Carolina Hurricanes: Five reasons for the recent hot streak

RALEIGH, NC - JANUARY 04: Players of the Carolina Hurricanes participate in their Storm Surge celebration following an NHL game against the Columbus Blue Jackets on January 4, 2019 at PNC Arena in Raleigh, North Carolina. (Photo by Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images)
RALEIGH, NC - JANUARY 04: Players of the Carolina Hurricanes participate in their Storm Surge celebration following an NHL game against the Columbus Blue Jackets on January 4, 2019 at PNC Arena in Raleigh, North Carolina. (Photo by Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images) /

The Carolina Hurricanes’ recent streak of seven wins in eight games has boosted the team’s playoff hopes and rejuvenated a fan base starved for the postseason. Here’s a look at the five biggest reasons for the team’s improved play.

It wasn’t that long ago the fans of the Carolina Hurricanes were worried about missing the playoffs for an NHL-record 10th consecutive season. Fast forward a couple of weeks, and those same fans are now daring to dream of post-season hockey for the first time in a decade – but exactly how has this team turned things around under Head Coach Rod Brind’Amour?

The stars are shining

Sebastian Aho is arguably the team’s only true star player, and he has been sizzling as of late. Aho has scored at least one point in five of the last eight games, tallying six goals and six assists, and notched his second career hat-trick in the 6-3 win over Nashville on Sunday.

Teuvo Teravainen and Justin Williams are among the team’s best players and have also been hot. Williams, leading by example as team captain, has scored goals in five straight games, matching his career high, and has six goals and an assist in his last eight games. Teravainen chipped in two goals and seven assists during this stretch.

For any team to achieve its potential, the best players must lead the way, and the Carolina Hurricanes’ best players are doing exactly that right now.

Fighting Ferland provides spark

Micheal Ferland, who many considered a throw-in in the offseason trade with Calgary for Dougie Hamilton, has rounded into form after missing seven games with two different injuries in December. He was perhaps the team’s most impressive player in the 3-1 loss to Tampa Bay on Jan. 10, recording a team-high five hits and bringing a physicality the team needs and often lacks.

Coach Rod Brind’Amour rewarded Ferland by pairing him with Aho and Teravainen in the next game, and he responded with a goal and two helpers in the win over Buffalo. He then followed that up with two more assists against Nashville, including a nifty backwards pass to Aho. But his biggest contribution in the win over the Predators occurred in the first period, when he decked Nashville’s Austin Watson with an uppercut to the chin during an early tete-a-tete. That bout set the tone for the home crowd and really lifted the team early doors:

"““That’s old-school right there,” Brind’Amour said. ‘That really set the tone for our group.”"

Special teams are finally special

Special teams is always a factor, and the Carolina Hurricanes are improving in both facets of the power play. During this stretch, they have scored seven power play goals in 23 opportunities for a conversion rate of 30.4%, more than twice their season rate of 14.6 percent over the first 37 games. Defensively, they have stopped 24 of 30 power play chances for a kill rate of 80.0 percent, which is right at the league average.

What is disconcerting is the number of penalties the team is committing. Giving teams four and five power play chances per game is eventually going to catch up to them, as it did in the 3-1 loss at Tampa Bay when the Lightning turned both of the Canes third-period penalties into goals in a game the team otherwise dominated.

Spreading the wealth

The Carolina Hurricanes are getting contributions from every line as well as the defense. In the 6-3 win over Nashville on Sunday, 11 different skaters had at least a point. A similar story unfolded in victories over the New York Islanders on Jan. 8 and Columbus on Jan. 4 when nine players put their names on the stat sheet with either a goal or an assist.

The team is also getting offense from its defense. Carolina’s highest paid players are almost all defensemen, and they are starting to show why. In a 5-4 win over Ottawa on Jan. 6 Justin Faulk, Jaccob Slavin and Hamilton scored goals. Four different defenders tallied assists in Sunday’s win over the Preds. It’s been a long time coming, but the team’s defense has woken up offensively.

Call-ups contributing

The Charlotte-Raleigh shuttle has been operating with alarming frequency, as several players have shuttled back and forth along I-40 and I-85. Injuries to regulars Jordan Staal, Ferland and Clark Bishop and a long stint by Victor Rask on the injured list to start the season provided opportunities for young players.

The earlier additions provided mixed results. Bishop scored only one goal and had two assists in 20 games before his injury and Phil Di Giuseppe, who may have made the opening roster only because of Rask’s injury, contributed one goal and three assists in 21 games before earning his release via waivers.

The players added to the roster lately have contributed. Journeyman Gregg McKegg brings a lot of energy and added two goals and two assists in his first six games since being called up on Jan. 4. Saku Maenalanen has added two goals and a helper in eight games, providing much more production than the oft-maligned Di Giuseppe.

Should Hurricanes be buyers or sellers in trade market?. dark. Next

The recent hot streak has gotten the Carolina Hurricanes into the playoff discussion and re-ignited the fan base. Other than the home opener, the team has surpassed 15,000 fans only six times in the other 23 home dates. All of these have occurred within the past three weeks, and the team emerged victorious in five of the six games. The team should, in theory, be able to continue this form as we head towards the All-Star Game break and if the Canes are still winning, then the playoffs will be in sight.