Andrei Svechnikov’s hot start could foreshadow a massive bounce-back season.
With two games in the books, the Carolina Hurricanes’ quest for 82-0 is still alive.
Andrei Svechnikov’s quest for a 123-goal season is also alive, and there’s been a lot to like from Carolina’s young star in the early days of his franchise-record contract extension after what was widely considered a disappointing 2021 season.
His power move to the front of the net broke the ice for the Canes on opening night, and his go-ahead snipe late in the third period against the Predators paved the way for a 3-2 win after his ugly center-ice turnover led to the game-tying goal.
“That’s going to happen, those kinds of plays,” said Rod Brind’Amour after Saturday’s game. “But he’s a game-changer. He had the turnover, obviously, but he got it back. He has that ability. That’s why he’s special.”
Svechnikov has been a 5-on-5 demon through the team’s first two games. He leads all Carolina forwards in corsi share, expected goal share, on-ice scoring chances, and only Jordan Staal has gotten more 5-on-5 ice time. He also has a team-leading 11 shots on goal in all situations.
If the early returns are a sign of things to come, it certainly looks like his confidence is back where you’d expect it to be. He’s been an offensive force. That, combined with a bit of luck, could make for a season to remember.
“You want to work hard and show your best performance,” Svechnikov said on Saturday. “Last year, I felt like I didn’t have much luck. This year, I think I have, so hopefully, it keeps going.”
Andersen Shows Out
Perhaps the biggest question surrounding the Hurricanes this year is their brand new goalie tandem, led by Frederik Andersen, who has gotten the start in both of Carolina’s games to open the campaign.
After a fine debut, the Great Dane was nothing short of phenomenal in Nashville, stopping 38 of 40 shots and doing most of the heavy lifting in a big early-season win.
“I haven’t seen a lot of games like that in the three years I’ve been doing this, where clearly the goalie was the reason we won the game or that we needed him to win,” Brind’Amour said. “It’s usually that the goalie plays good, but we’re also playing well. That was not the case tonight. We didn’t play a very good game in front of him. He came up huge.”
The Hurricanes have become accustomed to big goalie performances over the last few seasons, and getting a game like that from Andersen this early in the season is a big confidence boost for this tandem.
Andersen needed it. He has a well-documented track record of slow starts, but as Brind’Amour alluded to on Saturday, he put together one of the more impressive goalie performances that the Canes have gotten in quite some time.
With how Carolina’s schedule is spaced out over the next couple of weeks, Andersen should continue to see a vast majority of the starts before Antti Raanta becomes more of a factor.
We only have two games to work with here, so let’s overreact.
Jesper Fast had a quiet debut season in Carolina, but his game was always consistent. Now, with a year under his belt, perhaps we could be in store for an uptick in his offensive production.
He found the back of the net in both games to open the year, one off of a slick deflection on opening night and another off of a gorgeous shot that beat Juuse Saros up high. From day one, he looked like a perfect fit on paper next to Jordan Staal, and that duo has lived up to their two-way expectations early.
So far, the Sebastian Aho/Jesperi Kotkaniemi experiment has rendered rough results. The duo has 31.51 and 32.4 xGF%’s, respectively, through two games.
The Hurricanes practiced on Monday with an all-Finn line with those two next to Teuvo Teravainen, who has looked every bit like the pre-injuries Turbo through two games. The team needs to get Kotkaniemi up to speed sooner rather than later, and they need Aho to get things together.
Obviously, the concern around Aho is negligible, but that’s not so much the case with Kotkaniemi. We know what Aho is. We don’t know what Kotkaniemi is.
There’s an abundance of time for both players to turn it around, but you would love to see Carolina’s newest player deliver some better early returns.
Naturally (and correctly), Brind’Amour played down the notion that there’s any concern with Kotkaniemi’s early performance.
“I don’t think it’s trouble. Tonight, it wasn’t just that line. We had three lines that were not up to par, so we made some shifts. I think there’s a definite learning curve with how we’re doing things, but I think he’s coming along.”
Kotkaniemi’s development over the next few weeks will be something to keep an eye on. He’ll go up against his former team on Thursday at the Bell Centre.