4 Hurricanes’ X-Factors for Round 3 Series vs. Panthers

The Carolina Hurricanes are in the Eastern Conference Finals for the second time in five years, and head coach Rod Brind’Amour has helped his roster make magic. With three players from their top-six forward group out with injuries, it’s been a true team effort to reach this point.

Jesperi Kotkaniemi Carolina Hurricanes
Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Carolina Hurricanes (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

The Florida Panthers will be their toughest challenge yet. The Hurricanes’ defenders will have their hands full but can also create scoring chances at will. Several things will need to work in their favor to punch their ticket to the 2023 Stanley Cup Final. These are the team’s most important x-factors.

Teravainen Return on the Horizon

Teuvo Teravainen suffered a hand injury in Game 2 of the Round 1 series against the New York Islanders. He has been out ever since but was recently spotted at practice wearing a regular jersey.

Walt Ruff Twitter (Hurricanes Beat Writer)

Teravainen will be good to go for Game 1 against the Panthers on Thursday. Expect him to plug into one of the top two lines. The team has rallied together in his absence, but his return will be a huge boost to morale. Two of the Hurricanes’ depth players, Jordan Martinook and Jesper Fast are second and third in team points with 10 and 8 (respectively), but Teravainen will add more offense to the lineup, as long as there are no lingering issues with his hand. They need him to be healthy and ready to contribute, to have a better chance of outscoring Florida.

Andersen Continues Playoff Domination

Despite the injuries and struggles that Frederik Andersen suffered through in the regular season, he’s been lights out in the playoffs, sporting a .931 save percentage (SV%) and 1.80 goals-against average (GAA). He is even outperforming his career average of a .921 SV% and a 1.89 GAA in the 2023 Playoffs.

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Andersen allowed four goals in their Game 3 loss to the New Jersey Devils. In the other five games he’s played, he allowed only one goal in four of them and two goals in Game 5 against the Devils. His SV% hasn’t been lower than .931 for every game he’s won in the postseason. If anyone from the Hurricanes wins the Conn Smythe Trophy, it will be Andersen.

Hurricanes’ Penalty Kill

The Hurricanes have killed 27 of 30 penalties for a 90% efficiency rate, which ranks first among all playoff teams. They had the second-best penalty kill in the regular season.

Rod Brind'Amour Carolina Hurricanes
Rod Brind’Amour, Head Coach of the Carolina Hurricanes (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Carolina has also allowed the second-fewest goals against per game in the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs with 2.55. Brind’Amour’s team has bought into his system, and it has been effective. Special teams can sway momentum in a series; a timely goal or a successful penalty kill can be the difference. We will see tonight how effective the Hurricanes’ special teams will match against the best offense they have faced yet.

Kotkaniemi Heats Up

Jesperi Kotkaniemi came alive in the Round 2 series versus the Devils, earning five of his six postseason points. The Hurricanes have had consistent production from Sebastian Aho, Jordan Martinook, and Jesper Fast this postseason, but they will need Kotkaniemi to continue his hot streak to beat the Panthers.

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Both clubs are rested after reaching the Conference Final in five games. These teams are fast, play hard, and give 100% effort every game. Depth scoring, the return of a top-6 forward, and the stellar play of Andersen and their special teams will give the Hurricanes the upper hand against the Panthers.