Pardon the optimism but I think it has been eight years since we have had this much excitement surrounding the Hurricanes. Since the Canes erased a five goal deficit to win on December 13, they have been 10-5. This combined with their solid home record; we are in uncharted territory for this decade. What has caused this change? What is so different than in the years past? Is it as simple as solid goaltending, strong defense, ability to score when needed, and good coaching? Seems too good to be true. There has to be more to it than a team playing good hockey, so Raleigh City Sports is here to investigate.
Investigation 1: New Freon System
As many know, on December 19th the PNC Arena encountered a compressor issue in their system that keeps the ice cool. As a result, the game against the Red Wings was postponed that evening. The Hurricanes took a lot of heat for the issue which makes one wonder if they put extra effort in making sure the playing surface was in perfect shape to quell any concerns. Think about it, smoother ice should equal more predictable play which should make Goalie Cam Ward play/see the puck better. It’s just science.
In the seven home game since ‘Icegate’ (just a original name we came up with), Cam Ward has posted a save percentage of .915 . This is exactly in line with his season average. It is important to note Cam is playing at a level just below his career best of .923 in the 2010-2011 season. Due to Cam’s play not improving (but not getting worse people) since the ice issue then the Hurricanes solid play can’t be attributed to the beefed up cooling system.
Side note: Ice conditions were fine when the Canes practiced that morning but somewhere conditions collapsed when the Red Wings got to town? Given the history between the two teams I found it very interesting this happened with this team.
Investigation 2: “Raleighwood” Hats
Throughout the season many Hurricanes players have been wearing “Raleighwood” hats. They are pretty sick hats, which got me thinking: Are these lucky hats?
We conducted a thorough Google search and found these hats are made by a friend of Justin Faulk. Do these hats allow the defense to play at a higher level? They definitely make them look badass.
Considering our blue line core is the same as last season we did a quick comparison:
|Goals Allowed/Games Played||2.70 (18th)||2.63 (15th)|
|Penalty Kill %||84.3 (6th)||88.7% (1st)|
|Shots Allowed/Games Played||27.6 (5th)||27.6 (4th)|
Taking a look at the table the Canes are playing about the same as last year in two of the three categories. The penalty kill is a lot better which has helped in tight games. I don’t know guys but I don’t think we can rule out these hats!
Investigation 3: Mike Maniscalco on TV
This season saw the addition of Mike Maniscalco to our TV sets as part of the Fox Sports Carolina crew. While Mike is a staple in the Carolina Hurricanes community, it is interesting that since he has been shown in HD the Canes offense has improved drastically.
— Mike Maniscalco (@mikemaniscalco) January 14, 2017
This offseason General Manager Ron Francis added scoring depth with the additions of Lee Stempniak and Tuevo Teravainen. The consistent play of Jordan Staal, Jeff Skinner, and Victor Rask – combined with the emergence of Sebastian Aho and Derek Ryan – has lead to more scoring opportunities. In 2015-2016, the Canes averaged 2.39 goals a game which put them towards the back of the league in 27th . This year the Canes are averaging 2.77 goals a game which puts them in 11th. A lot of credit needs to go to Francis and Bill Peters coaching staff, but ya know…Mike Maniscalco on TV.
The success so far probably can not be attributed to fancy machines, hats, or hockey TV talent. In the end it is simple, the team’s performance is based on solid all-around hockey. Everybody is chipping in and doing the small things to be able to compete game in and game out.
There is a lot of hockey left in the season and the next four games are crucial with Washington, Pittsburgh, and Columbus on tap. If this team can scrap together two wins in this stretch then they’ll be in good shape. That being said, just to be sure we should get Mike Maniscalco in one of those “Raleighwood” hats.