Hurricanes Face-Off with Islanders to Start the Season
Dave F.No comments
New York finished eighth in the Metropolitan Division last year with 79 points. The Isles went 34-37-11 and were better on the road (21-18-2) than at home (13-19-9). Their -42 goal differential was worst in the division, third lowest in the Eastern Conference, and fourth lowest in the league. While the Islanders ranked in the middle of the league in scoring, only Florida and Edmonton allowed more goals.
This year’s Islanders should be much improved. With ownership and budget problems behind them, New York added defensemen Johnny Boychuk and Nick Leddy along with goaltender Jaroslav Halak to a team that features star center John Tavares. Coach Jack Capuano has his most talented team in four seasons, assuming Tavares plays well following MCL surgery.
The Hurricanes missed the playoffs last year for a fifth straight season. Their 36-35-11 record was only good enough for 83 point and seventh place in the Metropolitan Division. Carolina was 18-17-6 at home and 18-18-5 on the road. The Canes were 22nd in the league in scoring, and surrendered the 19th most goals. On the bright side, the Hurricanes took the fewest penalties in the NHL last year; but they failed to turn their own man-advantages into goals, finishing the year ranked 28th in power play percentage.
Bill Peters gets his first head coaching opportunity with Carolina this season after spending time as an assistant to Mike Babcock in Detroit. Peters replaces Kirk Muller, who was sent packing along with general manager Jim Rutherford at the end of last season. Things appear in good shape between the pipes for Peters. Though veteran Cam Ward struggled last year, missing much of the season with injuries, Anton Khudobin emerged as a viable second option. Ward, a former Conn Smythe winner, is healthy to start the season and has been confirmed as the starter for game 1. The Canes did not make any huge moves in the off-season and their second line center, Jordan Staal, is out for at least two months with a leg injury. Additionally, left winger Jeff Skinner, who led the team with 33 goals last season, is out indefinitely with a concussion. (Skinner has missed time due to concussions on two previous occasions and questions are starting to arise about his future in hockey.) It wouldn’t be surprising if Carolina gets off to a slow start due to injuries.