The Carolina Hurricanes entered this season as a Stanley Cup favorite, and through the first seven games, they are 3-4-0 and have dropped three straight games; most recently, they lost last night to the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-0, and they currently sit in fifth place in the Metropolitan Division. So, what is wrong with the Hurricanes, and why are they currently struggling?
It’s not the scoring; last season, they finished 15th in the league in scoring with 266 goals and averaged 3.2 goals per game; this season, the offense has been better out of the gate as they have scored 28 goals in the first seven games to average four goals a game and are currently second in all of hockey in goals score. The scoring is up despite the Hurricanes being with Sebastian Aho for three games and Andrei Svechnikov for all seven games. So what could it be?
The Goaltending hasn’t changed, with Carolina retaining Frederik Andersen and Antti Raanta in the offseason to be their netminders again for 2023-24, and they also still have 24-year-old Pyotr Kochetkov. Last season, the Hurricanes finished second in the league in goals against with 213, which was a 2.6 goals against per game; this season, through seven games, they’ve allowed 4.7 goals per game, and that ranks 32nd, which is the worst in all of hockey. Last season, Frederik Andersen finished with a .927 save percentage and a 1.83 GAA, Raanta finished with a .909 save percentage and a 2.48 GAA, and Kochetkov finished with a .818 save percentage and a 6.14 GAA. In 2023, those numbers are drastically different so far, as Andersen currently has a .855 save percentage and a 4.14 GAA, Raanta has a .818 save percentage and a 4.41 GAA, and Kochetkov has a .838 save percentage and a 4.33 GAA; all three Carolina goalies have a goals against average over 4, that’s not the numbers that are going to win you game let alone a Stanley Cup.
Defense Affecting Goaltending
So what happened on the blue line to change the goalies? Carolina added some offensive defensemen to their roster in the offseason as they went out and added Dmitry Orlov and Tony DeAngelo to try to beef up their blue line. Last season, Orlov played in 66 games between the Washington Capitals and Boston Bruins, and he finished as a +12, while DeAngelo last season for the Philadelphia Flyers was a -27. This season, Orlov and DeAngelo have two of the three worst plus/minus on the team, as Orlov is a team-worst -11, and DeAngelo is third worst on the team with a -6. The thought behind adding both players was to add offense, but they are barely doing that, as Orlov has two points and DeAngelo has three in the first seven games.
Currently, Orlov and DeAngelo are on the same blue line as they are the third pairing, and ironically, they are the only two defensemen to be a minus on the team. The current line combinations are Jaccob Slavin and Brent Burns on the first pairing and Brady Skjei and Jalen Chatfield/Dylan Coghlan (normally Brett Pesce, but he’s injured) on the second pairing. During practice, the change was made this morning as Skjei was skating alongside DeAngelo, and Chatfield/Coughlan were skating with Orlov.
The Hurricanes have to do something, and soon before things potentially get worse during their three-game losing streak, they have been outscored 16-8, and coming up, they have some winnable games as they face the Seattle Kraken who just beat them 7-4 last Thursday, the San Jose Sharks who they beat 6-3 on the 17th, and the Philadelphia Flyers who are currently in third in the Metropolitan Division thanks to a surprisingly hot start. Those three games may be the games to try something different out and see if things can turn around before things get worse.