off his Hurricanes campaign with a goal in each of his first three games. He had the game-tying goal in the third period on opening night against the Canadiens, a game the Hurricanes would go on to win in a shootout. He started Carolina’s two-goal comebacks with a goal in each game against the Capitals and Lightning. On Friday versus the Islanders, Haula scored the tie-breaking goal to push his season total of goals and points to four.

Finally, and maybe most important, James Reimer has been a pleasant surprise as the Hurricanes’ backup goalie. A position that has been such a wildcard over recent years now appears to have two solid options, yet the backup has been more impressive so far. In two starts, Reimer is 2-0 with a 2.42 goal against average and an appealing .940 save percentage. Out of his two starts, his play against his former team, the Panthers, was by far the most impressive. The Hurricanes dominated the scoreboard, but the Panthers dominated the shot battle, 50-35. Reimer was able to save 47 out of those 50 shots, which must have been satisfying revenge against a team who just traded him.

The season is only five games old, but if these free agents can continue their level of play, they will help the team perform at its best. These players have raised the talent level of the Hurricanes. Hopefully this team can keep this magic going and go even deeper into the playoffs than last year.

Andrei Svechnikov

The young phenom has carried his success over from the end of last season into the beginning of this season. He was drafted at number two overall in the 2018 NHL Draft and was absolutely worth the pick. He was the fourth-youngest player ever to score two goals in a playoff game, a game in which the Capitals won 4-2. After being knocked out by Alex Ovechkin for almost the rest of the playoffs, there were questions about whether Svechnikov could get back to his normal level of play so early this season. He has answered those questions as he has scored a team-leading eight points (one goal and seven assists) through the first five games. His first goal of the season came in empty net fashion as he capped off the victory against the divisional rival Islanders.

Andrei Svechnikov, Carolina Hurricanes
Andrei Svechnikov, Carolina Hurricanes (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

He assisted two of the three goals against the Capitals, including the assist on the game-winning goal in overtime by Jake Gardiner. He added two assists in Tampa Bay, including the assist that led to the game-tying goal. Finally, in a game where it seemed like everyone got a goal and/or assist, Svechnikov recorded two more assists in their win over the Panthers.

One of Svechnikov’s more impressive stats is his plus/minus of plus-seven, which is a team-best and an impressive league-best. He was able to finally record a goal in a rematch of the Eastern Conference Semifinal series versus the New York Islanders. The Hurricanes won the game 5-2 with the help of Svechnikov’s goal and he logged an assist as he pushed his season total of points to eight, which is tied for third in the entire NHL.

Svechnikov is one of the brightest young stars in the league, and if he can continue his assist streak and keep scoring goals, the Hurricanes can be one of the most dangerous teams in the league.

Resiliency

Resiliency: a term defined by Merriam-Webster Dictionary as “an ability to recover from or adjust easily to adversity or change.” So far in this season, there is not a better term for this Bunch of Jerks. The Hurricanes have faced third-period deficits in three out of their first five games. A one-goal deficit in the third period against the Canadiens ended up being a 4-3 shootout win. A two-goal third-period deficit in DC on the Capitals’ opening night became a 3-2 overtime win, and a one-goal deficit against the Lightning became a 4-3 overtime win. Not only are third-period comebacks impressive, these rebounds have been notable given who they played against. Two out of those three wins were against two of the best teams, not only in the Eastern Conference, but in the entire NHL. This Bunch of Jerks has earned themselves another clever nickname that encompasses the way they play: The Cardiac Canes. You have to have a strong heart to take the suspense in a Hurricanes game.

This team seems to have a much different mentality than last season’s team. The 2019-20 squad is already 3-0-0 when trailing after two periods, compared to the 2018-19 team that was just 3-30-3 when trailing after two. The Hurricanes are just the 13th team ever to come back from each of their first three games of a season and win all of them.

Carolina Hurricanes Roland McKeown Washington Capitals Jakub Vrana
Carolina Hurricanes’ Roland McKeown dives to tip the puck away from Washington Capitals’ Jakub Vrana (AP Photo/Karl B DeBlaker)

The ability to come back from deficits under pressure in the clutch has carried over from their still-surprising playoff run last season. From coming back from a 2-0, then a 3-2 series deficit against the Capitals, and then winning after being down two goals in Game 7, this team has shown these signs of resiliency since March 2019. After their start this season, they are showing that their mental strength in the playoffs was not a fluke. Whether it is head coach Rod Brind’Amour’s inspiration between periods or the players’ extremely strong mentalities, these young players are always fighting to win. So no matter what the score is, keep your phone close or your TV on because this team always makes it interesting.

What’s Next

The Hurricanes look to carry this momentum against another divisional rival in the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday at PNC Arena.

It is only five games into the season, so it still might be too early to make these assumptions, but this team looks complete. With the recent free agent signings performing well, Svechnikov, the young stud, looking like a top-two pick, and all the players’ rock-solid mentalities, this team has the potential for another remarkable season and many more storm surges.

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