The Carolina Hurricanes have wrapped up a flawless month with an 8-0-0 record in October, capped off by a 2-1 victory over the Arizona Coyotes on Halloween afternoon. Despite being winless through their first eight games, the ‘Yotes put together an impressive performance led by goaltender Karel Vejmelka, who had a standout game.
As for the Hurricanes, it wasn’t the strongest effort from the group, but it’s tough to have any real complaints considering this was their third game in four days, and they won all three. Top prospect Seth Jarvis also made his NHL debut and secured his first point — an assist on Brett Pesce’s late game-winning goal. With another two points in the standings, here are the takeaways from the game.
Martin Necas Shows Up
Coming into the game, Martin Necas was sitting on just two points (zero goals) through seven games, plagued by inconsistent play and brutal puck luck. But things changed for him on Sunday, and he received first star honors after a brilliant game. He scored his first goal of the season off an absolute rocket of a slap shot from a set-up play on an offensive zone draw and later provided the game-winning assist on Pesce’s goal on the power play with less than three minutes to go in the game.
Despite a relatively uneventful game for the Hurricanes, hopefully, it will jump-start the season for Necas, who will be relied on to be a key contributor. He’s shown his skills over the past few seasons after being drafted in the first round in 2017, and at age 22, he’s on the verge of realizing his superstar-level talent. With Nino Niederreiter expected to miss the next few weeks due to injury, the team will need consistent production from the Czech youngster, who will be a restricted free agent for the first time after the season. The biggest concern has been consistency, but he continues to prove that when he’s dialed in, he can arguably be the best player on the ice.
Andersen & Vejmelka Goaltending Duel
Frederik Andersen continued his picture-perfect start to his Hurricanes career, with a 7-0-0 record in the crease and nine goals allowed on 205 shots. His seven wins lead the NHL (among qualified goalies), as does his 1.28 goals-against average (GAA) and .956 save percentage (SV%). He’s shown fantastic movement, poise, and desperation save ability throughout, and it’s increasingly evident why the team opted to move on from Alex Nedeljkovic in favor of a veteran goaltender. They’ve received consistently phenomenal netminding, with a much calmer, safer, and composed presence in their crease.
The duo of Andersen and Antti Raanta has been superb thus far, with a flawless record and averaging 1.5 goals against per game. The structure of head coach Rod Brind’Amour’s game plan and the team’s defensive depth has a lot to do with the success of the goaltending, but there is no denying how good both netminders have been. Before the season, I expected Raanta to run away with the starting role, and while we haven’t seen him at his best yet (he’s only started one game), I still love his upside and the upside of the tandem as a whole.
At the opposite end, I have to give props to Vejmelka, who was a stud for the Coyotes. The Hurricanes have a habit of making unknown goaltenders look like Vezina Trophy candidates, but I was impressed with him. His confidence was evident; he moved very well and made some highlight-reel saves. He was the only reason his team had a chance to win the game. He stood on his head and, at only 25 years old, looks to have a bright future if he can string together more performances like this one.
Hurricanes’ Penalty Kill Dominant Once Again
As the saying goes, special teams win games, and that’s been evident for the Hurricanes. While the power play has looked average and struggled at times, it ranks fourth in the NHL with a 29.6% conversion rate. On the other side, the penalty kill ranks sixth with an 87.9% suppression rate, and it’s been a real bright spot throughout the first month of the season. Against the Coyotes, they killed off all three penalties and gave up few dangerous scoring opportunities.
After losing — arguably — their most valuable penalty killer in Brock McGinn to the Pittsburgh Penguins during the offseason, some questioned if the team could repeat the same success short-handed that they’ve enjoyed over the past few seasons. So far, the group has been up to the task, with Necas and Jesper Fast taking on a more prominent role with success. Defensively, Ethan Bear has been outstanding on the kill, playing over 20 minutes across eight games without surrendering a goal. Meanwhile, Jaccob Slavin has played 33 minutes and given up just one goal and continues to be one of the best in the league at shutting down the opposition’s power play.
What’s Next For The Hurricanes?
The Hurricanes have just two games scheduled this week: an 8:30 PM puck drop on the road against the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday, followed by an odd 6 PM game against the Florida Panthers, who lost their first game to the Boston Bruins in overtime over the weekend, on Saturday. The latter should be a fantastic game, and who knows, it could be a potential playoff preview. Both teams have been off to impeccable starts, even if the Hurricanes are the only remaining team with an unblemished record.
Carolina Hurricanes writer. 23 years old. Ottawa, Canada. Prospect geek, hockey nerd.