The Carolina Hurricanes are in quite the usual position at this point in the season. Coming in a few points short of a playoff position, it will be another nail-biter for the “Caniacs.” Year after year since 2009, the Canes have struggled to contend.
It has been nine seasons since the Hurricanes last made it into the playoffs, doing so in the 2008-09 season led by Eric Staal and Cam Ward. With Staal now leading the Minnesota Wild, the Canes look to a familiar face in Ward.
With general manager Ron Francis signing Scott Darling to a four-year, $16.6 million contract, it looked like the Canes had found their No. 1 goaltender.
However, Darling got off to a rocky start with some weak goals and inconsistent play. This opened the door for Ward, who has performed well enough to take over the starting role.
Still, neither seems to be the kind of No. 1 goaltender a playoff team needs to this point. Darling has a save percentage of .892 and a goals-against average of 3.06. Ward boasts better numbers at .910 and 2.67 respectively. They have two combined shutouts the whole season (both by Ward).
On Thursday night, Ward played well and earned his second shutout of the year. One of these two will need to step up to the challenge in order for the Canes to reach the playoffs.
Don’t hate the TSA
If Carolina is going to make their way into the playoffs, TSA will have to lead the offense. Carolina’s top line consists of Teuvo Teravainen, Jordan Staal and Sebastian Aho.
In the month of January, TSA has been involved in 19 of the 33 goals scored. 14 of those 19 goals were scored by Staal, Teravainen or Aho. When one of these three players records a point, the Hurricanes are 5-3-1 to start 2018. Two of those three losses were given by the top teams in the East, the Boston Bruins and Tampa Bay Lightning. The other was a heartbreaker to the respectable Washington Capitals with two seconds left in the third.
In seven of these nine games, the Canes have scored three or more goals. These two FINs and a CAN have to put up points for Carolina to succeed. TSA put up 29 points through 12 games in January.
Peters’ opportunity to establish himself
Bill Peters’ fourth year as head coach of the Hurricanes presents an opportunity he needs to take advantage of. The Canes don’t have the roster of a serious contender, but they have stuck around.
Peters’ puck-possession system is a great match for the Hurricanes because of their defensive core. However, his often-questionable lineup changes from period to period sometimes make things worse. The players thrive off chemistry, playing together night after night.
Peters has been trying to find the first line, but all the changes might be hurting the team more than helping. Peters committed to his lines for the first two games since the break and the team has won both.
If Peters can coach his team into the playoffs, it will have a lasting impact on his Hurricane legacy. First, he must find a way to deal without a the first line center this team so desperately needs.
The new owner of the Hurricanes has stepped in and already made some changes. In his short tenure with the Canes, Dundon has made an impression on the fans.
There are many who are excited with what Dundon has already done with fan experience. He has allowed fans to move down to the lower bowl, incorporated the Whalers and improved in-game audio and video.
There are a few season ticket holders who are upset because they are paying more for lower bowl tickets then those who get to move down. Yet, most fans are happy to have changes in the organization.
Recently Dundon offered fans at the Backyard Brawl lower bowl tickets for five dollars, something unheard of in professional sports these days. Dundon is truly trying to change the fan experience and support for the team. He is a welcome change for most Caniacs.
With Dundon taking over new ownership, the roster being young and filled with talent and fans more excited than ever, the Canes might be on their way to becoming an elite team in the NHL. This is an opportunity that needs to be taken as the market may decline should the Canes continue to lose.
Featured image from NHL.com/hurricanes.
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