82-0-0 is still on the table, folks (if they lose tonight, I take no blame).
The Carolina Hurricanes wrapped up a flawless first month of the season — with perhaps their sloppiest effort thus far — Sunday afternoon, with a late Brett Pesce power-play goal making the difference in a 2-1 win over the Arizona Coyotes. With the Florida Panthers suffering their first loss of the season to the Boston Bruins (in overtime), the Hurricanes are now the final remaining unbeaten team in the NHL.
There are some issues the team must overcome as the calendar turns to November, however, starting with the injury to one of the team’s most unheralded key contributors, Nino Niederreiter. His toughness in the dirty areas and goal-scoring ability as a power forward will certainly be missed. In this week’s News & Rumors, check out how the Hurricanes may plan on replacing him and more.
Jarvis Impresses in Debut; Is He Here to Stay?
The Hurricanes had carried a 13th forward all season, but with the team off to an unbeaten start, head coach Rod Brind’Amour had not tinkered with a winning lineup. That changed when Niederreiter went down, and 19-year-old Seth Jarvis made his NHL debut, sliding onto the fourth line and picking up an assist on Pesce’s late game-winning goal.
Pesce, along with many other Hurricanes players and coaches, have been impressed with Jarvis from training camp onward, stating publicly that the talented forward looks like he’s right at home in the NHL with his compete level and skill. (from “Hurricanes rookie Seth Jarvis makes his point early: He wants to stay on the roster,” The News & Observer, Nov. 1, 2021)
With Niederreiter reportedly set to miss a few weeks, the question of whether Jarvis will stay and burn a year off his entry-level contract or head back to the Portland Winterhawks of the Western Hockey League (WHL) comes into focus. The Hurricanes sitting him for the first eight games delayed their timeline on making that call, and Jarvis continuing to excel in his NHL opportunities will surely play a factor. If he continues to showcase the same confidence he did in his first game, where he made at least three plays that directly led to Grade-A chances, the decision may become a bit easier.
Brind’Amour Heavily Juggles Lines
As the team continues to adjust to losing a key player, Brind’Amour threw his lines into a blender at practice on Tuesday ahead of their rematch with the Chicago Blackhawks.
The head coach is clearly prioritizing the development of Jarvis over throwing him into the fire with top-nine minutes. Instead, Jordan Martinook will move from the fourth line to play alongside Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen, a role he is not unfamiliar with. Martinook has had some success in the past on the top line creating space and causing chaos in the offensive zone, although you obviously sacrifice some skill when he is moved up the lineup. Nevertheless, if Jarvis continues to create chances at the rate he did in his debut, it seems only a matter of time until he is the one forcing his way into more playing time with the high-end skill in the Carolina top six.
In addition, Jesperi Kotkaniemi is sliding down into Niederreiter’s slot alongside the captain, Jordan Staal. The young Finn has played a heavy game himself this season, showing the ability to work in the corners and initiate contact, so the move makes sense on a unit that has arguably been the Hurricanes’ most consistent this season. Along with his two goals and three points, Kotkaniemi has played a role in at least three other goals this season with his net driving and screens. Although it hasn’t shown up a ton on the scoresheet, the offer sheet acquisition has played a big role in the Hurricanes success thus far.
Related: Hurricanes Roundtable: Jarvis, Raanta & A Franchise Record?
Finally, Martin Necas had perhaps his breakout game after a slow start, so putting him with arguably the team’s hottest player in Andrei Svechnikov is a fascinating move. The two have shown chemistry in the past and should feed off each other for some highlight-reel plays alongside the talented veteran in Vincent Trocheck. That line will be a load to deal with.
Andersen Named NHL’s Third Star of the Month
As the Hurricanes roared to their flawless month, one of the biggest storylines was just how superb free-agent goaltender Frederik Andersen had been. The Danish goaltender has already set the record for most consecutive wins to begin a career for the team, and, per Natural Stat Trick, his all-strengths Goals Saved Above Average (GSAA) of 8.65 leads the league.
On Tuesday, Andersen was named the league’s third star of the month for October, with his sparkling 7-0-0 record, 1.29 goals-against average (GAA), and .956 save percentage (SV%). Connor McDavid and Alexander Ovechkin were the other two stars.
Andersen has seen his numbers dip in recent seasons and many outside the organization questioned the move to trade homegrown goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic after he was a Calder Finalist last season. While one month may not necessarily justify the decision for all the doubters, surely many are beginning to understand what the front office saw in the big, veteran goaltender. Having Andersen’s calm, steady presence behind their talented defense has gone a long way for the team — and the player — so far.
Up Next for the Carolina Hurricanes
The Hurricanes have hit a calm portion of the schedule, albeit on the road, with two off days in between each of their first three games of November. After Chicago, they’ll head to Florida to take on the 8-0-1 Panthers on Saturday. Then it’s on to Tampa Bay for a Tuesday-night showdown and playoff rematch against the Stanley Cup champion Lightning next Tuesday. Two of the team’s biggest tests of the season so far are on deck, so we should learn a lot more about this team this week.