In the first game of the month, the Carolina Hurricanes could not have started off hotter as they blew out the struggling Detroit Red Wings 7-3, but this momentum would not continue through their next couple of games. They would lose their next four games: two at home vs. the New Jersey Devils and the New York Rangers and two on the road vs. the Philadelphia Flyers and the Ottawa Senators.
Despite a horrific 1-4-0 start to the month of November, Hurricanes once again showed their resiliency and bounced back from that rough start to finish the month above .500.
On Nov. 11, the Hurricanes started their bounce back from that terrible stretch with a revengeful and dominating 8-2 win vs. the Senators. This win would be the start of a four-game winning streak and a 7-3-0 stretch that concluded November for the Hurricanes. So, how were they able to turnaround their play in November and make it a successful month?
Reasons for Recent Success
Increased Offensive Production
During their 1-4-0 start to the month, the Hurricanes only averaged 2.8 goals per game. In their 7-3-0 stretch, Carolina averaged 3.3 goals per game. A half of a goal difference might not seem like a lot, but in a game like hockey where goals come at a minimum, a half of a goal is a massive difference and can determine who wins and loses. In five out of the seven games that they have emerged victorious during this 10-game stretch, they scored four goals. In contrast, during their 1-4-0 stretch, the offense was only able to put more than three goals on the scoreboard once and that was the sole game that they won.
Especially for a team like the Hurricanes who have two solid – but vulnerable – goalies, scoring goals is essential to them winning. Carolina does not have the luxury of being able to score two goals and easily winning and this past month has proven that. The Hurricanes won only one game in November when scoring less than three goals and that a game vs. the worst team in the whole NHL: the Detroit Red Wings. An increase in offense has and will be essential to the Hurricanes making another run like last year’s performance.
One player’s increase of production, in particular, has helped the Hurricanes win seven out of their last 10 games: Sebastian Aho. After being stagnant on the offensive side for most of the season, Aho had a huge November. He had a total of 16 points during a month that only consisted of 15 games, recording 10 goals and six assists. In their impressive 7-3-0 stretch, Aho recorded seven goals and four assists to average over a point a game. He now leads the team with 13 goals and is tied for third on the team in plus/minus at plus-nine. Aho’s offensive production is essential to this team making the jump to an elite team.
Aho’s success might be coming from a line change implemented by head coach Rod Brind’Amour. Aho is now playing along Andrei Svechnikov and Teuvo Teravainen, so these two players are allowing Aho to get more quality scoring chances and he has been capitalizing.
In the Hurricanes’ first six victories of the season, they scored the first goal in five out of those six games. The correlation between scoring first and winning the game has continued throughout the month of November. During their seven wins in their last 10 games, they have scored the first goal in five of those seven. On the other side, in their three losses, they gave up the first goal in two of those three games.
During the 1-4-0 start to the month, the Hurricanes scored first in their sole win and they gave up the first goal in three out of those four losses. It might sound simple, but scoring first more often than not means that the Hurricanes will win the game. Carolina’s ability to start the game off on the right foot has allowed them to turn this once seemingly forsaken month, into a successful one.
James Reimer’s Improved Play
James Reimer, the Hurricanes’ backup goalie whom they acquired from the Florida Panthers during the offseason for Scott Darling and a draft pick, has improved his play after starting off his campaign as a Hurricane on the wrong foot.
He’s 3-0-0 in his last three starts. In that stretch, he has given up only five goals and he has averaged a .954 save percentage (SV%). He recorded his first shutout in a Hurricanes’ jersey (22nd of his career) in a 2-0 win vs. the Red Wings. He is coming off a performance in which he had 32 saves in a critical 3-2 win at the Tampa Bay Lightning. These past three games have allowed him to gain confidence and to get comfortable in the Hurricanes system.
“Just competing. I lost a couple in a row, but I felt that, for the most part, I was playing pretty good. Eventually, things turn and bounces start going your way,” Reimer said in an NHL interview on Saturday. “We’re just working hard as a team. You deserve wins like this when you battle as hard as we did. Everyone sacrificed.”
Making saves like the one above shows that he has confidence. If he can get back to playing like he used to while he was succeeding with the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Hurricanes can become a scary team. Reimer now is 5-4-0 on the season with a .915 SV% and a 2.64 goals against average (GAA). At the beginning of the season, Reimer was expected to remain the backup goalie for the duration of the season, but he is making the race between him and Mrazek much closer than fans expected.
Coming off a huge win in Tampa Bay, the Hurricanes have one of their toughest challenges on the season up ahead. They will travel to Boston and take on the Bruins at the TD Garden. To continue their recent success, they will need to get on the scoreboard first and Aho will have to continue to make an impact.