The Carolina Hurricanes 2021-22 season ended this past Monday night following a disappointing game 7 loss to the New York Rangers. Carolina finally fell at home after winning their first seven home games of the playoffs, a feat that was needed to advance this far due to their 0-6 road playoff record heading into game 7. Despite the underwhelming finish, the Canes’ 2021-22 campaign was arguably their most successful season since the 2006 Stanley Cup championship team. The Canes finished the regular season with a franchise record of 54 wins and captured their first Metropolitan Division Title while clinching a playoff berth for the fourth straight season.
Coming into the season, the Hurricanes had many questions to answer, the biggest question mark being in the net. All three goalies with significant playing time in 2020-21 saw their time in Raleigh come to a close. James Reimer and Petr Mrazek left in free agency, and Alex Nedeljkovic was traded to the Detroit Red Wings. Carolina didn’t have an empty net for long, utilizing a free agency to fill the gap with the signings of Frederik Andersen and Antti Raanta.
Dominant Defense Leads Canes to Metropolitan Division Title
Andersen and Raanta both had excellent seasons that helped anchor one of the best defenses in the NHL. The Canes led the NHL in several key defensive statistics including goals allowed and penalty kill percentage (88%). Carolina had a much different look defensively this season.
After seeing Dougie Hamilton leave in free agency and trading Jake Bean to the Columbus Blue Jackets, they added Ian Cole, Ethan Bear, Tony DeAngelo and Brendan Smith in the offseason. Even with the massive roster turnover since the beginning of the 2018-19 season the Canes have developed a culture of stifling defense over their four-year playoff run.
Canes Had Luxury of Depth
Despite many of the Canes players missing time due to Covid protocols or injuries, they never seemed to skip a beat on the way to clinching the Metropolitan Division crown. This was a result of the impressive depth they had this season thanks to solid play by many key returners as well as key additions from free agency and trades. Sebastian Aho rounded into form leading the team with 37 goals, 44 assists and 81 points. Andre Svechnikov and Teuvo Teravainen were also key contributors at the forward position with 69 and 65 points respectively. Veteran forwards Vincent Trocheck and Nico Niederreiter each had solid seasons on the second and third lines for Carolina. Rookie forward Seth Jarvis showed a lot of promise throughout his rookie campaign and led all rookies through the first two rounds of the postseason with three goals and eight points.
One disappointment this season was the play of forward Jesperi Kotkaniemi. He signed an eight-year contract extension in March worth around 4.82 million per season through the 2029-30. Kotkaniemi finished the regular season with 12 goals and 17 assists in 69 games played. If the Canes lose a few pieces this offseason it will be important for Kotkaniemi to step up and assume a bigger role with the team. His role with the team will be a big storyline heading into the 2022-23 season.
Road Playoff Struggles
The Canes had home-ice advantage in the first two rounds thanks to a higher finish in the season standings, without it they wouldn’t have made it out of the first round let alone to Game 7 of the second round. Carolina was 0-6 on the road in the playoffs in large part to an inability to stay out of the penalty box and terrible special teams play away from PNC Arena. Missing All-Star goalie Frederik Andersen for the entirety of the playoffs was another bad break that didn’t help. Unfortunately, the Canes carried some of these bad habits into Game 7 and found themselves down 0-2 to the Rangers after two early power-play goals from New York. The Rangers added to their lead in the second period and Carolina could not overcome the deficit, falling by a final score of 6-2.
On top of the special teams issues that plagued Carolina all postseason the team had issues getting quality shots on goal and converting on solid scoring chances. After the Game 7 loss, Canes’ Head Coach Rod Brind’Amour talked about whether his team was missing some offensive firepower needed to make a deeper run.
Canes Look to Contend in 2022-2023
After four straight playoff appearances, the Carolina Hurricanes will enter the 2022-23 season looking for more. Rod Brind’Amour and company will be looking to contend for the Stanley Cup in his fifth season at the helm of the team he captained to a Stanley Cup championship in 2006. With postseason moves on the horizon, it will be key for the organization to push all the right buttons again this offseason. Hurricanes president and general manager Don Waddell will need to work his magic again this offseason, hopefully, for Canes faithful, that will include pursuing an elite goal scorer. Brady Skjei gave the Hurricanes faithful plenty to look forward to with a look towards the future of the organization at his end-of-season press conference.
Growing up a huge sports fan Mack has always had a passion for writing about sports. The Water Valley, MS native covers the Carolina Hurricanes for THW. A graduate of the University of Mississippi, Mack also enjoys running and playing golf. Follow him on twitter @MackGordon0