Take Warning because here come the Carolina Hurricanes. After being in the passenger seat due to the dominance of the New Jersey Devils, the tides have turned. Carolina has been clicking and firing on all cylinders. And after a dominant month of December, the Hurricanes are in the driver’s seat of the division. As it currently stands, they sit with 59 points, however, are only a handful of games up on their opponents. As fans celebrate the domination and the team continues to power the king, let’s take a look at what catapulted them to the top of the division.
The team was a juggernaut in the month of December. They went on an absurd 12-0-1 record and have not lost a regulation game dating back to November 23. In addition, their only loss came to the Anaheim Ducks. What they did as a team during this run was special. As a team, they scored 49 goals, and 10 of their wins in the month came when they scored first. That is the most wins by a team during a calendar month.
Carolina is one of the best defensive teams in all of hockey. Head Coach Rod Brind’Amour has brought structure from day one and continues to be a strength. The team allows the fewest shots on goal at 5v5 (714) and the fifth-fewest high-danger chances (306). Carolina also ranks second in goals against both at 5v5 and all situations. What was so special about this month was defensively, they were sound and averaged 26.4 shots against for the month of December (the fewest in the calendar month).
Carolina is clicking, and they do not make life easy for their opponents.
In addition to being one of the best defensive teams in hockey, they’ve been getting spectacular goaltending. Not to mention, they’ve done this without Frederik Andersen, who is still out due to injury. The job has been getting done by goaltenders Pyotr Kochetkov and Antti Raanta.
Kochetkov joins an elite list of Russian standout goaltenders in this league. While you have Igor Shesterkin (New York Rangers), Ilya Sorokin (New York Islanders), and Andrei Vasilevskiy (Tampa Bay Lightning), Kochetkov has made a case for himself. Overall he is 10-1-4 on the season, but in December, he went 7-0-1. He posted back-to-back shutout victories and sported a 1.63 GAA, and a .939 save percentage. He has been unreal in net and has given the fans a reason to cheer. In addition, he currently ranks 9th in GSAX (11.2) and first in HDSV% (.902).
His counterpart Raanta has done his part. The man went 5-0 and, like Kochetkov, had back-to-back shutout victories. After some tough performances in November, he bounced back this month. He would conclude the month of December with a 2.63 GAA and a .897 save percentage.
It remains to be seen what they do with Kochetkov, with Andersen potentially returning sooner than later. But there is no denying the duo they have in place is getting the job done between the pipes.
There is no denying who the impact players are on this team. The big guns in the top six are doing the bulk of the work. Andrei Svechnikov (32 points), Martin Necas (36 points), and Sebastian Aho (30 points) are key factors to the offensive game plan. However, depth is a testament to how good this team is and getting contributions elsewhere. To demonstrate this, journeymen Stefan Noesen sits fifth on the team with 20 points. Much deserved after dominating with the Chicago Wolves last season.
In the month of December alone, it isn’t the big guns that have contributed the most. Jordan Staal paved the way leading the team in goals (5) and points (10). Staal finished third with hits, and second is faceoff win percentage. The captain led by example, and his team followed suit. In addition, Jordan Martinook finishes second in points (9) and goals (4, tied with Svechnikov). The bottom six of the lineup helped take pressure off the top six, and in the end, that’s what good teams do and have. Jesper Fast and Jesperi Kotkaniemi we’re also the main point producers. Only six players who played more than two games with the club hadn’t scored goals.
Sebastian Aho was out hurt, and the team performed well without him. Now that this franchise center is back and played six games to conclude the month, an already dangerous team got that much more difficult.
All Statistics Cane from Natural Stat Trick
The Carolina Hurricanes are one of the best teams in hockey. They were still good and had a good record, but they finally clicked fully, which shows in their results. Reinforcements are on the way as off-season acquisition Max Pacioretty is close to returning. His elite sniper mentality is a beautiful injection to an already lethal top six. The team has continued their dominance as they started their road trip in the tri-state area with a shoutout victory over the New Jersey Devils. Carolina will look to build off this hot streak as they take on another division foe in, the New York Rangers.