Chicago Blackhawks Carolina Hurricanes Antti Raanta

The Carolina Hurricanes continued the best start in franchise history with a 6-3 win over the Chicago Blackhawks on Friday to move up to 7-0-0 this season. That leaves the Canes and Florida Panthers as the only two undefeated teams left in the league.

The victory also saw the Canes take first place in the Metropolitan Division standings, now ahead of the Washington Capitals by one point with a game short.

It was the first game Rod Brind’Amour used line-up changes, but they didn’t include Brendan Smith or Seth Jarvis, who could potentially see the action of the game on Sunday morning.

Who is it on the Net?

For the first time this season, the Canes had someone in the fold who was not Frederick Andersen. Antti Raanta earned his first victory as Carolina Hurricane, stopping 23 of 26 shots he faced in a game that was only competitive for about a period and a half.

His three goals conceded are a bit misleading. Only one of the goals came evenly, the first of the match. The other two have come on the Chicago power play, with the latter arriving in the third period after the game got out of hand. Even the tied goal would be difficult to score on Raanta. The goal was a landing shot into the crease directly in front of the net. It would have taken superhuman effort to keep the puck out of the net.

Much like Andersen, Raanta plays a fairly conservative style, much more conservative than the Petr Mrazek / Alex Nedeljkovic style that Canes fans are now used to. With the Blackhawks’ inferior offense, he hasn’t been forced to make soul stealing saves, and he’s proven he can play a competent game when called up. It would make sense for him to see more action in the coming weeks to give Andersen more free time with the increasingly busy schedule.

High power centers

The central depth of the rods really shone on Friday night. The game’s first four goals saw either center score or get an assist. The vision and playing ability of Sebastian Aho and Vincent Trocheck led to two of the night’s first three goals. The two were able to find open teammates in Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Tony DeAngelo, respectively, in open ice and open net.

Jordan Staal and Derek Stepan, meanwhile, used their physique to drive the net to create their goals. This shouldn’t really surprise anyone.

One of the biggest perks of this year’s roster is the extra flair in the wings. With Kotkaniemi and Teuvo Teravainen on the front row with Aho, there are more chances for odd rushes. Previously Aho and Teravainen had to be in the right place, now it just has to be one of the two. Kotkaniemi has shown he can finish there, something a top-six Brock McGinn could rarely do.

This extends to the roster with Andrei Svechnikov in the second row with Trocheck. He scored his seventh goal of the year on a play set up by Trocheck. The Canes have great crosses, but they’ve also surrounded all four crosses of players who can find the back of the net.

The best offense is a good defense

Not to be outdone from the attackers, the defenders also joined in the party. While DeAngelo was the only defender with a goal on the evening, Ian Cole also got his first point as a Hurricane last night. Ethan Bear and Jaccob Slavin also collected assists that night, which also means all defensemen have found the scoresheet with just seven games of the season.

On DeAngelo’s goal in the first half, he was low on the post when he received Trocheck’s pass to score. He had a huge impact on the rush by jumping and finishing as the target man for the goal. He’s not the only one doing it, almost in every position where there’s a defender jumping to try and create more chances.

This didn’t detract from the defensive aspect of the game. One of the perks of a player like Slavin is his ability to stop a reckless run on his own. In the third period, he stopped a three-on-one by hitting a puck in the air, but it’s something he does almost every possession. This ability is the reason the Canes can play Bear on the front row and give him the freedom to succeed he has.

This kind of play occurs to some extent on all three pairs, with Cole supporting DeAngelo and Pesce supporting Brady Skjei.

Nino Niederreiter injury

Niederreiter left the game in the third period with a non-contact injury when his skate appeared to catch an edge. In the post-match meeting with reporters, Rod Brind’Amour said he “could be out for a while”. It would be a big blow for the Canes as the line of Staal, Niederreiter and Jesper Fast was the most complete line of the team. Nino has also had a great start to the season with three goals in the first six games.

This could lead to some Brind’Amour scramble lines, which hopefully only change the last six of the lineup or could include a new addition from the healthy scratch pool.

Rookie Seth Jarvis was expected to have some time this weekend anyway, but it could increase the urgency of playing him. Jarvis has nine games at the NHL level before he needs to be sent back to the juniors, which could see the Hurricanes go until Nov. 20 without the Swiss forward. It might just be the chance he needs to impress the coaches.

Look ahead

The Canes have an intimidated Sunday morning against the Arizona Coyotes. While the Coyotes can be a basement team, the Canes’ biggest enemy is an afternoon game.

The Canes will likely put Andersen back in net and could mark Brendan Smith’s first appearance as well. However, it’s hard to say which defender should come out of the roster to make room for him. Aho and Svechnikov will enter the match in a seven-game streak with at least one point.



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