Canes back in action
The Carolina Hurricanes opened the season against the New York Islanders and play the Isles again Sunday.
The Canes are 6-3-1 in their first 10 games and second in the Metropolitan Division with 13 points after their 4-3 shootout win over the San Jose Sharks on Friday. The overtime loss? To the Islanders in that Oct. 4 game at PNC Arena.
So what do we know now about the Canes that we didn’t know on opening night?
“I know what we’re going to get as far as the level of play from the guys,” Canes coach Rod Brind’Amour said Saturday. “Game one, there was five rookies in there and I was like, ‘I don’t know, we’ll see.’
“They make mistakes but they don’t feel like rookie mistakes. They feel, I feel, pretty comfortable. And I think (with) our system everybody is pretty much on page with what we’re trying to do. The question marks aren’t there anymore.”
Here’s what else we’ve learned:
Postgames can be fun
Remember when the Canes would line up to congratulate their goalie after a home win? One by one, they’d amble up and helmet-tap the goalie.
Nice, but also a bit boring. No more. The Canes are leaping onto the glass, or sliding across the ice in “kayaking,” as they did Friday after rallying to beat the Sharks.
Some cynics might call it showboating, but the Canes disagree.
“We’re not trying to disrespect anybody or any team,” forward Brock McGinn said Saturday. “It’s just something to incorporate some fun with the fans after a win. I think they really enjoy it, and so do we.”
No slow start for Aho
The Finnish center was determined to have a better October than in his first two seasons in the NHL. Check that one off.
Ten games played, 10 games with at least a point — that’s Sebastian Aho’s answer. In franchise history, only Ron Francis had a better streak to start a season, with a point in each of the first 11 games for the Hartford Whalers in October 1984.
Ferland is a good fit
Many assumed Micheal Ferland’s biggest asset in his first year with the Canes would be his straight-up toughness, and it may be. But the winger, playing on a line with Aho and Teuvo Teravainen, has a team-leading six goals and added four assists in the first 10 games.
Ferland had 21 goals for the Calgary Flames last season. He might have a new career-high for the Canes.
Brind’Amour may have (more) gray hairs
Brind’Amour, in his first year as head coach, remains a workaholic with little down time. He has a few gray hairs now and expects more, saying, “I’m getting a lot older, quicker.”
He said he needs to find more time for sleep and other mental breaks, saying, “Your mind never shuts off.”
McElhinney did the job
If Curtis McElhinney never plays another game for Carolina, the veteran goalie has done exactly what the Canes hoped he would do.
When Scott Darling was injured just before the season began, McElhinney was claimed on waivers from the Toronto Maple Leafs. Stepping in quickly, he has given the Canes three victories in four starts and teamed well with goaltending partner Petr Mrazek.
Darling is back and McElhinney may soon be gone, although that’s not a given yet. But if so, it was a job well done.
No wholesale changes yet
Brind’Amour has made very few changes to his lineup, lines or defensive pairings in the first 10 games. He didn’t like that when he was a player and still believes that as a coach.
“I hated when a coach would come in after a period or two and be like ‘We’re changing that’ because we had a couple of bad shifts,” he said Saturday. “Usually I felt like, if you trust your guys, they can work their way out of it.”
Brind’Amour said there could be times when things go stale and there’s a need to change, adding, “I really don’t like to do that if I don’t have to.”
Patience with Svechnikov
While rookie center Martin Necas was dispatched after seven games — and his first NHL goal — to the AHL’s Charlotte Checkers for development, the Canes must allow first-round pick Andrei Svechnikov to play and learn on the fly.
The Russian forward had two goals and two assists in his first four games but has gone without a point in the past six and has a few careless penalties. But the size, power and speed is apparent, and Brind’Amour will be patient with him.
Special teams struggles
The Canes allowed another two power-play goals Friday against the Sharks and now are 4-for-35 on their power plays. Enough said?
There’s enough skill to have a better power play but the P.K. may take a little more time, finding the right mix of penalty killers.