Deprecated: Automatic conversion of false to array is deprecated in /var/www/hockeybuzz.com/classes/clsBlog.php on line 243 HockeyBuzz.com - Ben Shelley - Can the Hurricanes overcome Andrei Svechnikov’s season-ending injury?
The Carolina Hurricanes were dealt a massive blow earlier this week, with Andrei Svechnikov being ruled out for the rest of the season as a result of an ACL injury.
Svechnikov was injured in the Hurricanes’ 4-0 loss to the Vegas Golden Knights last Saturday. He scored 23 goals and 55 points in 64 games this season, an 82-game pace of 29 goals and 70 points.
It marks another huge loss for a team who has their eyes set on contending for a Stanley Cup. Max Pacioretty notably re-tore his Achilles roughly two months ago and while the Hurricanes remain the top team in the Metropolitan Division, losing Svechnikov as well is a disastrous situation.
The Hurricanes have a deep, well-rounded roster and when healthy, their team on paper is as good as just about any other team in the NHL. But for as good as the team is, losing Svechnikov (not to mention Pacioretty) brings up serious concerns about the team’s ability to put the puck in the net.
It’s not like these are artificial concerns, raised simply under the context of losing a top forward, as they would be with any team who has a star go down. In Carolina’s case, we know scoring has already be an issue at times and now losing one of their clear top three forwards is a big hit.
If we pinpoint one area of concern for the Hurricanes already this season, it was a lack of scoring at the top of their lineup. To clarify, the issue has never been creating chances – rarely do the Hurricanes fail to generate offense. However, their actual ability to finish on their chances has been a recurring issue for a couple years. There’s a reason they sit third in the NHL in shots per game, but 12th in the league in goals per game. Following last night’s loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Hurricanes have managed at least three goals only once over their last five games and were shutout twice in that stretch.
Without Svechnikov, of the top 125 players in the league in goals, the Hurricanes now have just two of them. While Sebastian Aho and Martin Necas are capable of driving a lot of offense, the difference of having Svechnikov and Pacioretty in the top-six versus having Seth Jarvis and Jesse Puljujarvi is drastic. Aho and Necas are now the Hurricanes’ only forwards scoring at an 82-game pace of even 50 points this season.
Compared to last year’s playoff run, the Hurricanes now look thin. Vincent Trocheck and Nino Niederreiter, who both departed in the offseason, have combined for 41 goals this year. Now, half of Carolina’s top-six will be made up of Jarvis, Puljujarvi and Jesperi Kotkaniemi. While all could absolutely be impact players in the coming years, that’s not necessarily a trio that will stack up well against some of the high-powered forward groups around the East. Even Teuvo Teravainen, who’s a great playmaker (despite his down year), really isn’t going to score much and has just 10 goals this season. Aho and Necas have both already hit 25 goals, but the third highest-scoring healthy forward on the team is Jordan Staal, with only 16 goals. As a result, there’s going to be even more pressure put on Aho and Necas and honestly, it would be naive to think Carolina is entering the playoffs with one of the better top-six groups.
In the last article I posted, I raised the questions as to whether the Hurricanes should’ve done what it would take to add a top forward at the trade deadline. Knowing scoring could be an issue at times, I think it could at least be a valid consideration. There’s certainly no way one could’ve predicted yet another injury of this magnitude but if Carolina had swung for a top forward, they’d be in a better position.
At the same time, there are certainly still reasons for optimism with the Hurricanes, entering the postseason. First and foremost, looking across the league, it’s going to be hard to beat Carolina’s blue line. The Hurricanes’ defense group is extremely well-rounded, with the likes of Jaccob Slavin, Brett Pesce, Brady Skjei and even Jalen Chatfield being able to completely shut down opponents. Then perhaps just as importantly given the injuries up front, Carolina’s defensemen can chip in offensively. Brent Burns, Shayne Gostisbehere and Brady Skjei all rank within the top-13 in the league in goals amongst defenseman. The trio has combined for a massive 38 goals this season, with Slavin, Pesce and Chatfield combining for another 13 as well.
The bottom-six of Carolina’s forward group remains top-tier, too. Carolina’s third line of Jordan Staal, Jordan Martinook and Jesper Fast has provided consistent depth offense, while being one of the more defensively responsible bottom-six lines you’re going to see. Then in net, while inconsistency and even just staying healthy are certainly issues, the Hurricanes at least have several options and can ride the hot goalie if needed.
At the end of the day, Carolina remains one of the deepest teams in the East. They’ve fallen a bit short of expectations in the playoffs over the last couple years and perhaps this is the year they get over the hump.
But for a team who already struggles to convert at times, moving forward without Svechnikov leaves the Hurricanes in a tough spot, as they face high-end competition in the playoffs. There will be a lot of pressure on the likes of Aho and Necas, while other forwards will desperately have to step up in the postseason. It's certainly possible the Hurricanes still make noise in the playoffs, but Svechnikov's injury could create a bit of an uphill battle for Carolina.