No, this is not the bait title of a “news” site, but rather the flat, albeit surprising, reality. If the playoffs had started on Christmas, the Carolina Hurricanes would have been excluded. An absolutely unthinkable prospect in October, since this team was seen as a power in the Eastern Conference, probably even a serious candidate to win the Stanley Cup, after it reached the semi-final last spring. The investigation is not complex to find the motive behind this unusual situation. The offense is quite respectable, middle of the pack in the league in goals scored per game. Both special teams are in the top 10 on the circuit. What’s left? There you have it, the goalkeepers. With merely average goaltending, the Canes would likely be among the leaders in the Atlantic Division. More details in the next point.

The Hurricanes were a defensive force last season, and that hasn’t changed. Across all situations, no one in the league allows fewer shots on target. Only the Los Angeles Kings are slightly poorer when it comes to quality scoring chances, the Natural Stat Trick site calculates. However, when three goalkeepers have a combined save rate of .880, the goals allowed are necessarily numerous. Things were going pretty well for Frederik Andersen at the start of the campaign, but he hasn’t played since November 2. For his replacements, it didn’t go well at all. Without being very good, Pyotr Kochetkov kept his head above water. The same cannot be said of Antti Raanta, whose .854 save percentage is the worst in almost 30 years for a goalie with at least 10 starts in a season. Management even put him on waivers and handed him over to the minor leagues so he could get his act together – he has just been recalled. The Evolving Hockey site estimates that in 28 combined starts, Kochetkov and Raanta have allowed 15 too many goals. A horror. Andersen just started skating again, but he’s not ready to play yet.

Two and a half years after his departure from Montreal, Jesperi Kotkaniemi continues to fuel conversations. His case was even invited to the Christmas dinner of the La Presse Sports team, during a few remarks exchanged between two colleagues who have the same last names as Patrick Labbé and Benoît Brunet. The Finn, only 23 years old, had a thunderous start to the season: as of November 10, he led his team in scoring, with 13 points in 14 games. ” Finally ! ”, certainly exclaimed its most ardent defenders. The latter have been much quieter since then, while the former CH player has only accumulated three points in his last 20 games, in last place among the Hurricanes’ regular attackers. He no longer plays on the power play at all and his ice time has been less than 12 minutes three times in his club’s last five games. In short, it’s not the party for KK.

General manager Don Waddell was active last summer on the free agent market. In particular, he got his hands on the most popular skater of the moment in Dmitry Orlov, to whom he granted a lucrative contract of 15.5 million for two years. However, the return on investment will have to wait. Despite being, by a sizable margin, his club’s highest-paid defenseman, Orlov ranks only fifth in ice time: accustomed to workloads in excess of 20 or even 22 minutes a week. Washington and Boston in recent years, the Russian is stuck under 17 minutes this season. Also arriving in Raleigh as a free agent, forward Michael Bunting discovers that life is less easy when you don’t play on Auston Matthews’ trio. It’s going well offensively, as he produces at a rate equivalent to more than 55 points over a full season, but it’s much more complex defensively. Here he is excluded from the top 6. As for the other acquisition of the summer, Anthony DeAngelo, he can already be considered a failure. He was already a walking defensive disaster in Philadelphia, and it didn’t get any better in Carolina. He’s been left out 13 times in the last 17 games.

One for whom life is beautiful is Stefan Noesen. We’ve known for a while what to expect with this former first-round pick of the Ottawa Senators (21st overall in 2011), who is in his seventh organization. However, with already 10 goals, 20 points and a nice differential of 10, he is establishing himself as one of the good fourth line players in the league this season. Conversely, we can wonder if age has not finally caught up with Brent Burns. After a sensational haul of 61 points in 2022-2023, he would barely reach 30 at the current rate. He remains the leader in ice time among Hurricanes defensemen, but we cut a good two minutes from his average charge. We are far from disaster, obviously. At 38, Burns may simply be demonstrating that he’s not a superman after all.